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News |  02 Nov 2016 17:43 |  By Suhas Thobbi

Play back time - Shah Rukh Khan's changing voice over the years

MUMBAI: Acting? Check. Consistency? Check. Arms-outstretched legacy? Check. Wit on point? Check. These are a few of the several attributes that have probably teamed up to create Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s unparalleled success and popularity on this planet. The sheer power of King Khan can be determined by the fact that the 51-year-old – who celebrates his birthday today – proudly owns several titles; ‘King of Romance’ being one of them. And historically speaking, no romantic movie in India ever dared to release with a complimentary, and more importantly, appropriate soundtrack. You do not want to see the actor against the backdrop of snowy mountains in the Alps with Badshah’s vocals supporting the scene. Nothing against the singer, but a vital factor in Khan’s growth as a ‘total artist’ has been the ‘suitable voices’ behind the songs throughout his career.

The first vivid memory of Shah Rukh Khan (as an actor) came through the series Fauji, but the first popular song that featured his face had Vinod Rathod performing the vocal duties. The song ‘Aisi Deewangi’ orchestrated the start of the journey for Shah Rukh Khan that evolved gradually with every song that followed in his career.

Soon, Shah Rukh became the go-to actor for directors working on romantic movies, and the established singers of the 1990s – one after another – crooned for the then ‘struggling’ Khan. Songs performed an extremely crucial role in building Shah Rukh Khan’s identity. Be it the hummable ‘Tu Mere Saamne’ from Darr that showcased Khan in a negative role or yet another blockbuster from the same year Baazigar’s ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein’ created wonders for Khan’s outreach among the masses. As Khan started experimenting with characters early in his career, the directors played it safe and ensured the actor created an identity on music numbers too.

Of course, Shah Rukh, too, had the Shammi Kapoor-Mohd. Rafi or Kishore Kumar-Dev Anand ideal team-ups and found close enough suitors for his face. The Kumar Sanu-SRK phase provided the cinema world some unforgettable compositions through movies like ‘Kabhi Haa Kabhi Naa’, the 1994-release introducing the young Khan with an infectious energy. More and more romantic movie scripts gathered SRK’s approval, but his face restricted to a few safe and dependable voices. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge broke several records and the song ‘Tujhe Dekha Toh Yeh Jaana Sanam’ still continues to remain one of the greatest romantic melodies of all time – once again, boosting the Sanu-SRK partnership.

By 1997, Abhijeet Bhattacharya became the ‘voice of Shah Rukh Khan’. Having sung for Anjaam’s ‘Badi Mushkil Hai’ in 1994, the playback singer lent his voice for ‘Yes Boss’ with the arrival of the newest composer duo in town – Jatin-Lalit. The new voice of SRK started in 1994 with ‘Badi Mushkil Hai’, continued through ‘Chand Taare Tod Laun’, ‘Chalte Chalte’, ‘Main Hoon Na’ before ending their partnership in 2009 after ‘Billu Barber’. Bhattacharya accused Khan of not providing the deserved end credits after the movie and vowed never to work with the actor again.

While Abhijeet Bhattacharya continued to sing for SRK-starrer movies, another bunch of directors preferred a few more ‘mature’ voices suiting certain of the the actor’s roles. The 1990s introduced the actor to the world of stardom, an immense fan-following and Udit Narayan on a more consistent basis. Fans accepted every voice behind Shah Rukh Khan, and in an industry that never treated music in films as an equal commodity, went with the flow. Udit Narayan’s duet with Lata Mangeshkar for the title track ‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai’ soon became love anthem for every hopeless young teenager, and the ‘evil man’ from Baazigar had now become the ‘chocolate boy’ of B-Town.

The following year, one of the finest Shah Rukh Khan movies ‘Dil Se’ released in theatres across the country. The Box Office revenue might not suggest it, but the movie welcomed an experimental avatar of the actor. And with that, an experimental approach was undertaken with the voice behind his songs too. Rahman’s genius did half the job, and the video only further steered the song’s popularity to massive reach, but the vocalist Sukhwinder Singh truly encapsulated the entire character portrayed by King Khan in the movie. An energetic, fearless rebel seeking nothing and everything under the sky had found a voice in the form of the Punjabi playback singer. And as they say, rest is history. The song is remembered for Shah Rukh’s dance on the moving train’s rooftop, and Singh bagging the Filmfare for ‘Best Playback Singer’. Although the two artistes collaborated later in future for several projects, they unfortunately, failed to repeat the magic.

In the same year, the ‘Chocolate boy’ continued to win hearts with romantic movies associated with some melodious compositions, and with ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’, the actor found a consistent collaborating acting partner in the form of Kajol. Once again, for the title track of the movie, Udit Narayan represented SRK behind the screen.

In the early and mid 2000s, while SRK’s voice continued to flourish with the help of Narayan and Sonu (and the occasional one-timers), another young singer arrived in the scene. Sonu Nigam soon took the vocal responsibilities for SRK, joining an already exclusive list. Not often do you find SRK alone in a song, and that opportunity arrived through 'Yeh Dil', the song from 'Pardes'. Sonu Nigam, one must admit, could not have done a better job – in fact, no other singer could have. The Nigam-SRK partnership had begun as early as the 1995-release ‘Ram Jaane’, and although ‘Yeh Dil' arrived only two years later, Nigam started consistently contributing to SRK-starrer movies post 2000. The partnership gave results to some of the recent classics such as ‘Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna', 'Kal Ho Na Ho', 'Chalte Chalte’, ‘Sooraj Hua Madham’, ‘Mein Hoon Na’, ‘Veer Zara’ and a few more.

The occasional contributors to Shah Rukh Khan’s career – namely Shaan, Sukhwinder Singh, and (latest example) Arijit Singh may not have become the unofficial voice of the actor, but surely, provided a few tracks that surely helped his movies and the professional success. Khan, in few occasions, has lent his own voice, possible the most popular being ‘Paan Banaraswala’ from the movie Don. He was not the only one under immense pressure before the release of Amitabh Bachchan starrer Don’s remake. Shaan had to fill in the shoes of Kishore Kumar who had sung the original title track. And just like SRK in the movie, Shaan nailed the job in the recording studio.

The actor’s contribution to the music in his movies was not restricted to Indian artists. Popular international rapper Akon provided the vocals to ‘Chammak Challo’ from the movie Ra.One.

It would be safe to conclude that no one can take the credit away from Shah Rukh for his self-made stardom, although the actor might have a few people to thank for enhancing his career through their singing voices, movie after movie.