Diljit Dosanjh on how being amidst talented musicians while judging Rising Star helped hone his skills despite limited practice
In a noisy ballroom of a city five-star, I wait for an interaction with Diljit Dosanjh. It has been four years since I interviewed the Punjabi singer-actor, who was then making headlines for his lauded single, Proper Patola. Dosanjh was always a phenomenon in the North, but is also a sought-after name in Bollywood today. But success in the most coveted film industry hasn’t robbed him of his humility. The sense of calm that welcomed me then is intact as he greets me with a Sat Sri Akal.
As we settle for a tete-a-tete, it’s hard to not spare a thought to the shift in demeanour Dosanjh had acquired last year. While judging the music reality show, Rising Star, he was overtly peppy and eccentric. Ahead of the onset of the second season of the live show, he doesn’t dismiss the suggestion that the front he put up was significantly at odds with the man he is. “It’s the demand of the platform. It’s like doing a film. I am required to be peppy, failing which, the show would become dull. I’m a quiet person and not great at expressing myself. But I don’t find it [being enthusiastic on the show] difficult, because acting is my job.”
As he promises to showcase “amazing talent” in the second outing, Dosanjh says his stint as judge on part 1 was also a learning experience. “Singing live is not easy. It’s inspiring to see the participants deliver great acts at the first instance. For films, singers get retakes. They [participants] don’t have that option.” Juggling between the roles of singer and actor in both, Bollywood and Punjabi cinema, Dosanjh found himself pulling strings to accommodate his commitments last year. With little time to work on honing his singing skills, his riyaaz sessions took a hit for three months. It was his role as mentor on the show, his debut reality outing, that enabled him to work on his craft. “By being around great musicians, I managed to centre myself as a singer. The better you hear, the better you will sing. In naye kalaakaron ki sur pe pakad dekh kar mujhe bahut help mili,” he says about the gig, which sees Shankar Mahadevan and Monali Thakur as co-judges.
Last year, Dosanjh was able to sing his way into people’s hearts with Raula from Jab Harry Met Sejal (2017). It was one among a series of songs — Dum Dum from Phillauri, Move Your Lakk from Noor and Sadda Move from Raabta — that fared well on the music charts. Yet, it’s discussion on his track Ishq Di Baziyan from his next, Soorma, which brings a twinkle to his eye. “Gulzar saab has written the song,” he says with childlike enthusiasm. “As a kid, I would enjoy listening to the prologues by Gulzar saab in Jagjit Singh’s ghazals. I would rewind the tape and listen to him repeatedly. He was in the studio when I recorded this number. When I finished, he said, ‘Beta, tumne aaj meri shaam bana di.’ It was a dream come true.”
Dosanjh has at least three Bollywood films in the pipeline. But even with the Hindi ventures mounting, Dosanjh doesn’t intend to pull back on Punjabi projects. “I want to do at least one Punjabi film every year. My next, Sajjan Singh Rangroot, releases on March 23. It’s based on World War I. I am also recording a lot of Punjabi songs. My album releases next month.”
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