A recent video of singer Sonu Nigam entertaining passengers on a flight from Jodhpur to Mumbai with an impromptu performance does not seem too surprising. Singers are expected to break into a song every now and then when they are mobbed by fans.
However, what makes this video special is his quick-witted approach. Nigam doesn’t sing just any old song, given his vast repertoire of solos in films. He solicitously picks popular songs about journeys, “Panchi Nadiya Pawan Ke” (Refugee, 2000) and “Do Pal Ruka” (Veer-Zaara, 2004), songs that will possibly comfort passengers during turbulence.
So here is a singer’s first on-air improviso performance, one that he has planned seconds before he grabs the flight’s intercom, without a smidgen of doubt that often strikes artists when the spotlight is on them, unsure of what will be apt for the occasion.
Sonu Nigam is known to be quite the performer. His mimicry of actors and singers is a staple when he is on the stage. He is also one of the last truly great playback singers in the country at a time when auto-tuning has made it easy for everyone to croon.
In the video, Nigam is interrupted by a passenger who sings along. He lightly jokes about it, not surprised that everyone can sing. The passenger stops, allowing Nigam to complete his song. This perhaps explains why the video has gone viral: it’s Sonu Nigam without the musical accoutrements, where his voice reigns.
Here are five times Sonu Nigam shut off the music system with his voice.
At a music awards ceremony in 2013, Nigam paid tribute to legendary musicians and other artists associated with Hindi cinema. He sings a capella in various styles honouring the artistes.
Nigam rises from the audience onto the stage and sings the title track from Saathiya (2002) to an ecstatic crowd that includes composer AR Rahman, who looks on in glee.
At the launch of India’s first transgender band earlier this month, when Nigam sang with the band members, the singing star truly emerged when he began hitting the notes, silencing the novices in the process.
And here he makes even filmmaker Yash Chopra sing along. Shah Rukh Khan and Sonu Nigam enthrall the audience by holding hands and singing the title track of Kal Ho Na Ho together. The song from the 2003 movie earned Nigam his only National Award for Best Male Playback Singer.
This is as close to the real thing. Nigam appears on an MTV Unplugged session, singing “Abhi Mujh Mein Kahin” (Agneepath, 2012) with minimal instrumentation. He gives the track a superb finish, becoming of his versatility.