In his latest stunt, singer Sonu Nigam pretends to be a dishevelled mendicant who just happens to have one of the best voices in Mumbai. The man with the thick black sunglasses and beard who is singing “Har Ghadi Badal Rahi Hai” from the movie Kal Ho Na Ho is no raw talent waiting to be handed a recording contract, but the flamboyant singer himself.
It might be staged, but “Roadside Ustaad” is a fun way of reminding viewers of Nigam’s vocal abilities, which have not been exploited to their full by music composers in thrall to young and new (and more affordable) voices.
Before Nigam, American violinist and conductor Joshua Bell disguised himself as a busker and stood at a metro station in Washington, DC in 2007. Bell played the violin for almost 45 minutes. Very few people paid attention, and some rewarded him with small change. Bell’s experiment indicated that we appreciate talent only when it is easily recognised and marketed as such. Had Nigam belted out songs without being disguised, as he did on a plane recently, we might have had a very different version of “The Roadside Ustaad”.