It is 11 in the morning and singers Roop Kumar and Sonalee Rathod have just crawled out of bed at Claridges. They blame the lethargy on their schedule in Delhi, where they are dashing from one studio to another giving interviews to promote their latest album Mohabbat Ho Gayee (Venus).
After a cup of tea and a Disprin each, they are ready to roll. “I feel visibility is very important and a music video is a non-film singers’ only chance to be noticed,” says Sonalee, who is dressed in a funky orange kurta and black jeans. She is upset about the burglary at Nandita Das’s home (the two are cousins).
Even ifyou are the kind of person who surfs channels for less than a few nanoseconds, you couldn’t have missed the glossy video of the title track from the album —with Rajshree Rathod (norelation) and Delhi’s own Nakul Kapoor.
The album (and the video) is part of this Mumbai-based duo’s revamped image and a move from ghazal singing to a pop genre. “The decision to change our image came courtesy the Channel V awards last year. Our last album, Mitwa, was nominated in the same category as Daler Mehndi and A. R. Rahman, and I realised that our music was soft and mellow as compared to their’s. We needed that extra zing which it lacked,” says Rathod, fingering the chunky silver pendant around his neck which flashes against his deep-red and black kurta.
With MTV generation being an important segment today, Rathod felt the need to reach out to them. “The younger generation should be targeted and since the techniques today are advanced, one can incorporate so many more elements into one’s music, while retaining the Indian feel,” explains Rathod.
He also sees an over-load of Western influence in our music and feels that a performer should be able to educate the audience in our rich musical heritage. Which is why, though the format of the album is of ghazal, the packaging is younger and more upmarket, he adds.
Rathod began his career as a tabla player when he was barely six. “After playing for a number of years, I realised that I was stagnating. So I switched to singing in 1985 with my first album Parvaaz (Music India),” he says. Roop Kumar Rathod also has a long list of songs in Hindi films beginning with Sandeshe Aate Hain in Border to Sunoji Dulhan in Hum Saath Saath Hain.
Sonalee, on the other hand, turned to singing when she became a “proud possessor of apocket radio”. She recalls: “I was ten and while giving a public performance, I was spotted by Pandit Hridaynath Mangeshkar and was subsequently trained by him.” She released her first solo album, Agaaz, in 1986.
Back to their career as a duo — Sonalee and Rathod sit together while choosing the lyrics for the numbers they incorporate in their
albums. They are also proud of the one-song-contribution their 7-year-old daughter Surshree made to the album. Rathod and Sonalee sang together on their first public performance in 1984 when they barely knew each other,
After getting married in ’89, they have released three albums: Ishaara, Khushboo and Mitwaa as a duo. Both love “live concerts, as they give onean opportunity to travel and the feedback is nstant” A family holiday twice every year is aso on top of their priority list.
If you are wondering, there is no “4bhimaan-likesitution between us,” as Rathod puts it. “Of course ve fight, but it is a healthy kind of fight,” says Sonlee, adding, “We’re each other’s competition, wich keep us on our toes.”
By — SHIKHA MISHRA