One of the best things about the songs from Phillauri, which is all set to release later this week, is their simplicity and earthiness that lead composer Shashwat Sachdev manages to convey in a charming fashion. He of course gets a lot of help from the singers, particularly from the promising new Punjabi singer he has introduced here, named Romy.
Whether he continues to live up to the promise or gets ample opportunities to do so remains to be seen, of course. Bollywood has seen a lot of singers from the Punjabi folk background make it big in the music scene, starting from Surinder Kaur and Asa Singh Mastana to Daler Mehndi and Mika Singh to Harshdeep Kaur and Nooran Sisters.
A look at some Punjabi singers who despite (or perhaps in some cases, because of) being masters of their trade, have not been heard as much in Bollywood as justifies their skills
- Hans Raj Hans
The 1999 movie Kachche Dhaage was one of the few Indian films for which Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan composed music. The song “Khaali Dil Nahi” (more famous as “Ishq Di Gali Vich Koi Koi”) also saw the Bollywood entry of veteran Punjabi singer Hans Raj Hans.
After singing a handful of songs across the following years, the man suddenly stopped singing in Bollywood after Mausam (2011). Hans is still very much active in the Punjabi music circle though; I strongly recommend his 2016 album Ishq Haqiqi.
- Manmohan Waris
The life of Bhagat Singh has inspired multiple movies across ages, and almost all of them have featured some variant of ‘Mera Rang De Basanti Chola’. The 2002 Rajkumar Santoshi take titled The Legend of Bhagat Singh had Ajay Devgn essaying the lead role and A R Rahman handling the music department. And for his version of the song he chose Sonu Nigam and bhangra exponent Manmohan Waris.
Nigam is undoubtedly the better singer of the two, but I love the authentic feel that Waris lends the song with his rendition. Waris however did not sing another song in Bollywood to my knowledge.
- Wadali Brothers
The sufi singing brothers from Amritsar Puranchand Wadali and Pyarelal Wadali made their Bollywood debut in 2003 with Pinjar and have been making a return every so often, singing doing a Tamil song for Colonial Cousins’ Chikku Bukku (2010). If I were to pick a favourite song by the duo, that would have to be ‘Rangrez’ from Tanu Weds Manu.
- Lehmber Hussainpuri
The 2011 film Tanu Weds Manu saw the debut of talented composer Krsna. While his work in the movie was critically acclaimed and won him multiple awards, the biggest hit from the movie turned out to be the one song he did not compose, ‘Sadi Galli’. The song was a remix of singer Lehmber Hussainpuri’s song by British Punjabi trio RDB, sung by Hussainpuri himself with his characteristic energy.
Hussainpuri got two more songs on the back of ‘Sadi Galli’, one of which was again a rehash of a Punjabi song of his. Neither of the songs had the same level of success though, and Hussainpuri’s Bollywood innings ended the same year.
The first time composer Sneha Khanwalkar’s offbeat style caught everyone’s attention was with the Dibakar Bannerjee film Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! The movie’s soundtrack had a strong leaning towards Punjabi music, and among the many new voices Khanwalkar featured was the incredibly talented Dilbahar, grandson of sufi singer Bibi Noora. Dilbahar, along with rapper Akshay Verma, sang the most trippy song from the soundtrack titled “Superchor.”
Unfortunately, Dilbahar got just one other song in Bollywood, ‘Makkhan Malai’ from Amit Trivedi’s Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana.
PS: A few years later, Sneha Khanwalkar would introduce two more talents from Bibi Noora’s family, who met with greater success – Dilbahar’s nieces named Jyoti and Sultana Nooran.
- Des Raj Lachkani
Another amazing singer in Khanwalkar’s esoteric line-up for Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! was the experienced dhadi singer Des Raj Lachkani who delivered the song ‘Jugni’. Lachkani’s only other brush with the Bollywood mainstream happened in Coke Studio at MTV Season 3, when Salim Sulaiman featured the man and his dhadi group (which I understand is comprised of his grandsons) in the composition called “Namaste.”
- Devendra Pal Singh
After making waves at season 6 of Indian Idol, Devendra Singh got his first break from Amit Trivedi with that gem of a track on Coke Studio at MTV called ‘Nirmohiya’ that the man aced alongside Harshdeep Kaur. Singh’s first movie song too happened for the same composer, another soulful romantic piece called ‘Luni Hasi’.
Sadly not many others from the industry seem to have noticed the man’s proficiency. Singh’s only other two popular works (that I know of) since then have been on Shankar Tucker’s album Filament and a single with Vidya Vox.
- Arif Lohar
Lohar’s first foray into Bollywood happened with Pritam’s adaptation of his ‘Jugni’, more specifically the Coke Studio version of it. The Pakistani powerhouse then went on to add a few more B-Town songs to his repertoire, most famously the title song from Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag soundtrack.