On May 25, singer Arijit Singh removed his apology letter to Salman Khan from his Facebook account and replaced it with the message, “I hope he gets my letter through someway. Ps. This whole thing will backfire at me I know. Prayers.”
Singh seems to have had a premonition. Salman Khan remained silent, thus fuelling rumours that he was responsible for Singh's exclusion from a song in his upcoming film Sultan (2016) and his replacement with Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.
Arijit Singh had taken to the social media platform to reach out to the star who reportedly felt slighted at the singer’s remarks at an awards function in 2014. Singh was receiving an award from Khan when he said, “Aap logon ne toh sula diya (You put us to sleep)” referring to the show’s hosts –Khan and Riteish Deshmukh. Khan retorted, “Aur isme humara koi dosh nahi hai, agar aise gaane bajte rahenge (And it’s not our fault if you sing like this). Salman Khan then went on to hum the tune of “Tum Hi Ho”, a popular song Singh had sung in Aashiqui 2 (2013).
In his apology letter, Singh had requested Khan to retain the song he sang for Sultan. The issue brings to light the ability of superstars such as Khan to potentially derail the careers of those who have slighted them. Singh isn’t the only singer to have earned Khan’s ire. In 2014, Khan had a run-in with AR Rahman. He called Rahman an “average composer” at a music event. Rahman clarified that Khan’s statement was a joke, and said that he was offered to compose for Khan's films. Rahman hasn’t taken up the job yet.
In 2015, Sonu Nigam allegedly had a verbal spat with the temperamental Khan over singing credits. The actor told Nigam that he could do his own playback singing, and proved it with the auto-tuned “Main Hoon Hero Tera” for the film Hero (2015).
Not all singers submit to such bullying. Unlike Singh, who has been profusely apologising to Khan, singer Abhijeet vowed never to sing for Shah Rukh Khan after he was not featured in the credits of Om Shanti Om (2007). Ironically, Abhijeet had won his only Filmfare Best Male Playback award for the song “Main Koi Aisa Geet Gaaon” in the Shah Rukh Khan starrer Yes Boss (1997). Abhijeet is equally vocal in his tirade against Pakistani singers working in the Hindi film music industry, intemperately calling them “dengue artists”.
Performing artistes have also had their fair share of controversies with filmmakers and composers that have put a strain on their working relationship and hampered their collaborations. In 1996, singer Alisha Chinai accused music director Anu Malik of sexual harassment. In return, he filed a defamation suit against her. In 2003, the two reconciled and she sang “Chot Dil Pe Lagi” (Bruised in the heart) for him in the film Ishq Vishq. It was the salve they needed.
For Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), director Karan Johar hired three music composers, Sandesh Shandilya, Aadesh Shrivastava and Jatin-Lalit. It was an unusual strategy at a time when multi-composer soundtracks were not the norm. Jatin-Lalit did not take kindly to the inclusion of other composers because they had previously scored Johar’s debut film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) and delivered a resounding hit. The brothers expressed their displeasure and Johar declared he would never use them again.
Music director Ismail Darbar who won a National Film Award as Best Music Director for his very first score for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999), had a fall-out with the filmmaker after the success of Devdas (2002). Darbar’s on-off comments about the filmmaker ensured that the two never worked again. Darbar’s music too has found few takers since, while Bhansali composed the music of his films Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ramleela (2013) and Bajirao Mastani (2015).
One singer-composer who has a love-hate relationship with several artistes in the music fraternity is Himesh Reshammiya. There is a laundry list of complaints to be read out. But nothing quite as delightful as the war of words over royalties between singers Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi in 1960. The incident is also mentioned in the book Mohammed Rafi: My Abba A Memoir written by Rafi’s daughter-in-law Yasmin Khalid Rafi.
The singing titans were present at a meeting where Lata Mangeshkar was campaigning for singers to receive royalty for their songs, she recalls in an interview. Rafi opposed the move. He said “Main aaj se Lata ke saath nahin gaoonga” (I will not sing with Lata henceforth). She replied, “Rafi saab, ek minute. Aap nahin gaayenge mere saath yeh galat baat hai. Main aapke saath nahin gaoongee. (You won’t sing with me is a wrong statement. I will not sing with you). Rafi wrote an apology letter and the duets resumed. Perhaps Arijit Singh retracted his apology letter just in time.