As Batla House dance number O saki saki becomes the latest chartbuster, Nora Fatehi and singer Tulsi Kumar talk to Team Box Office India about the response they have received for the song and also the criticism that comes with recreations
Box Office India (BOI): Tulsi, you are known for soulful and romantic numbers. How was it different to sing a dance number like O saki saki?
Tulsi Kumar (TK): I have done a lot of dance numbers earlier too. I did a song called Love mera hit hit, which came in 2009. Then there was Nachange saari raat, there was Gulabi 2.0, but definitely, O saki saki has grabbed all the eyeballs for all the right reasons. It has kind of gotten a lot of love and appreciation for me along with the whole team including Neha Kakkar, B Praak, Tanishk (Bagchi) and Nora. The whole combination has come out very beautifully. As far as my vocals are concerned, everyone relates me to soulful and melodious numbers. But I think this was a challenge for me to kind of get out of my comfort zone to do something very different and I am happy to be part of O saki saki and that people love the new side of Tulsi.
BOI: Nora, your song Dilbar became a huge hit last year. Did that anywhere pose as a pressure for you to reach the same expectations with O saki saki?
Nora Fatehi (NF): Yes, of course it did. After Dilbar, Kamariya followed and after that everybody saw the Arabic version of Dilbar. That pressure was there when Kamariya was releasing as it was releasing around a week after Dilbar released. Even though I had shot Kamariya before Dilbar, the release happened the other way. But yes, when I did the Arabic Dilbar, there was a fear too whether this will be accepted by people here. I made it for a different market but since I am working here, I need things to work out for me here also, even though I am creating something that is catering to the Arabic market. The day before Arabic Dilbar was releasing I was much stressed and when it released, people received it really well despite it being in a different language. The song did really well.
As we shot O saki saki, I was just more excited to offer something different visually and take the dancing to another level in the song. But the day before Saki was releasing, that pressure came back to me all over again. It was more of fear in the sense, will this be as good as Dilbar? Of course, you can’t compare it to Dilbar because it is totally different. It’s like two ends of the stick, both visually and sound-wise. Even the dance style is very different. My fear was about whether the audience will see this song the way they saw my previous work.
When you see people on social media making dance videos or doing their own workshops for the song, and people trying to learn the dance steps, then you know that they are really enjoying it. Right now my Instagram is flooded with videos of people dancing to Saki saki and attempting the hook step, doing their own choreography and so much more.
BOI: Do you feel that in this age, when digital and social media is so huge, it helps singers as well as performers connect more easily to their audience?
TK: Definitely! There was a time when you actually didn’t know how your song is faring. You would know it after may be a couple of days of the release when you listen to the song playing somewhere. Those were the parameters but now it is all in front of you because of social media. The comments, the numbers, the views and the likes will tell you how the song is doing among the audience. Like even Nora said, there are so many digital platforms like Tik Tok, YouTube and Instagram where people are doing various things on the song and posting it. You know that your song is actually being loved and talked about.
NF: As a performer, I would say that the digital platform is taking our work to another level. The way we can engage with our audience, it’s a different world. This is why whenever I do a project, like a dance number for example, I make sure that the dance and the choreography is engaging. People would want to try it at home and at their dance class. It shouldn’t be a video where you just watch it on YouTube and say, oh… sexy (Laughs)! It should be engaging, it should make you want to get up and hit the dance floor. It needs to be aspirational and energetic.
I remember, during Dilbar there was an argument where I thought, should we really do something like this? It might be tough for people and how do we know that majority of people can attempt belly dancing? But somehow, we were like let’s just do it as it was something very different. Once the song became a hit, all these girls… the belly dancers within them had come out and they were doing the hook step so beautifully! I was so impressed to see those girls with their confidence, attempting it and then I was like, don’t underestimate the audience.
BOI: Would you consider Dilbar to be a turning point in your career?
NF: You know, for the longest time I thought Dilbar was the song because everybody just said that Dilbar is the reason why I am here. But you know what, it’s not; it is Naah, the song with Harrdy Sandhu. Naah was the first song to reach 5 million views on YouTube in India and it broke a record. At that time, I was just a girl from Bigg Boss and Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa. People actually noticed me in that song and even the filmmakers noticed me in that song. So secretly I feel that is what kind of propelled my career and Dilbar was the boom!
BOI: Tulsi, recently your two songs Tera ban jaunga and Shaher ki ladki got more than 100 million views. What does this mean to you considering one is an original and the other is a recreated version?
TK: I think every song has its own charm and has its own destiny. I don’t look at it as… if this is recreation then it should or should not do well and this is a fresh composition so it will do well. The end product is what the listeners get to hear and the main motive is to have them entertained with these songs. Both my songs in the last month, Kabir Singh’s Tera ban jaunga and Khandaani Shafakhana’s Shaher ki ladki did well. Shaher ki ladki was again the iconic recreation in which we had Raveena (Tandon) ma’am and Suniel (Shetty) sir be part of the video, which was amazing. I was really thrilled to be the voice of Raveena Tandon. I have grown up listening and watching her on screen and here I was to be her voice!
BOI: So, when you make a recreated version of an already popular song, what nuances do you add to make it look fresh and also make sure that the flavour of the original song remains intact?
TK: That is best done by Tanishk. When he recreates a track he makes sure that he is not picking up the entire thing and putting it as it is. He never does that for any of his recreations and that’s why they are called recreations and not remixes. With this recreation also we began with a totally new part where I come in with Main teri aankhon ka sahil, main tere dil ke hi kaabil… that part is all new and in between also many things are new and then it’s combined together with the hook of O saki saki. That job is done there but when I am a part of recreation, I don’t like to go back and watch or hear too much of the original song. That was an already iconic song and here we were trying to give new perspective to that song. So with all due respect with all the iconic songs that are recreated, I try to give my own feel and flavour to it and that’s the kind of freedom that even Tanishk asks us to have with the songs.
BOI: There’s always a set of people who negatively react to recreations. How do you deal with that?
TK: Where there is positive, there is negative also. You can’t have just all the positivity and all the love coming in. There has to be some criticism. Especially with recreations, it’s always that. Some section of the audience is so attached to what they have heard earlier that they can’t accept anything new. But on the other hand, our newer generation, the audiences who have never heard the original song, they like to hear those iconic songs today again but in the recreated version. Recreations should be done with a lot of care and when they are handled properly, there is no harm in it.
NF: They are created for the entertainment purpose and not to stress you out, so I don’t feel that one should take that upon themselves to be so angry because some people get really emotional about this. These songs are made for you to dance, have fun and enjoy. In this film, Batla House, there is a reason why the song happens and there is a reason why my character is dancing and there is a reason behind the whole situation. When you see the film you will understand why the song is there.
BOI: Nora, you are known for your chartbuster songs. The trailer of Batla House shows you doing something different. What can we expect from your character?
NF: I play a character called Huma and she is a small town girl. She is a performer. She is really important for the story. It is a very important role. You have to see the film on August 15 to know what it is about. For my career it is a step up. It is great that Nikkhil Advani sir gave me this opportunity. It was a very exciting moment for me because these are the kind of things that I am really looking forward to doing more and more in my career.