They have been married and making sweet music for 22 years which is no mean feat in an industry which can be notoriously fickle.
But it seems, Roop Kumar and Sunali Rathod revel in the face of a good old fashioned challenge.
The husband and wife duo – the first couple to forge successful careers as individuals as well as a duo since Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh – have unveiled what is certain to be their biggest challenge yet: a series of concerts which will see the playback singers celebrate four of the finest voices ever to make Bollywood films resplendent.
And it’s all just in time to celebrate 100 years of the very existence of Bollywood cinema as well.
‘Celebrating the Legends’ will see Roop Kumar and Sunali together at a series of concerts, performing – in perfect symmetry – songs first rendered by the iconic quartet of Mohammed Rafi, Noor Jehan, Talat Mohammed and Lata Mangeshkar.
The last time the duo visited the UK to perform from their own catalogue of hits, the Royal Festival Hall was sold out with audiences crying out for more.
The combination of their singing ability – one which has given both Roop Kumar and Sunali unusual longevity in the business – coupled with the dulcet tunes of Bollywood of yesteryear is certain to leave an indelible mark.
“The last time we were in the UK, the warmth of the audience was overwhelming. The British audience is undoubtedly the best in the world”, says Roop Kumar. “I think the most amazing thing about the audience in the UK is the fact that they are still so very much in touch with their roots.”
Quite apart from being able to draw on the sublime back catalogue that Rafi, Mangeshkar, Jehan and Mahmood have put together over years, Roop Kumar and Sunali will also have the benefit of a partnership that spans more than two decades: during which time they have had to fine tune a certain musical symmetry that will no doubt stand both performers in good stead whilst they attempt to relive Bollywood’s finest playback singers: “It’s god’s blessing to have been together on this long journey”, says the far more extroverted Sunali. “Music brought us together and it’s the music that has kept us going on this journey. I feel that there is an unmistakeable synergy between us on stage, which can only be helpful”.
It’s not only similar careers that Sunali and Roop Kumar will share with those performers that they will bring to life during “Celebrating the Legends”.
A common thread between the two performers and at least Lata Mangeshkar is the latter’s brother Hriday who mentored both Roop Kumar and Sunali.
And whilst Sunali has been singing from a very tender age, Roop Kumar never meant to be a singer, which makes his success even more remarkable and which lends his part in celebrating these Bollywood singers a certain unique appeal. His immersion in the music business itself – as an accomplished Tabla player before he took up singing on a whim – gives him a different perspective on what makes a legend and what sets the likes of Rafi and Jehan apart from the current crop of performers.
“I think music has evolved tremendously, particularly with the current crop of singers joining in”, Sunali says. “But while the technical aspects of the music has evolved, I feel that the music itself has not evolved.”
“The music is not really connected to the storylines and the songs are just an add-on rather than being a part of the narrative”, Roop Kumar adds. “I think all these singers that we are celebrating had the ability to reach out and sing to the listener on a very personal level. That hasn’t been emulated by today’s singers. There is something ethereal about singers of the past and that, I think, is what sets them apart. It’s a huge responsibility to bring to life these amazing singers. We are so blessed that Saregama Events UK has given us the opportunity. I hope we do justice to their legacy.”
– Poonam Joshi
‘Celebrating the Legends’ takes place Wednesday 05th September 2012 at the Birmingham Symphony Hall (www.thsh.co.uk), Friday 07th September at De Montford Hall in Leicester (www.demontforthall.co.uk) and on Saturday 08th September at hmv Hammersmith Apollo (www.hmvapollo.com www.chillitickets.com, saregamaevents.com)