My efforts of so many years have been fulfilled after Indian Idol win. Performing in the Indian Idol and winning the title are memorable moments of my life. I cherish those moments. After Indian Idol, people have started recognizing me; they take photos and autographs.
Has your life changed after Indian Idol?
Life has changed a lot. I have got very busy as I have started doing my own shows. I have been exclusively signed by Universal Limited for my shows and now I am launching my solo debut album, 'Hello Namaste Sat Sri Akal' with them. Previously I used to listen to songs of other Bollywood singers and perform on them but now I would sing my own songs after album launch.
Is there any inspiration behind your debut album?
The position I am in today is because of my father and my grandfather. I was born and bought up in a joint family. In spite of being from a business family, my father never felt I should join the family business. From the age of eight, I started learning classical music and it has been 14 years since. So all I can say is that my inspiration is my father.
In your debut album, you start with a Punjabi song while rest are Hindi songs. Why so?
When I heard the song 'Rowaan Mein,' I really loved the composition. The lyrics and the melody of the song are superb. I found this song very different from rest of the Punjabi songs. Initially, we were planning another song “tere pyaar pe main sad ke jawa' as the lead but fortunately 'Rowaan mein tanu yaad karke' turned out so well that we changed the lead. I am really happy with it and the video is also getting great response.
What are the other projects you are working on?
The other projects in pipeline are with Anu Malikji for his upcoming film and a project with Salim and Sulaiman. Till March and April, I hope all the songs would be out in the market.
What made the difference between your performances in Indian Idol and Voice of India – season 2 Show where you couldn’t reach the top three list?
During Voice of India, I was a kid. I was 17 or 18 at that time and it is after 4 years that I participated in Indian Idol. So that gap from 2008 to 2012 was filled by my hard work, my practice sessions and the fact that I was totally involved with my music. I started understanding music better and definitely maturity level grows with one's age.
In reality music shows, it is not uncommon for a judge to make promises to the upcoming singers. After the show, do they keep their promises?
I am lucky that all the promises made to me during the season of Indian Idol have been kept. Anu Malikji and Salim Sulaimanji called me one month after I won the season 6 of Indian Idol.
Do you think reality television is the shortest way to enter the music Industry, which otherwise is really competitive?
In the present scenario, music is changing every day. Some day we listen to jazz and the very next day we can hear some other genre of music. I feel reality show is one such platform where one can showcase his talent. I don’t have a problem in saying that reality television provides huge success in less time. Before three months of the Indian Idol show, no one knew me but now everyone recognizes me. One does get fame very fast, but it has its own pros and cons.
Why is it that most of us do not know the names of any Indian Idol winners apart from Abhijeet Sawant?
There are a number of reasons. When Indian Idol Season 1 was broadcasted, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa was the only other reality television, which was being aired at that time. Moreover, the concept of public voting for Indian Idol was new, so at that point in time a lot of recognition was given to the season. Another factor is when a person wins the title of Indian Idol, he /she gets a lot of offers from other channels to host a show or do something else.
How much time do you dedicate to riyaaz?
As per my routine, I start at 6:30am and continue for one-and-a-half-hours.
After winning Indian Idol you said you wanted to sing for Sunny Deol. Part two of Yamla Pagla Deewana is coming this year. Do you still want to sing for him?
I would love to do that because everyone has a role model and I love action movies. I used to do karate in my school days and I don't know how but I became such a huge fan of Sunny Deol. So let's see what happens (laughs).
Do you think your voice will perfectly fit for any other Bollywood actor?
If not Sunny Deol then I would love to sing for Ranbir Kapoor.
What Bollywood dreams have you achieved so far and what is left?
The two projects with Anuji and Salim Suleimanji are getting me positive reviews. I am keeping my fingers crossed and by early this year, I want my two-three playback songs to release. This will give a feeling that I have achieved something.
So Indian Idol is not an achievement?
Indian Idol is a very big achievement but I have to prove myself. Six singers won the title before me and I have to be different from them. That can only happen after I start singing in films. So I am working hard for that.
How did Aap Ki Kacheri happen?
I was a contestant in Voice of India and around three or four of us were sent to record for the reality television and luckily my voice was selected. It was a good experience as it was a prime time show and I am lucky that I got to sing its title song.
Who is your present day singing idol?
I do idolize two people; one is Shukwinder Singh and another Shankar Mahadevan. Sukhiji has a unique style and the way he sings and projects his voice is amazing. I admire Shankarji too because apart from being a music director, his thinking process is very good. In classical music I listen to Rashid Khan Saab a lot.
We all know that reality television is somewhat scripted. Does the voting that happens at the last stages count or it is just a format?
Everyone is under the impression that voting in Indian Idol doesn't matter but after winning the show, I got to know that it definitely matters a lot. In our season, I got to know that when voting processes used to happen there were government auditors to monitor the whole process. There is also a rule that if one is not satisfied by the voting process, one can file an RTI against the channel and within 30 days, one can get the details of the voting process.
Indian Idol is a more performance-based than a singing programme. Do you agree?
No, I don't but I do agree that in the previous five seasons it was said that Indian Idol is a search for a singer from the common man. Every second person says that he wants to be an Indian Idol as everyone feels X-factor works for the show. But this time, Indian Idol was very tough. We had to prove our singing through various forms like the qawali round, which never happened in Indian Idol before. This time in Indian Idol, there was a classical round that was opened by Pandit Jasraj. Being a Bharat Ratna and performing on Indian Idol, he increased the level of the show. People realized that Indian Idol is not just a performance based show but quality and singing are as much important and wanted.
Coming from a classical background, how important do you think is classical singing?
I think classical music is the base. I am doing the same as I wish to advise every singer, who wants to sing in different styles, that it is very important to have the knowledge of classical singing. Even after years of learning, I am yet to sing like professional classical singers, but I do have the knowledge, which enhances my creativity.
Being a Punjabi, do you think it helps in the music industry now because we are listening to songs based on the language by the singers who themselves are Punjabi?
I really don't think so. I only feel that capability matters a lot and if one is capable then he/she will definitely be in the Industry irrespective of the place they belong to.
Given a choice what would you opt for: money or fame?
Definitely fame because money doesn't matter to me. I feel money comes and goes. My main aim is to do playback singing and there are a number of reality shows as well as singers who are making money while doing shows. But my aim and dream is to sing in Bollywood and to attach the tag of 'playback singer' besides my name.
How did you spend your Indian Idol cash?
(Laughs) I gave away a part of my Rs 50 lakh cash prize in charity. I support a blind institute in Amritsar and have donated some amount there. I am crazy about cars so I have kept Rs 10 lakh to buy a nice car and I want to invest rest of the money in a flat in Bombay (Mumbai).