Young, determined and in Bollywood. Umer Beigh talks to a Kashmiri who is not afraid of taking chances.
Music has been a part of his life, a creative means of expression that he has connected with more than any other. And today, Saim Bhat, 26, believes the path to his success has been paved with music. Saim is currently the only Kashmiri who is a professional singer in Bollywood.
“I just want people to hear and feel the song. If I am able to stir their emotions, I have succeeded as an artist,” he says.
When he was a student at Burn Hall, his teacher instructed him to play the piano. “I think those notes which I played were the first steps in getting myself involved in music.” Soon, things began to change as he discovered his talent. When he was in fifth grade, he received the first prize for a singing performance.
“As a person you can’t identify your abilities and talent too early; just like me I did not know what talent I had,” he pointed out. “Once my friends, siblings started praising my voice, my interest in music increased. I started to learn Sufi music from teachers like Khan Sahib and Ghulam Hasan Sofi,” he adds.
Saim acknowledges his journey to follow his dream was rocky. Like many Kashmiris, he too was forced to leave this way and focus on his studies. His parents were not too keen on him pursuing music as a profession, and perhaps to deter him, they took him to Japan. But what interested him remained, and Saim didn’t lose his passion. He says, “I tried to forget music several times, but they were all in vain.”
“I think the Almighty had something different for me. Whenever I tried to forget music people around me used to say that I have a good voice and that I should try singing. Their advice was enough for my inner self to get fired up again. It was sort of like someone punching me over and over again.”
In Japan, he started music classes again; where he learnt traditional and classical music for a brief period. When his parents found out, he moved from Japan to Saudi Arabia, where his parents were living. They forced him to take up a job, but it was one in which he wasn’t interested.
Saim explains, “I worked there in the IT sector for almost six months but believe me, I was having no interest in it.”
Frustrated, he took a drastic step. He left his job, and boarded a flight back to Kashmir; where he took his own car and traveled all alone to Mumbai, without informing anyone. Saim says with a laugh “I used to sleep in my car for days as I had no money to afford a room.” He lived like this for a while, until he received Rs 3500 from a friend and found himself a room.
The first thing he did once he was in Mumbai was to resume his music lessons. He started to learn Carnatic and Indian classical music, the toughest kind among all others.
“Whenever I moved outside, music was inside me, it was my desperation, passion for it that I left money just to fulfill my desire and goal.” He adds, “After that there was no going back. I met a lot people from the music industry before music composer Bappi Lahiri gave me a break in 2009 in the film Jai Veeru. Sufi was my debut song for Bollywood.”
After that he contributed to the film Lamhaa where he sang few Kashmiri verses to a song Salaam Zindagi and next to Murder 2 where he did two songs Aye Khuda and Phir Mohabbat that remained on the top of the charts of the year.
“If I had not seen such harsh times before working on my goal I might not have achieved such things. Struggle is what makes an individual worthy,” he says.
He further adds that Kashmiri music is the “best among all.”
Saim is settled in Mumbai. He visited Kashmir recently during the Gulmar Winter Festival, in which he performed. He admits that he misses his native Kashmir very much, and would definitely love to contribute from his side for its betterment.
In addition to his work in Bollywood, he has done many Kashmiri songs as well, the most popular being Afsoos Duniya.
The singer is now looking forward to his work with the Mozart of Madras, A.R Rehman. “I have worked with Rehman Sahab hope the tracks will be out soon,” he said.