As a part of our series, The Batch of 2019- Bollywood debutants from the first half of the year, we spoke to Akhil, the singer of the hit track Duniyaa. When Akhil started as a YouTube singer, he had no inkling he would be a household name in Punjab.
His song, Khaab garnered more than 300 million views which not only brought him fame but also helped him break into Bollywood. Khaab was recreated by Abhijit Vaghani and renamed as Duniyaa for the movie, Luka Chuppi. Duniyaa entered Music Plus’ Plus Chart as one of the highest-ranking songs and remained on the charts for several weeks.
In an exclusive interview with Music Plus, Akhil says he had no idea his song Khaab would one day be a part of a Bollywood movie.
“I didn’t know Khaab would be so big one day. It becoming one of the songs in a Bollywood movie was not even a wild thought when I made the song.”
Khaab has witnessed many renditions in Punjabi, Hindi-Punjabi mix and finally the version we all know of. However, none so far has done as well as Duniyaa.
When Khaab became Duniyaa
When Khaab was entering a Bollywood movie, the only condition Akhil kept was that he should voice the recreation.
“The label I was associated with in Punjab got in touch with me after T-Series wanted Khaab to be a part of their Hindi movie. I was happy to learn about the news but the only condition I placed was that I get to sing their version.”
Abhijit Vaghani, the music composer for Duniyaa has many recreations to his name. On being asked how it was for Akhil working with Vaghani he said,
“Although I could not spend more than 3-4 hours with him, he was an absolute genius. He is so humble and friendly, that my first time working on a Bollywood project was no less than a cakewalk.”
Akhil started being confident of Khaab when the song gained popularity in Punjab. He started getting shows and made public appearances. But when the song entered the mainstream music space, he knew it had actually become bigger than he had anticipated.
Despite Duniyaa doing wonderfully well, Akhil had a few apprehensions.
“When Duniyaa came into being, my only fear was it being compared to Khaab. I did not want that to happen at all. I kept checking comments on Youtube to see how people were reacting. There were mixed responses initially but later when the figures started escalating, I was convinced of doing justice to the song.”
Thoughts before Duniyaa happened
On getting to know Akhil better, I felt how music has the strength to break any barrier. Also, the fact that the Bollywood industry is magnanimous and recognises talent from anywhere in the world.
“I do not think Bollywood can be stereotyped anymore. There are plenty of Punjabi songs that can be found in Hindi movies. Also, there is no prejudice for regional music anymore.”
When he arrived in Mumbai, there were people who recognised him already. He thought he was mistaken for someone else. Everywhere he went he found an instant recognition that music had brought in his life.
Earlier Duniyaa was decided for some other movie but that tanked. When it was finalised for Luka Chuppi, Akhil was conscious because the songs in the movie were all recreations. He feared his song could be side-lined or would not be able to get much attention.
“Luka Chuppi has six songs which are all recreations, I was scared to know if Duniyaa would do well or not. To my surprise, it did wonderfully well.”
Despite Duniyaa being Akhil’s first song, he was confident of taking this leap of faith. Even as a budding artist, his aim was clear and he knew what he was getting into.
“Since, it was T-Series who approached me, I was very confident. I knew the legalities would be taken care of properly. I did not have to worry about rights and shares,” said Akhil on being asked if he had any insecurities before signing a deal for Duniyaa.
Bollywood houses an enormous amount of talent from far and wide and Akhil is one name that proves it. It is also the predominant entertainment industry in India. The music industry along with Bollywood has seen a huge change in the last few years thanks to audio and video OTT platforms
“The biggest change I see is that Indian music has become International in nature. The streaming services have acted as major platforms for artists in India. Every time I walk into a club outside India, I can listen to our songs being played. We dance to Latin music in a similar fashion here. The boundaries are either expanding or dissolving. Bollywood has been a major force in creating this trend,” opined Akhil.
Akhil started singing since his school days. With a degree in music, it took him more than 10 years to get where he is now. He credits his success to his first song, Khaab which was rightfully recognised. He has upcoming projects in Bollywood and intends to work in the industry, more with originals than recreations.