Daler Mehndi, it seems, is back. Weeks after farmers burned his effigies in Punjab calling him a government stiff, the singer enjoyed a pop revival last month. His latest song, ‘Ishq Nachave’, was released by a well-known music label, Eros Music. The music video, like the song, felt like a throwback to the late 1990s. The foreign locations, slim dancers and amateur special effects were all typical of the Mehndi formula we once bought indiscriminately. When you saw Mehndi grooving back to his size in glittery and gaudy dresses, you realized an obvious truth: Times have changed. Mehndi doesn’t have that.
In recent years, public appearances have been a bittersweet experience for Mehndi. “I am loved by everyone from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. They smile when they see me, but when they come to click on selfies, they all ask, “Paaji, where have you been?” The singer says he cannot help his irritability at such times. He reminds his fans of films, Dangal (2016), Bahubali 2 (2017), Uri (2019), with his ‘super hit’ songs. “I tell them all the motivational songs on their playlists are mine.”
Mehndi is surprisingly forthright about his compensation. ‘If you want Daler Mehndi to sing a song for your movie, it’s Rs 12 lakh plus GST. My rate is for friends
Rs 6 lakh plus GST, but for religious movies, about Mata Rani, I tell producers they can pay me what they want, ”he says. Other singers, he insists, are usually sent home with checks of just Rs 18,000. “I’m lucky people still come to me.”
Mehndi, 53, argues that the music industry is often exploitative and talks about how artists are now expected to fund their own music videos, making pop music a non-viable option for veterans like him. “A Daler Mehndi video usually costs Rs 30 lakh to make. Even the ‘Ishq Nachave’ video must have cost Eros around Rs 55 lakh. Mind you, this does not include the Rs 6 lakh for my costumes. I paid for that. “
When Mehndi is referring to itself in the third person, it is difficult not to consider him as iconic. Aided by exaggeration, the Daler Mehndi myth is one that he himself perpetuates. “During the lockdown, it was the Daler Mehndi songs that were the most downloaded on Spotify,” he claims. “If there is a party somewhere in the world, it is certain that three or four of my songs will play. My fans are everywhere from Bengal to South Korea. In retrospect, it was his 1995 debut album, Bolo Ta Ra Ra, that helped Punjabi music penetrate the pop mainstream. The singer says, “It was Daler Mehndi who created an industry that parallels Bollywood, an industry that has continued to the fore. today is flourishing. “
Mehndi celebrity, it should be noted, has been going on for 25 years. While ‘Ishq Nachave’ already has more than a million views on YouTube, he also has more than 600,000 followers on Twitter. Unfortunately, not all of his tweets are as loved as, say, ‘Dardi Rab Rab’ or ‘Ho Jayegi Balle Balle’. For example, last September, he tweeted a video urging farmers to support the controversial agricultural bills of the BJP government. ‘I had to undergo dozens of galis. They called me Modiji’s chamcha. I am now afraid of going to Punjab. I don’t know what they will do. I am not a politician. I don’t have much certainty. “
In a conversation with INDIA TODAY from Delhi, one day after the capital’s Red Fort was overrun by protesting farmers, Mehndi says he was saddened by the images he saw, “but I didn’t make a video byte because people could see you so quickly. pithu. (straw man) “About the farmland he owns in Sohna, Haryana, Mehndi says his problems are even greater than those of an ordinary farmer.” I only use cow dung for fertilizer, you see. I have 70 desi- cows. I don’t allow pesticides. I know the pain of farmers, but I also know that artists like me will never find a solution to the current crisis. “
While Mehndi talks about his philanthropy, he says he planted 800,000 trees in Delhi in 1998, you may wonder if his charity is atonement. In 2018, he was convicted in a 2003 human trafficking case and sentenced to two years in prison. “The whole thing was a scam,” he says. “All I understand is rhythm, ragas and lay (melody). I don’t know about the law. I’m lucky to have gotten bail. We are still fighting the case. I’m sure the truth will win, but I’ll tell you what I’ve lost, shows, ads, and prizes. I would have gotten bigger awards than the Padma Vibhushan. Like everything else about Mehndi, clothes, music, persona, his claims are flamingly luscious too.