Singer-composer Adnan Sami has had millions hooked right from his first hits, Lift Kara De and Kabhi Toh Nazar Milao. Then followed classics such as Sun Zara (Lucky: No Time For Love; 2005) and Bhar Do Jholi Meri (Bajrangi Bhaijaan; 2015) over the past three decades. So it didn’t come as a surprise when he was given the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award, this year. However, the 46-year-old had no inkling of the criticism to follow, including that of his father, Arshad Sami Khan, who was a fighter pilot in the Pakistan Air Force. Excerpts from an interview:
You were conferred the Padma Shri recently. What was your reaction to the news?
I was shocked! If I was a cartoon, my jaw would have dropped to the floor. The funny part was my wife was in the other room when I received the call. Seeing me, she said, ‘What is going on?’ When I told her, she was equally shocked. When I told my mother, she asked ‘Beta, you’re talking about THE Padma Shri na?’ She was overwhelmed. It’s such an honour.
Fans welcomed this decision, but some people questioned it. How do you react to this, questions raised over your citizenship and the like?
With these awards there will be a section of naysayers. They unnecessarily politicise something of this nature. Forget about me, look at the sanctity of this award. By doing this, you are insulting its dignity. You should draw the line somewhere.
Like not going to the lengths of criticising your father?
That was as silly as it gets. By all means, criticise the hell out of my music. It’s a free world. But suddenly going to the third party zone and saying, ‘His dad was this’… Excuse me? He was doing what he had to do, for his own country, and with honour. As a professional, respectable soldier, that was his life, I respect him for it. As much as he respected me when I told him I wanted to be an Indian citizen. He could have said, ‘How can you become that? I was a soldier’. He just said, ‘Beta, I have lived my life, these people (Indians) have loved, respected you. You have
my blessings.’ The fact is, he loved India.
Do you feel getting embroiled in such controversies takes away from your creative liberty and art?
Nahin. Main inko itni lift nahi karata! (laughs) Let’s say 100 people raised (objections). I’ve got 1.3 billion people loving me! There will be people who are going to be nasty. I just go ‘Nanana na na’! (laughs)
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