You need to be mad to be a musician, says Benny Dayal

Published in Star of Mysore: Jan 23, 2015

Should you have a backup plan for your dreams? I wonder as I manoeuvre my way towards the make shift interview room, through the fans who have gathered in huge numbers to click selfies with Benny Dayal, one of Bollywood’s singing sensations. The versatile musician was in Mysore recently to perform at SPI’s 20th anniversary celebrations. “There was no question of a backup plan as failure was never an option. I had wanted to be a singer since I was a thirteen years old child. I had decided that I would want to sing until I die,” says Benny Dayal candidly, when I meet him after his rocking performance. He still has ample energy to answer volley of questions.


Benny Dayal IMG_1608SOM: I just watched your show. You have unbounded energy on stage. What drives you?

BD: I am mad when I am on stage, but I am a very different and quiet person off stage. I become another human being when I am on stage. Just the feel to be on stage and singing in front of the audience gives me energy. Mad people are the most energetic; one needs to be mad to be a musician. Music or for any art for that matter is a gift from God. Does God gift the entire world to be a musician? No. Therefore, if you are the chosen one, you need to make use of this gift to your optimum potential.


SOM: What challenges did you face to reach where you are today?

BD: It was the most difficult to get a break, as no one was willing to take a risk with a new artist. No one wanted to launch me but God has a plan for everyone and I am here today. And then I met Mr A.R. Rahman whom I had no intention of meeting or even expected to meet. Today I owe my success to Mr Rahman. He broke all barriers. He is renowned for giving opportunities to new and unheard voices. Today, the youngsters want to become musicians only because of him.



SOM: Once a music director told you that you can’t become a singer; how did that affect you? Did you want to prove him wrong?

BD: Music is not about proving a point. I didn’t want to prove anyone wrong but this triggered the worst possible emotion in me. It never crushed me. Unknowingly I took the positives out of it; I wanted to bring out the best in me. Everything has equal and opposite reaction. I thank everyone who has ever said anything positive or negative about me; it helped me to go a step further in my journey. Every single line has affected me positively.

SOM: Which is your favourite song?

BD: I have no favourites. I love to sing all songs. They all are stepping-stones, how can I skip one and go to the next one?

SOM: Which is your favourite language as far as singing is concerned?

BD: I have a flair for languages; I can sing in any language – Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu.

SOM: Do you have any role models or inspiration?

BD: Mr Rahman is my role model and inspiration. He is not only one of world’s most accomplished musicians but also an amazing human being. He has launched the music career of so many like me. May his tribe grow!

SOM: You have performed at various countries; which is your most memorable performance?

BD: Yes, one performance was like a dream come true. In 1998, I went to watch Mr Rahman’s concert in Dubai UAE. Ten years later, in 2008, in Dubai again, I was with him back stage and performing with him. It was an amazing feeling. It was like seeing a dream come true.

SOM: What advice would you like to give to wannabe singers or to anyone who want to follow their passion?

BD: Do what makes you happy, you will surely excel. Never stop learning – never think that you know enough. Learn as you earn. Never stop earning and never stop learning. That is the only way to go forward. Have an open mind and passion for anything that you do. Most importantly, observe others. You may not like one particular song but if many people like it so there must be something in that. Don’t have a closed mind. Everyone has a path; you will also find yours sooner or later.

Then he reads out aloud the back page blurb from ‘The Other End of the Corridor’, my debut novel that I presented to him after the interview – ‘when your dreams are tainted with lies and deceit, you have no other choice but to walk to the other end of the corridor….’

He speaks after a long pause, “Everyone has a path. Literally, my life was like a dark corridor, there was only darkness; I was crazy and continued to walk on. I didn’t care even if I tripped but I wanted to just go on, and then a door opened and God said, now you walk on this path.”

The singing star signs off.

One Scoop Of Chocolate Mousse

What you love can hold you captive, but it can also free you. Here’s a story about being free to love yourself, warts and all.
One of the top 5 entries for September’s Muse of the Month writing theme, with the cue “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me” taken from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

April-2014I glance again at my watch, as if looking at it repeatedly would calm my exasperated nerves. My eyes behind the safety of my dark shades scrutinize the people entering the restaurant. I look around. The stylish wrought iron furniture and stained glass windows create a perfect ambience for a romantic lunch.

I check my phone again as I adjust the scarf over my head. There are no missed calls or text messages from Arun. I phone him again but it doesn’t get through. I want to call the airport and check if the flight from Delhi has landed but I don’t know the airline he is coming by. He had gone to Delhi on official work. We had planned to meet at our favourite restaurant before he went home. Negative thoughts crowd my mind. I log into CNBC on my phone to know the latest news. Thankfully, all flights are safe.

May be he has lost his mobile and does not have my number; I ignore the fact that he could have called my office to get connected to me. I think of all possible reasons that could have prevented Arun from reaching me. May be he is stuck in the traffic like last time when he reached the movie theatre post interval…this Mumbai traffic!

My lower back is aching due to sitting erect on the hard iron chair of the café. It is past lunchtime and my stomach is growling. A waiter is coming in my direction bearing a tray with a banana split. It must be for the next table. I go back to playing angry birds on my phone as I swallow my saliva.

“Madam, your order please?” The waiter stops by my table after serving the banana split.

“I will wait for some more time, I am expecting someone,” I repeat for the third time. I pretend to read the menu card intently.

“Madam, we don’t take orders after 3,” the waiter persists.

“Okay, one black coffee and a plate of green salad,” I say, returning the menu card. “No dressing please.”

The waiter pauses for a few seconds before nodding, perhaps at the weirdness of the salad and coffee combination.

I go back to playing angry birds. I kill pigs with renewed fervour.

By now, the waiter has brought my order. I look at the coal-black coffee with a forlorn expression. I bite into a slice of cucumber and fix my eyes on the entrance again. The cucumber is bland and tastes insipid; I chew it anyway.

Besides Arun, my weight loss is my other obsession. I have been sweating it out in the gym for the past four months but the needle on the weighing machine hasn’t moved a centimetre.

“Reena madam, cut down on sweets,” the gym instructor said after the work out.

“I think, I suffer from a sweet disorder,” I told the gym instructor. “My life is bitter without sweets. Just the aroma of chocolates seems enough to add on a few Kilos.”

Arun has not yet told his wife about me. He says he will tell her when the right time comes. Until then he wants me to stay in the wraps. Therefore, we always meet in less crowded restaurants, occupy corner tables, dark shades over my eyes, my head always covered in a scarf. I have never understood the reasoning behind dark glasses, scarf and everything clandestine, but does love ever follow any logic?

My patience seems to be bursting at its seams. I have been waiting for five hours… and three years… my inner voice adds. I am very angry… angry with Arun for keep me waiting, and angry with myself for continuing to wait for him, today and always. I want to go back to work. I am tired of waiting, and the knot of the scarf is itching the delicate skin of my neck. I try to loosen the knot but its noose becomes tighter; its ends have gotten entangled just like my emotions. I pull it with a force. A small tear appears on my silk scarf. I don’t mind, unlike my life, it can be mended easily.

I unzip my handbag to keep my shades in it. The ambience of the restaurant appears brighter without the darkness of the shades. While I am rising from my chair, I observe the image of a flying bird on the stain glass window, its feet wrapped under its wings, but I am no bird; and no net ensnares me.

I take small, slow steps towards the exit. I am gradually finding my dormant energy back.

Suddenly, I feel famished as if I have not eaten since ages.

“One scoop of Chocolate mousse please.” I stop at the Takeaway counter.

Pic credit: 28691409@N05 (Used under a CC license)