AA phoenix is a long-lived creature that cyclically regenerates or is reborn from its ashes. A phoenix falls to the bottom of the pit and rises to stake claim over what it believes belongs to it. In that sense, Harrdy ‘Hardavinder’ Singh is no less than a phoenix. Today, the world knows him as a successful singer, as the man behind songs like Soch, Backbone and Kya Baat Hai, but very few know that he was an accomplished cricketer before he made a career in music. He represented India at the U-19 World Cup and rubbed shoulders with the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Ishant Sharma, Piyush Chawla, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and many more in his short career. His dream was to play cricket and represent India at an international level. But destiny had different plans. His cricket career began in the late 90s, and it was cut short because he suffered an elbow injury to his bowling arm. He visited the best doctors, but things were never the same again. Apart from cricket, the only thing he was passionate about was music. So, he decided to try his hand at singing.
This phase changed Sandhu’s view about life, he reveals. “When people learn about my story, they tell me it inspires them to keep trying. The one lesson I learnt was that life doesn’t move forward in a straight line. It’s like a rollercoaster. Life has a variety of colours and one should enjoy each one of them. Today, I’m prepared for anything that life has to throw at me. I’m sure I’ll be able to survive and come out triumphant.” He continues, “It is not like I haven’t seen ups and down in my music career. The struggle has been constant. In 2013- 2014 after Soch, I did seven to eight shows. As a Punjabi, I have this fascination with luxury cars and I decided to buy one for myself. I gave three hits songs, Soch, Joker and Saah, but after a point, I wasn’t getting any shows. All of my songs were slow and I couldn’t perform anywhere despite having a lot of fan following. I didn’t have any money left with me to pay for my car installments or even my rent in Chandigarh. I have been through days when my bank balance was low. It was also at this point that I started doing movies to make money and do more commercial music.”
Harrdy is an unusual name and when asked how he came up with it, he reveals it was cricketer Robin Uthappa who gave him the name Harrdy. “I don’t think Uthappa would remember, but it was around the time when we were in Bengaluru playing for India Under 19. I was only 17 and because Uthappa hails from the south, he found it difficult to pronounce my name. So, he came up with Harrdy and it has stuck with me ever since.” He adds, “Just a few days back, I attended an old friend’s wedding and I was addressed there as Hardavinder and it felt very nice.” Sandhu’s latest single titled ‘Jee Karr Daa’ features Amyra Dastur. In the video, they are dancing on the streets of Istanbul. He reveals, “Jee Karr Daa is written by Mellow D and composed and arranged by Akull. I heard the song, I liked it and I chose to sing it. It was very simple. Music is a feeling. It has no language. Even my selection of music has evolved over the years. I had stopped listening to the latest tracks as I felt a lot of similar music was being made and I feared I might do the same. Off late, I really liked Shayad (Love Aaj Kal) and Darshan Raval’s latest song Asal Mein.”
Back in the 90s, we had a thriving independent music scene, but now we are left with very few independent artists. Even those independent artistes are being roped in either to remix their old songs or old songs of other composers. Speaking of this remix culture, Sandhu says, “Old songs are remixed today to reach a younger and wider audience. But the ratio of bad to good remix is higher. I wish composers and artists put in more hard work so that good compositions also get their due. Nowadays, it is a challenge to release a full album. We only have singles. That is because if the first song doesn’t connect with the audience, the entire album is discarded. Songs don’t trend if it is released without the video.
People have stopped listening to music. They want to watch your song with the video.” Sandhu’s biggest challenge of his career so far is his Hindi debut film, ‘83, with Kabir Khan. He is playing the role of Madan Lal, who was significant in helping the team win the World Cup. While promoting Kya Baat Hai, Sandhu met Salil Acharya, who suggested he should audition for the film as he has played cricket professionally. Sandhu says, “My friend Ammy Virk, who is also in ‘83, had told Kabir (Khan) Sir about my cricket background. Virk asked me to come down to a restaurant in the society where I live and I met Khan. It was a complete stroke of luck and now I truly believe in the power of the universe. So technically, I got the film right below my house,” he smiles.
He adds, “Kabir Sir asked me if I can imitate Madan Lal’s bowling action. I was asked to send the bowling action on video in a few days. I practised for a few days and sent the video. I didn’t hear from them for 4-5 days. I thought they didn’t like it. But on the fifth day, I got a call from them and the first thing they said was ‘Aapne kiya kaise?’. They asked me to come on board. Not many people know that Madan Lal Sir was my bowling coach at the National Cricket academy Under 17 in Bengaluru. I was with him for a month and I knew how he spoke, how he walks and how he bowls. When I donned his look, I was unable to recognise myself. After the shooting was over, I met Madan Lal Sir, a couple of times and I realises both of us are similar individuals as well as fast bowlers.”
In ‘83, Ranveer Singh plays Kapil Dev. Talking about his equation with Singh, Sandhu recalls working with him and says, “The training camp helped us bond and become a team. I find Singh very inspiring. The amount of hard work and energy he puts in is amazing. He is a huge star but very humble. I’ve learnt a lot from him. During the film, he helped me and every other co-star like he was a team captain in real life as well. As a newcomer, there was never any insecurity to share the screen with 11 other actors. Each character is well defined and the film has done justice with every character.” Sandhu now has a team following him and documenting his life, but back at Lord’s while shooting of ‘83, he didn’t click a single picture. He was simply soaking in the place with his heart. Does he have any plans to put his story on paper or the silver screen in any form? He says, “I’m hoping that someday, a biopic will be made. But I think it is too early because there are still a lot of stories to be told and events waiting to unfold.”