One of the biggest controversies to hit Bollywood in recent times was when Sonu Nigam tweeted about Azaan being played near his house. News channels made it a huge issue, trollers on social media had a field day and it even led to a fatwa on his head which Sonu responded to, by shaving his head! Everyone had their two bits to add to the story but those who know the real Sonu Nigam were shocked by the extent to which the story blew up. One of them is Adel Farooq, the well-known Emirati singer-cricketer-actor who considers Sonu like his brother. Adel and Sonu have performed together and the former has nothing but the highest regard for the singer. In fact, even when the controversy broke out, Adel tweeted in support of Sonu.
Today, nearly a month after the brouhaha, Adel looks back at his friendship with Sonu and tries to make sense of what was essentially, social-media generated noise!
When was first the time you met Sonu Nigam?
I met Sonu bhai through the wonderful Sunil Vaswani (UAE-based industrialist) who I am very close to. I was performing for the family in London. They had already informed him about me and we had exchanged numbers. Thus, we were in touch even before we formally met. But once we met, we clicked instantly. It’s been over a year since I have known him and the bond has been getting stronger with each passing day. We have even performed together. Sonu is a gem of a man and he guides me all the time with my music.
How did your friendship with him grow?
As I said, I was performing for the Vaswanis in London at their daughter’s wedding. Sonu, who is really close to them, was attending it too. He kept encouraging me and eventually sang with me. We had a blast. Ever since, we have been in touch regularly and have met several times. For me, it’s a soul connect between two artistes. Of course, I am nothing compared to him as a singer but there is a reason why you share a special connection with someone. We are brothers for life now.
How did he influence your music?
Over the years, Sonu has influenced my and several singers’ music in inexplicable ways. But for me it’s been an unreal experience since he’s almost like a brother who has guided me. I can say that my music has improved much beyond my expectations because of him. I have always been confident but after interacting with him, I feel I have reached a new level. It's not easy to stand next to the man and sing!
What was your first reaction when you heard about the Azaan controversy?
That's what it exactly is. A controversy. Let me narrate an incident. Once, he and I were performing together at a private gig. It was azaan time during a song and he was the one who shouted ‘cut the music it's azaan time’. He is a man who I have open conversations about Islam, Muslims and the love and peace we have in our religion. He has maintained a journal since 2002 comprising every song he has sung, and at the top of every page, he has names of Allah, Christ, Om etc. The man has the highest regard for religious beliefs and he himself is very spiritual. I saw a string of tweets by him but the media only picked two and made an issue. In our religion, peace and love is the way to be. Why can we not reply with love and why do we need hostility towards anyone? Our own country (the UAE) is the epitome of love, peace, harmony and tolerance. Why can't all of us in all countries be the same? Spread love and only love. Not hostility and hate.
Sonu is known to be a spiritual person. What, according to you, defines his philosophy?
He is indeed every bit spiritual and I think it’s due to his parents’ upbringing, the love he gets from family, fans and others. That love is beyond anything else and it transcends to a level that not many understand. Sonu believes in humanity, love, peace and tranquillity; I have never seen him speak against religion, caste, creed or colour. To him, all are the same. Once you are beyond minor differences, you become spiritual in the true sense of the term.
How do you think was he affected with the trolling he had to go through after the controversy?
Any person would get affected. But he is such a strong man! He realises, that at times, things will be taken out of context and can get twisted especially when you are a star. I had a very lengthy chat with him when he came a few days back to Dubai for a charity gala dinner. For the last 10 years, he has been supporting the cause of mentally challenged children in this city. Unfortunately, the media doesn’t highlight such things and he never mentions his charity to the media either. But people who attended, know that he has been supporting the cause for 10 years. Media can have a positive or negative effect on anyone's life. Thankfully, now all is well.
Do you feel social media has a tendency to blow things out of proportion?
What happens when an issue breaks out is that many people who are virtually unknown, will want their two minutes of fame. There were people who said nasty things during the controversy and they were constantly highlighted on news channels. Couldn’t these very people have been more courteous, loving and put their views across to him or the media? Our religion teaches us education and ethics. If you feel someone, then solve the issue through dialogue, love and peace. There is nothing that a hug cannot solve, is there?