A Benny for a Song

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Seeing Benny Dayal sing is like seeing the energy of his songs take physical form in front of one's eyes. The singer of chartbusting hits such as Badtameez dil, Daaru desi, Disco deewane and Pappu can't dance saala is really something on stage — he is always on the move, showcasing different dancing techniques even as he reaches for soaring notes with ease. His skills as a natural performer he owes to a childhood idol, Michael Jackson, and his earlier days of training in Bharatanatyam, courtesy his mother who is a trained practitioner.

"Since I started learning Bharatanatyam as a kid, I was listening to Carnatic classical music before anything else," says Dayal, sitting inside the air-conditioned greenroom on the sets of MTV Unplugged. It's only a while ago that all of the above came together, when Dayal presented his reprise of Omana penne, one of his earlier hits with AR Rahman from the Tamil film Vinnaithandi Varuvaayaa, where he attempted a Carnatic flourish in what is essentially a Rhythm and Blues (RnB) number. "I wanted to do that Malayalee bit too, but couldn't. Actually, I should have," he says with apparent indecision, suggesting the kind of spontaneity he works with.

It has been five years since Dayal started singing for Bollywood, and his fresh, youthful voice seems to have worked very well with Hindi cinema's young heroes, from Ranbir Kapoor in Badtameez dil, to Sushant Singh Rajput in Shuddh Desi Romance and Ranveer Singh in Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl and Band Baaja Baaraat.

"I am never told about the hero while recording the song. The only time I was, I had Aamir Khan sitting in front of me during the recording of Kaise mujhe tum mil gaye from Ghajini," says the singer, who got his break singing for Rahman in Yuvvraaj and later, in Ghajini. He was soon picked up by A-list composers such as Amit Trivedi, Pritam, Salim-Sulaiman, Vishal-Shekhar and Sachin Jigar. His latest one is for Papon in his episode of Coke Studio@MTV.

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