Sonu Nigam as the roadside ustaad
Sonu Nigam as the roadside ustaad

Sonu Nigam played dress-up this week. He went disguised as an old man with a harmonium to play music on the streets of Juhu, Mumbai.

The singer-composer did this as part of a social experiment of the Culture Machine's digital channel, Being Indian.

Nigam proved that it's not his star value that makes people admire him, it's his beautiful voice.

"This has been one of the most enlightening and remarkable experiences of my life," said Nigam after revealing his real identity. "Wohi mai hun, wohi awaaz hai farq hai tou kapro ka umr ka." (It's the same me, the same voice, the difference is just of the clothes and age.)

While many expect a roadside singer to be ignored, Nigam's voice not only attracted a crowd but a lot of appreciation from bystanders. Nigam was particularly humbled by a man who came to him, telling him his voice is so wonderful he would like to record it. After recording the voice that man took Nigam's hands into his own, not knowing at all it was the brilliant singer, and asked him if he had eaten. Nigam was particularly touched at how the man actually had twelve rupees in his palm which he left in the hands of the roadside ustaad.

"Mujhe itna acha laga. mujhe laga maine laakhon rupey kamaliye. Ek undefined jaga par jaa kar mujhe kisi ne saugaat di. Maine apne office ko kaha hai k isse frame karke rakh dein." (I loved that. I felt like I had earned millions. In such an undefined place, some gave me such a precious gift. I told my office to frame it [the Rs12] for me.)

Nigam, so moved by this man, added, "I wish that I can meet him again. 12rs ke badle (in return for it)... I want to give something back to him, out of love."

This love and appreciation was the message of his experiment. Sonu Nigam wanted to address how this fast-paced world has made people stop appreciating everything around them because "present mai jo horaha hota hai hum ussko appreciate nahi karte." (Whatever is happening in the present we don't appreciate it.)

However, this experiment proves that people will indeed stop to appreciate true beauty, "This is also a learning for me, and for everyone who's watching the video k khushiyan yahin par hi hain (that happiness is here). You don't have to look else where."