‘I don’t think I have stardom’: Yo Yo Honey Singh on why he refuses to take it easy

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It’s a muggy June evening. On an elaborate set mounted on an unspecified location in Jalandhar, Punjab, Hirdesh Singh, popularly known as Yo Yo Honey Singh, is the center of attraction. Visibly bulked-up, the rapper is dressed like a true-blue Punjabi folk artist, complete with a black kurta, white Pathani salwar, black jutti and traditional Punjabi jewellery. His long, straightened-out locks, grown over a period of eight to 10 months, can barely go unnoticed.

The temperature is well above 40 degree Celsius but Singh, now in his mid-thirties, is excitedly looking forward to the next shot. “Garmi toh lagti hai kyunki ab AC mein ghoomne wale ho gaye hain hum log, par jab kaam hota hai toh saara junoon ussi taraf hota hai,” he would tell me later in a quick chat. An assistant, standing just meters away from Singh, unfailingly supplies him carefully-measured amounts of lemon water after every shot.

After a fairly successful comeback with Makhna, that released in December last year, Singh is filming the video of his next, a remake of a supremely popular Punjabi song, that came out over three decades ago. Singh says he has given it a hip hop twist while retaining the charm of the original. “Kiraye ki gaadiyan leke bohot video bana liye, ab logon ko Punjab dikhana hai,” he tells a group of journalists from Delhi, of which I am a part, with a broad smile on his face.

The set, largely purple-hued, is buzzing with energy and excitement. Nearly 100 background dancers, mostly men, are painstakingly following the instructions of the director. Despite the blazing Jalandhar sun attacking in full force, they maintain gleaming smiles on their faces. The hero on the set is, of course, Singh. Each time he pulls off the song in a single take, the non-dancer in him is encouraged with loud cheers and whistles.