From winning reality shows to rendering chartbusters, Shreya Ghoshal’s has been a mellifluous journey
Photo: M. Karunakaran
Lilting success Shreya Ghoshal
Shreya Ghoshal’s ascent in the big bad world of Bollywood playback singing is a modern-day fairytale. Talented young girl wins a popular reality music show (not once, but twice), impresses one of the biggest directors in Bollywood, debuts as th
e voice of one of the biggest stars in Bollywood in what ends up being a blockbuster, becomes the youngest playback singer in Bollywood, and lives happily ever after.
The show was “Sa Re Ga Ma”, the director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the star Aishwarya Rai and the movie, of course, was “Devdas”.
Seven years down the line, Shreya remains a firm believer in the power of such reality shows. “These shows are where music makers look for fresh talent these days,” she said during a recent visit to the city. “Earlier, there was absolutely no way young singers could approach music directors; today, they have a chance to perform on national television and even become instant stars on these new-format shows that include voting.”
It doesn’t always work out perfectly, but as she put it, sometimes “a good talent is discovered by the right person and given the right songs, and it’s great.”
Which is what, of course, happened in the Ghoshal fairytale. Since “Devdas”, she’s zipped right to the top, singing for all the big directors, and bagging two National Awards, several Filmfare awards, Zee Cine awards and IIFA awards for films such as “Guru”, “Parineeta” and “Paheli”. She’s even won the Tamil Nadu State Award in 2007 for the melodious ‘Munbe Vaa’ (“Sillunu Oru Kaadhal”) which, incidentally, is her favourite Tamil number to date.
The young singer fits the bill of a fairytale princess in other ways too — fresh-faced and pretty. But what’s striking is her maturity; this princess has her feet firmly on the ground. When asked what her advice is for young hopefuls who are where she was a decade ago, her responses were sincere and thoughtful.
“It’s important to be judged by the right people at an early stage — I don’t mean on these shows, but by your seniors, elders with experience,” she said. “You may think you’re superb in a particular style and that may not be so — in that misconception, you could miss out on something else you might have excelled at.”
That, it seems, is her central message — it doesn’t have to be playback singing or bust. “There are so many genres out there, from classical and ghazals to rock, fusion and jazz — so many things to learn, to experiment with,” she said earnestly. “Don’t get disheartened if you don’t get into playback singing.”
In fact, branching out from Bollywood and working on a solo album is right at the top of her priority list as well.
“But before that, I want to take a little break from my hectic recording schedule — right now, I don’t have the time to sit down and think about what I want my album to be,” she said. “Maybe travel, sit with some friends and come up with some ideas.”
Sounds good. Here’s hoping for that ‘happily ever after’ ending to the fairytale.
You know a singer’s popular when she’s not let off the stage at 11 p.m. and has to deal with requests for songs in four languages — Hindi (of course), Tamil, Gujarati and Bengali. Phew.
Shreya Ghoshal’s recent concert at the Music Academy in aid of the Sri Kutchi Milan (Madras) Charitable Trust started off, fittingly enough, with a goose bump-inducing rendition of the gorgeous ‘Bairi Piya’ from “Devdas”, which marked her debut as a playback singer.
And the goose bumps kept coming throughout the first half, as the singer, along with Shiv Prasad Mallya performed some of her most soulful hits such as “Teri Ore” from “Singh is Kinng”, ‘Munbe Va’ (one of only a couple of Tamil numbers she performed, but one of her best renditions of the night), ‘Pal pal’ from “Lage Raho Munnabhai” and ‘Mere Dolna’ from “Bhool Bhulaiya” (absolutely beautiful, with her voice rolling effortlessly over difficult swaras).
Shreya herself was in fine form — pitch-perfect as always, demonstrating the modulation and finesse that’s her mark and making you go “Ah, what a voice!” at regular intervals.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the band accompanying her — while passable, its music was strident and lacking in subtlety, rather ruining softer songs such as ‘Piyu Bole’ from “Parineeta”.
And, while no fault could be found with Shreya as a singer, it has to be said that she’s a rather sedate performer. She tried to get the crowd going and more or less succeeded, but the effort showed. Still, that voice and her amazing tally of hit songs ensured that none of that mattered too much.
The second half saw her do a medley of fast numbers that finally got the energy levels up — songs from “Bachna Ae Haseeno”, “Om Shanti Om”, “Welcome” (“one of the few item numbers I’ve sung”) — and had a group of youngsters dancing at the back of the hall. And of course, she obligingly took those multilingual requests late into the night.
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