Shreya Ghoshal is on song as she wins the Kerala State award for the best female playback singer
“Totally unexpected,” comes the dulcet voice over the phone when Shreya Ghoshal is congratulated for winning the Kerala State Film Award for the Best Female Playback Singer for her foot-tapping Chandu Thotille in Banaras. “I never thought I would get an award for a Malayalam song. The language is not all that easy; I must thank Jayachadran Sir [M. Jayachandran] for giving me such a lovely song and helping me do justice to it,” says Shreya.
Although she had already sung a song for Alphons (Vida Parayukayano in Big B), it was the song in Banaras that really made Shreya a household name in Malayalam. Vennilave in Sagar Alias Jacky and the swinging Anuraaga Vilochananayi in Neelathamara crowned her as the queen of the charts in Malayalam. And Shreya finished the year as the top singer in Malayalam with every other music director wanting to work with this music powerhouse. Winning awards seems to come naturally for this talented youngster who has already won four National awards and three State awards for the best female playback singer. Language is no barrier for this 26-year-old who has sung in Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam in addition to her mother tongue, Bengali. What is special is the way Shreya manages to get the right enunciation and expression in all the languages.
Getting it right
“Oh, I have a special way of writing the lyrics when it is dictated to me. No matter what the language of the song, even if it is Bengali, I write it in Hindi. I have certain notations and markings to indicate the way it should be pronounced. I feel the Devanagari script is the closest to the phonetics of the language. English alphabets are not very good for that purpose. Moreover, I listen carefully and try to grasp as much as possible when the lyrics are read to me,” she says.
Shreya adds that she also requests the music director or the person in charge of the recording to explain the situation in which the song is sung. That, she feels, is what helps her give each song of hers that punch and evocative way of rendering. “They explain the way the pallavi or the anupallavi would be shot and the scenes for which the song would be played,” says Shreya.
After having worked with all the top directors in India, Shreya feels that the chance of working with such a wide range of directors is one of the biggest advantages of being a playback singer. “No two days are the same. Rahman Sir, Illyaraja Sir, Vishal-Shekar….each director, studio, language, genre and song is unique and I enjoy every bit of it. Awards do motivate me but, above all, it is just the sheer pleasure of making music that keeps me going,” she says.
A firm believer in talent hunts, being the winner of two such talent hunts (Sa Re Ga Ma on Zee TV) herself, Shreya avers that such shows have given many a talented singer a platform to showcase their talent and to capture the imagination of a global audience, as it happened in her case. Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the celebrity judge on an episode, was captivated by her singing and made her sing playback for Aiswarya Rai in Devdas. The pitch-perfect Shreya never had to wait for songs as she was flooded with offers from both sides of the Vindhyas and that has made her a votary of such talents hunts on television.
“These shows have opened a world of opportunities for so many singers. Somewhere, someone might be listening and give the singer the right break. Earlier, they used to be a big gap between the top rung singers and the others. It was not because they were less talented; it was just luck. But now the gap has narrowed thanks to reality shows. Many of the singers who have come up through the shows are busy singers who earn well and are stars in their own right,” she says.
Favourite singer: There are many who have inspired me but Lataji has a special place in my heart. I love her songs, the way she sings and her voice.
Family: There is no separate entity. We are one. My father, Biswajeet Ghoshal, is a scientist-engineer and my biggest support. I get my music from my maternal side. My mother, Sharmistha, herself is an excellent singer though she never turned a professional singer. My brother, Soumyadeep, is studying engineering. We function as a team.
Major films: Devdas, Guru, Parineeta, Paheli