Queen of charts

Chitra Swaminathan
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Chat Shreya Ghoshal talks to Chitra Swaminathan about the joy of singing and the challenge of seeking success on her own terms

In an industry where fame and failure rewrite destinies in a matter of days, Shreya Ghoshal has been calling the tune since she emerged as a teen idol. In tinselville where people thrive on rumour for visibility, court controversies before seeking work and hang on desperately to consciously built images, everything about this sought-after songstress appears real: the voice, the experiments and the persona.

So how has she remained her own…and single? Shreya laughs and says, “Not hard. I wear blinkers to stay focussed. And by the way, I have found the most lovable companion.” Even as you are thrilled to get the first byte on this spunky singer’s love life, after a brief pause comes the expected and staid “in music”. “I cannot two-time.  Dhunon ka ishq sawar hai  (I am in love with tunes) and nothing and nobody can distract me right now. And then like the girl-next-door adds, “Of course, there is always pressure from my mother but I have my father on my side who has left the decision to me.” So, all those young boys, waving placards proclaiming their love for the singer at her concerts, can still try their luck. “It’s a great feeling to be wanted but it’s more exciting to be inaccessible,” says Shreya impishly.

Hers is a rare success story in Indian reality television. Winner of the junior and senior championships of  Sa Re Ga Ma , Shreya impressed one of its judges, director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, so much that he gave the singer her first film assignment  Devdas  right after the show and she struck the high note. While the film’s songs still come in for repeated encores at Shreya’s live shows across the world, the cheery and warm crooner continues her reign over melody.

Shreya who was one of the judges on the widely-watched  Indian Idol Junior  that wound up recently was liked as much by the viewers as by the participants for her genteel criticism and encouraging remarks. Does her own stint in reality music shows prompt her to be so? “It was not a stage-managed judging.  Vishal, Shekhar and I did our best to put these youngsters at ease. The idea after all was to help them showcase their best by pointing out what’s wrong and right about their performances without being harsh, she says matter-of-factly. “That’s how I was raised by my parents,” she adds.

Shreya owes it to her engineer-father who let her dream and realise it in her own way. “He never allowed me to get carried away by all the attention. He would think several times before letting me take up a project. At the Indian Idol Junior show, I advised parents not to push their children. Overexposure means overuse of the vocal chords which could lead to tedium and exhaustion.”

But what about the cynics writing off these programmes as mere TRP-driven entertainment shows? “It’s a platform like any other. Titles or awards are not the mark of your success. They are the beginning of a life-long  sadhana . Learning should never stop. Discipline of riyaz  is a must if you are serious about pursuing an art,” says the singer.

Her mother, Sarmistha, is Shreya’s first guru, whose opinion still matters a lot to her. “Like classical music, film music does not have a technique but to excel in it and convey the inherent emotions in the lyrics you need to have a good understanding of  sangeet . Listening is as important. I am constantly surrounded by music even when I am in the kitchen cooking my favourite dishes. Also make your ears and soul receptive to all kinds of music.”

Shreya is thrilled about working with some bright young composers who are pushing creative boundaries. “I love the madness they bring to their work. It’s wonderful communicating with them and heartening to see listeners and the film industry receptive to their innovative tunes.”

Besides the stream of hits she keeps churning out, Shreya indulges in independent work too. She has recently collaborated with Kailash Kher for a song ‘Naina Chaar’ that is part of an online initiative by a music company. “It’s nice to create something you believe in. It’s even nicer to dance to your own tunes sometimes,” she laughs.




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