Her first ever recorded song was “Ganraj Rangi Nachato” which is a cover version of a Marathi song originally sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Her first studio album was Bendhechhi Beena, which was released on 1 January 1998, with 14 tracks. Some of her earlier albums are O Tota Pakhi Re, Ekti Katha (1999), and Mukhor Porag (2000). Ghoshal recorded Bengali studio album Rupasi Raate (2002). Ghoshal recorded devotional songs in albums like Banomali Re (2002), and later, Krishna Bina Ache Ke (2007).
Shreya Ghoshal career, 2005–07
Ghoshal was bestowed with her second National Film Award for her rendition of “Dheere phone” in Paheli. As claimed by Daily News and Analysis, the song “treads the fine balance between the classical and popular genre of Hindi film music”. Barring the song “Dheere Jalna”, Ghoshal was heard in two other tracks “Kangna Re” and “Minnat Kare”, composed by M.M. Kreem. She provided vocals for Kreem in one of his another compositions: “Guzar Na Jaye” from Rog. With the film Parineeta, she made her first collaboration with Shantanu Moitra. She performed four tracks from the film alongside Nigam, which includes “Piyu Bole”, “Kasto Mazza” and “Soona Man Ka Aangan”. Thereupon, the duo worked for the soundtrack album of Yahaan, performing a soulful track “Naam Adaa Likhna”, “Urzu Urzu Durkut” and a Punjabi track “Mele Chaliyan”. Ghoshal’s work in both the films was widely acclaimed, subsequently being nominated for the Filmfare Awards with the song “Piyu Bole”. Reportedly, Ghoshal was selected to sing the female rendition of the track after being auditioned by many other artistes. In an interview, Moitra stated; “Pradeep wanted a little trill of laughter in the middle of the song and she did it effortlessly”.
Along with “Piyu Bole”, Ghoshal received another Filmfare nomination for her rendition of the song “Agar Tum Mil Jao” from Zeher. The song along with “Jaane Ja Jaane Ja” from the same film was acclaimed by music critics. Apart from providing supporting vocals for Himesh Reshammiya’s “Aashiq Banaya Aapne”, Ghoshal’s voice had been used in some of his other compositions released during the year. However, while reviewing Malik-composed “Pehle Se”, Bollywood Hungama wrote: “Ghoshal sings in a mature manner and does well once again to prove herself as a dependable playback singer”. Similar sentiments were echoed for the song “Bolo To” from Shabd which was composed by Vishal–Shekhar.
2006 marks Ghoshal’s first collaboration with Ravindra Jain in film Vivah, where she performed three duets with Narayan titled “Mujhe Haq Hai”, “Do Anjaane Ajnabi” and “Milan Abhi Aadha Adhura Hai”. For the album, she also recorded “Hamari Shaadi Mein” with Babul Supriyo and two sisters conversation song “O Jiji” with Pamela Jain, along with a bhajan performed with Jain. Ghoshal’s “obsessive” vocals were appraised in Roop Kumar Rathod’s composition, “So Jaoon Main” from Woh Lamhe. Despite the length, the version was particularly acclaimed from the album. During the year, Ghoshal performed her first ever duet with Sunidhi Chauhan—though they have contributed in multi-singer songs together—with the Salim–Sulaiman’s composition, “Imaan Ka Asar” from Dor. In spite of providing backing vocals for Lage Raho Munna Bhai’s “Bande Mein Tha Dum”, Ghoshal and Nigam performed a romantic duet titled “Pal Pal”, a composition by Moitra. For the song, she received a Best Female Playback Singer nomination at the 52nd Filmfare Awards. She was next heard with Vishal Bhardwaj in the song “O Saathi Re”, which exudes the feeling of intimacy and deep love. Ghoshal’s low pitch rendition in the song was positively noted by critics.
In 2006, Ghoshal sang “Pyaar Ki Ek Kahani”, “Koi Tumsa Nahin” and “Chori Chori Chupke Chupke” for Rajesh Roshan-composed Krrish which were also favored by the critics. Reviewing the album, Bollywood Hungama wrote: “Ghoshal is extremely competent and justifies her continued presence in the big league”. They also mentioned that Ghoshal has reached to a similar level of Alka Yagnik in terms of “class, quality and style”.
In 2007, Ghoshal recorded a thumri in the mujra style for Khoya Khoya Chand. Titled “Chale Aao Saiyan” and composed by Moitra, the song was particularly praised for Ghoshal’s “different” vocal structure. She even lent her voice for two other songs for the album; “Sakhi Piya” and “Thirak Thirak”. She reunited with Moitra for Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, where she performed “Hum To Aise Hain” along with Chauhan which also had Swanand Kirkire and Pranab Biswas lending supporting vocals. Raja Sen found “Kachchi Kaliyaan” song from the film less appealing with its “bad remix background” though praised Ghoshal, Chauhan, KK and Nigam for giving the song “the vim it requires”. Apart from providing background alaap in Monty Sharma’s composition “Masha-Allah”, Ghoshal was heard in the classically oriented numbers “Jaan-E-Jaan” and “Sawar Gayi”, included in the album Saawariya. She also recorded her first track in a Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s composition, “Thode Badmaash” for the same album, providing a “feminine quality” to her “temperate nuances”.
During the same year, Ghoshal sang the peppy rain song, “Barso Re” for Mani Ratnam’s Guru, a composition by A.R. Rahman. A Review from Oneindia praised Ghoshal’s rendition of the song and opined that it was a different incarnation of her in comparison to her previous records. The song won her third Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer. The same year, she came up with the song “Yeh Ishq Haaye” from Jab We Met, composed by Pritam which was successful in earning her a third National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer.
The duo also worked with the classical track “Mere Dholna” for Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007), performed beside M. G. Sreekumar, which was acclaimed with special mention to the taan towards the “climax of the song”. Ghoshal also lent her voice for Vishal–Shekhar with few of his compositions and was particularly praised for the theme song of Ta Ra Rum Pum along with the romantic song “Main Agar Kahoon” and the dance song “Dhoom Taana” from film Om Shanti Om, where some critics compared her singing style of the latter with S. Janaki. In the year, Ghoshal worked with Ilaiyaraaja for the album Cheeni Kum.