Shreya Ghoshal: I cannot sing double-meaning songs

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Shreya Ghoshal: I cannot sing double-meaning songs
It’s been artistic and professional evolution unlimited for Shreya Ghoshal, Queen Bee of playback in the film industry today. Whichever song she ‘strikes’ turns gold, and even if a few miss the popular bus, the qualitative impact is consistent. Here is a singer who is simply growing with every song, come ‘Teri Meri’ (Bodyguard), ‘Ooh La La’ (The Dirty Picture), ‘Chikni Chameli’ (Agneepath), ‘Naina Re And Lagan Lagi’ (Dangerous Ishhq), ‘Chikni Kamar’, ‘Chhammak Chhallo’ and ‘Chandaniya’ (Rowdy Rathore), ‘Humse Pyaar Kar Le Tu’ and ‘That’s All I Really Wanna Do’ (Teri Meri Kahaani) and now ‘Chalao Na Nainon Se Baan Re’ (Bol Bachchan).

Meeting up the singer at her classy new apartment in Mumbai’s Santa Cruz area is a first, as we have always met for interviews at studios or done what are known as ‘phoners’ over the last decade. The singer is visibly relaxed and we get chatting. Her mother insists that Shreya play the piano, which she has begun to learn. A stunning rendition of the ’70s S.D.Burman beauty, ‘Ab To Hai Tumse’, follows.

Excerpts from an interview:
It’s been ten years since your debut with Devdas. Where do you see yourself today?
I am at peace and in a happy phase! (Smiles) My shifting to this locality from the central suburbs has allowed me the luxury of having far more free time as my commuting time has reduced literally by hours! This permits me to a lot of things I always wanted to – like learning the piano and listening to more and more music. Until now, even sitting with my family for a relaxed chat was a rare luxury!

Professionally, I am getting the best songs in the midst of all kinds of music that is happening. I am keen on stepping up my work in Bengali and am also coming out with a ghazal album. In recent times, I have rejected multiple songs because of objectionable lyrics or other reasons. I continue to do a lot of regional work, especially down South where the composers and filmmakers give you great respect.

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Of late, there have been some new singers who have complained that their voices have been replaced after recording a song. Have you ever had this experience?
Unfortunately, yes. Some music directors have got into this pattern of trying out multiple voices for a song and can arbitrarily scrap your version after you have given your best. The irony is that a better singer can also be replaced by an inferior one, for reasons best guessed at rather than being the right ones! In principle, I have always hated this trend and have openly expressed my unwillingness to ‘over-dub’ on another singer’s voice.

Why has this problem surfaced in Hindi film music over the last few years?
I don’t know the exact reason why some music directors are following this trend. The big problem that a singer is absolutely unsure after recording any song about whether it will be finally heard when the music and film are out! In this craze for trying out various singers and sometimes programmers, some music directors are killing their own creativity. My song in a recent film, for example, had four female versions in different voices, all with minute differences of riffs! Why should composers be unsure about who will do justice to a song?

You have had a slew of good songs of late for Sajid-Wajid and Himesh Reshammiya in particular.
Theirs is the kind of melodious music that is going back to our roots. Himeshji’s ‘Naina Re’ from Dangerous Ishhq was phenomenal. ‘Chalao Na Nainon Se Baan Re’ from Bol Bachchan has caught on in a big way – he is a genius as a composer and at his best very few can match him today. As for Sajid-Wajid, their biggest plus is that their melodies stand on their own, like in the good old days. By that I mean that the songs sound as good when heard or sung without a single instrument.

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Where do you see trends going?
Entertainment is back! It is now proved that when you want to enjoy, nothing can beat classic Hindi entertainers. The South Indian remakes have also brought in catchy South Indian rhythms – the South excels at desi grooves. We all love hearty, rooted Indian music and nothing can beat the 6-8 beat in dance.

What explains Hindi film music’s most deviant phase that came between 2008 and 2010?
Chaos was reigning because a generation that was ingrained in music from outside India was looking at our presenting alien music in our style, which they thought was the future of music in India. There was too much emphasis on technology, and words and their expressions were no longer as important. The placing of the vocal track level in the final mix and mastering was dominated by the orchestration and we often could not understand the words. Essentially, I would say that it was an identity crisis – and it continues even today in some quarters.

You mentioned that you rejected songs because of objectionable lyrics. Could you elaborate on that?
I do not have a problem with what I feel are bad lyrics. But I cannot sing double-meaning songs and worse. There were some parts of ‘Chikni Chameli’ that I made sure were modified.

It’s very simple: we are not like the West – yet! There is a social responsibility that all artistes have. Indians still have a comfort level in being covered. If that is thought of as not going with the times, then so be it! Indians worldwide are being increasingly respected and honoured for their cerebral qualities and that’s the way it should be! I am not insecure either, so why should I sing such attention-grabbing songs?

Are there any songs about which you are excited in the films to come?
I have recorded some really good songs across many composers. There are two terrific songs for Jeet Ganguly in Raaz 3 and am excited about Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s new film for which he is also scoring the music.

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You stated that you want to do more non-film music.
Yes, I want to do more in Bengali than the obligatory Pujo album every year! Besides being my mother-tongue, even in Bengali cinema, great times have come back because of Shantanu Moitra’s music in Antaheen. I want to do more for independent music – the ghazal album I am doing has music by Deepak Pandit with lyrics by Manoj Muntashir. I really miss the days of ghazals and thumris so I want to contribute my bit.

This is not the era of physical sales though. So how are you planning to market the album?
Such albums do not have to be huge. As for the reach, I will make sure that my album will go where it should. I will definitely add my own publicity to it through tweets, posts on Facebook and also concerts.

Finally, which would you say are the landmark songs of your career?
Oh, there have been so many. But I would like to mention the songs that steered my career at the right time in the right direction. After a traditional score like Devdas as a debut film, my songs in Jism – ‘Jadoo Hai Nasha Hai’ and ‘Chalo Tumko Lekar Chale’, and later in Saaya and Main Hoon Naa gave me a modern as well as versatile image. In the last three years, I was being largely called to sing the staid romantic melodies and ‘Ooh La La’, ‘Chikni Chameli’ and the songs of Rowdy Rathore have once again come as life-saving opportunities that have broken that restrictive image. As I said, I am in a happy phase! by Rajiv Vijayakar, Jul 13, 2012

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