May 22 2015
One of Bollywood’s best known playback singers hits the Alchemy Festival at the Southbank Centre in London and our writer was there to hear about her short forthcoming UK tour…
By Suman Bhuchar
AS USUAL it was one of those shambolic press conferences which is really to be expected, and even I behaved like a diva and turned up twenty minutes late.
However, when Shreya Ghoshal did arrive all was forgiven and she gave about forty minutes of her time to an adoring audience comprising of people who wished her congratulations on her recent nuptials; sang paeans of longevity for her and gave her belated birthday greetings – her birthday is in March.
One of the momentous occasions of her life, occurred earlier this year, when Ghoshal got married to Shiladitya Mukhopadhyaya, her businessman boyfriend who she has been dating for several years.
The couple wed on February 5 this year, and apparently he is besotted by her singing, as were the entire audience in the press conference and they even made her sing a little snippet or two. There was even a scion of a princely family from Bahrain who had come over for to hear her voice.
Accompanying her was Hrishikesh Ranade, an engaging Indian playback singer (who was also on her 2013 tour) and who will be singing with her on this tour.
Although extremely popular in the UK, this will be the first time, the Bengali born singer will be performing at Alchemy Festival at the Southbank Centre; something a coup for both parties.
As she herself put it: “This is a big opportunity for me to be with you all in London, and it is something special to be representing Indian Bollywood music at the Southbank Centre.”
I asked them both about how do they look after their vocal chords, and Ranade explained that he does his daily riaz (vocal practice) and daily exercise as a matter of routine, while Ghoshal joked she didn’t do anything, but did confess later that “like any sports person who has do exercise you have exercise your vocal chords to keep them strong”.
She explained that food was her weakness but she did not find a need to avoid any spicy food or pickles because “if your heart is happy then you can sing with more expression”.
A couple of the Pakistani media were also in the press conference and the journalists remarked how much her songs were enjoyed by people on both sides of the sub-continent.
She was asked whether she had thought of creating some type of an amity foundation, to which she replied she hadn’t considered something separate but would be happy to be a part of such an organisation and her prayers were “for happiness and goodness in the world”.
One of her abiding aims is to set up a specialist academy where young aspiring singers wanting to sing in the ‘playback’ style of music would be given the training and skills to do so, as there were no such facilities in India, although training in classical music was more available.
Ghoshal’s own musical career began after she won the “Sa Re Ga Ma” (the music reality show, contest created by Zee TV) in the 75th episode in 1996, where she appeared as a child artiste. She did go on to appear in more episodes of the show and also won the ‘mega final’ 200th episode in January 1999.
Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali was asked by his mum to watch the ‘girl’ on the show and he vowed to use her to be the voice of Paro (played by Aishwarya Rai, as she was then, for his forthcoming modern film version of “Devdas“.)
Ghoshal ended up singing five songs in the film with “Bairi Piya” winning her the National Film Award for ‘Best Female Playback Singer’ in 2002, it was considered her first ever Bollywood number, although her singing career by then was pretty prolific.
And the rest, as they say, is history, but according to Ghoshal: “It is all down to the power and attraction of music. My constant ambition is to be more profound as an artist”.
This UK concert tour has been organised by Rock On Music (www.rockonmusicuk.com), a company set up in 2011 and headed by Vijay Bhola, a music promoter who has been organising concerts since 1986, and who served up a splendid tea at the Montcalm Hotel, near Marble Arch, London, to soothe the frayed nerves of the media, and all was forgiven.
Main picture: Hrishikesh Ranade and Shreya Ghoshal
- Shreya Ghosal tour: DeMontford Hall, Leicester tonight (May 22), Alchemy tomorrow (Saturday) and at the Apollo Manchester on Sunday (May 24) .