Shreya Ghoshal: Crooning glory

Singer Shreya Ghoshal chats up a storm. Filmfare records the conversation


Shreya Ghoshal has changed since the last time I met her. The glam quotient has surely shot up. She’s more bubbly, more chirpy, more spontaneous. I mention that and she says that she was always a chatterbox. “Ask my parents or my friends. I talk and talk and talk. And it’s all thanks to my TV shows. You have to look alive all the time, not only when the camera is on but also backstage when you give pep talk to the participants.”


Shreya has recently stated that she hates being called a playback singer and I quiz her on that. Nodding, she says one should get rid of that archaic term. “Just plain singer would do, considering that we are also performers in our own right. I want to be recognised for my work and not as a mere voice for the stars. It hurts when people associate a star with a song and not the singer.” Commenting on contemporary singers, she says nowadays the emphasis is on voice texture. “Composers want a good texture. They don’t care whether the singer is trained or not. The pitch can be corrected through software. It’s a good thing that many more talented people are getting a chance.”


One would think that established singers like her would be apprehensive of competition but she seems unfazed. “You can’t fight change. I can’t untrain my voice, can I? Sunidhi (Chauhan) and I are brands in our own right. So we don’t have to worry. The current crop, which haven’t yet achieved a certain status, have to live with insecurity day-in and day-out.”


The film industry is notorious for the casting couch scenarios and I ask her if something similar exists in the music industry as well. “Such a thing may exist in films because it’s your body and your face that counts the most. You can cheat when it comes to acting but you can’t when it comes to voice. The audience may overlook bad acting if an actor has a fab screen presence but they will reject an inferior singer in no time. So I believe we don’t have to suffer that.”


It’s heard that composers pay a pittance to singers or sometimes nothing at all. The composers justify this practice by stating that the singers make so much money by singing hits composed by them. She makes a face at that and says she did face this hurdle when she was starting out. “I won’t take names but there are some people who are notorious for such practices. I respect MM Kreem for paying me ten times more than I was charging at the beginning of my career because he liked a particular song. So there have been pleasant experiences too. I don’t agree with the reasoning that we sing their ‘hit’ songs. Don’t we singers contribute to the popularity of the songs as well?”


Technology has definitely helped singers tap into a wider fan base. Thanks to sites like Twitter or Facebook, they are constantly in touch with their followers. Shreya too is quite active on such sites and agrees with me. “Yes, I have a direct connect with my fans today. I share every new thing with them. For instance, people in the North are unaware of the work I do down South. I keep putting video and audio links on Twitter and they have come to appreciate that side of me as well.” The singer says she’s more careful about her comments as she knows they can influence her followers. “I can’t be moofat. I have to be careful about what I say so as to not hurt anyone’s sentiments. Likewise, I have to make sure that whatever causes I endorse are genuine. I realise I have a responsibility towards all the people who have showered me with their love and blessings. I consciously restrict my tweets when I get to know there are exams on so students don’t waste their time.”


She skirts the rivalry issue and claims she doesn’t feel threated by anyone. I rprod her and she says, “People write about Sunidhi and me being rivals but that’s not the case. We don’t share that sort of an insecurity-fed rivalry reported to be common between singers of the bygone era. We might not hang out together but that doesn’t mean we aren’t friends.”


As a parting shot, I ask her what she does to chill. She says she reads books by the dozen and once upon a time used to trek a lot. “I stopped trekking because once I lost my voice for a month after coming back from a trek. It’s all psychological but somehow the fear has taken root in my head. I want to overcome it soon as I’ve heard the Sahyadris are looking quite lush and green after the monsoons.”


Devesh Sharma




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