Sunidhi's on a new high
The Edinburgh festival beckons, with Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia
Sunidhi Chauhan is almost the girl with the Midas touch in the Hindi music industry.
With chart topper after another to her name, this 19-year-old has already lent her voice to nearly 350 songs.
Today, Sunidhi is on a new high. Together with Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, she will represent Mumbai in the Indian contingent at the month-long Edinburgh festival in the UK in September.
That only makes her hungry for more fame and glory. "It's a big thing for me. I am eagerly looking forward to it. I am so happy, I haven't even planned what I will sing. Perhaps I'll take a few from my films and a few of Lataji's (Mangeshkar). But I still want to go far. I want to attain dizzy heights," she says.
When will she feel that she has achieved something? "I believe God gives everyone an opportunity. This is just the beginning. Who knows, I may or may not be accepted.
"But I will definitely feel I've achieved something when I can render all kind of songs. I want to be a singer of international calibre. I will be cutting a disc for the international market soon."
Her mantra for success? "Hard work, punctuality and luck. You need to have all three in your kitty. The first two are in my hands, but the third of course isn't."
She recounts, "I started singing very early in my life, as early as five. I have only studied upto the tenth grade. I was never interested in studies. Initially, singing was a mere hobby. Lata Mangeshkar was my favourite, and I would sing all her songs.
"My first break came literally out of the blue, when composer Aadesh Srivastava asked me to lend my voice to the song Ladki deewani dekho ladka deewaana from Shastra. I was only 11 then. Aadesh had seen me perform at an awards function. Then I won the Meri Awaaz Suno musical contest. Also, I was a part of (composer) Kalyanjibhai's Little Wonders."
Was she nervous at her first recording? "Nope, I was never nervous. You are tense only when you are conscious of the people around you. I wasn't. My father just said, 'That is the stage. Go and sing there.' And I did."
Sunidhi confesses, "My first song and the contest did not help me much. Nothing happened for a while. But by then, I had made up my mind that I will pursue singing as a career."
And then came along Mast, composed by Sandeep Chowtha for the Ram Gopal Varma film of the same name, starring Urmila Matondkar. "Whatever I am today, I owe to Mast," admits Sunidhi. "I met Sandeep Chowtha through (singer) Sonu Nigam, and 15 days later, Mast was in my lap. I was only 13 then. After that, Universal Music approached me to cut an album. I guess I'd arrived then!"
Along with 'arriving' came a new look, she reveals. She knocked off 12 kilos by jogging and working out. She worked on her wardrobe and chose a trendy image. As she says, she "opened up".
Being a child prodigy, she says, was tough. Music composers would treat her like a kid. "Earlier, I used to call the music directors Uncle. But if I call them that now, they give me weird looks. Though I find it weird to call them by their names!"
"As for my singing, perhaps they felt since I am very young I might not be able to give the right expression. But since I've been working for a while now, I have matured beyond my age."
How does she handle the workload? "At times, I do five recordings a day. Touchwood, I have good stamina. I don't follow any special dos and don'ts for my throat --- I eat anything and everything. It's just that if I'm suffering from a particularly irritating sore throat, I keep ice-creams away."
Sunidhi does not believe in restricting herself to just films or solo albums. According to her, "I have to do the same job in both formats. It's just that you can improvise in albums, while singing for films has restrictions. Here, you have to keep the heroine in mind, else it might look totally out of place."
She recalls that her most difficult song was Aye ajnabee from Deewangi. "I took 12 hours to complete that number. Ismail Durbar was the music director," she reveals. And the number that came to her the most naturally was Mehboob mere from Fiza. "It took just 15 minutes."
She shoots off excitedly, "I have many acting offers too, but I don't want to rush it. Frankly, I would like to do just one or two films to fulfill that secret dream of seeing myself as an actress. But my life is singing and my aim is to keep singing better.
"At the moment, I am most excited about my songs in Sur. Most music directors have you typed. But someone like M M Kreem and A R Rahman let you loose and allow you to have trials and errors, innovate, etc. Aa bhi jaa, Dil mein jagi dhadkan aisi and Dil ki khushi are all hummable and different from my usual style. Also I am eagerly waiting for Maine Dil Tujhko Diya, Chor Machaye Shor and Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon."
Sunidhi created a stir recently when she eloped with Bobby Khan, choreographer of many of her music videos. Has it changed her life? "Not at all. My in-laws don't make me feel I am 'married'. I don't feel I have stepped into a new house. I am so comfortable. And Bobby is a darling. I am very, very happy."
And her aim is to be like pop singer Mariah Carey. "There's nobody like her. She has an amazing range and quality in her voice. She's a goddess."