The name Soham Chakraborty may not ring any bell, but if his rendition of In Dino is anything to go by, then it will be a name you won't be forgetting anytime soon.
This budding singer, who is determined to make it big, recently proved his mettle in Anurag Basu's Life... In A Metro.
However, it wasn't smooth sailing for him. He struggled for a good five years before he got his break. He tells Swati R Chaudhary about his years of struggle, his mentor music director Pritam, Band Metro and a lot more.
Tell us something about yourself.
I am a Bengali guy from Kolkata, who started singing at the age of 10. I had an ear for music and wanted to sing ever since I can remember. I trained in Hindustani classical music under the guidance of Pandit Jayendra Ghosh, Ustad Mohammed Sagaruddin Khan saab and Sukhdev Sengupta.
In 2000, I auditioned for Zee's Sa Re Ga Ma and was declared a winner. Music directors Bappi Lahiri and O P Nayyar suggested that if I wanted to pursue singing as a career, I'd have to shift base to Mumbai.
Has In Dino given you a new identity?
Undoubtedly! This song shot me to fame. I have been living in Mumbai for five years but it is only now that people are getting to know about me.
I had to struggle for five years before I got In Dino. Even Dil Laga Na (Dhoom: 2) did well, but people didn't know about me then. They vaguely knew that was someone called Soham but that was about it. Likewise, Kaha Kho Gaya (Hattrick) didn't work wonders for me. Metro is my first big hit.
How long have you been in the industry before you bagged this song?
I came to Mumbai in 2002 and met Pritam. I have done several ad jingles like Emami and Mac Donalds with him. It was through jingles that I started understanding the nuances of the microphone. Then T-Series gave me my first break in 13 languages including Telugu, Tamil, Bhopjpuri and Assamese. Gradually, I started getting more work. I sang a duet with Sunidhi Chauhan in Chaalbaaz (starring Mithun Chakraborty).
How hard did you strive for your first hit in your career?
The journey has been tough and demanding but rewarding as well. I had to introduce myself to people. I remember leaving my demo at Tips, T-Series and Venus. In the beginning, when I wasn't getting work, I felt it wasn't my place. I was disheartened but Pritam instilled that confidence in me. He's truly my mentor who never failed to encourage me. Those words of motivation meant a lot to a budding artiste like me.
Describe the phase before Metro.
It was the toughest phase of my life since I didn't know anyone in Mumbai. I stayed in a chawl for six months. I came to Mumbai in 2002 with the Sa Re Ga Ma prize money. I ate vada pav to save money so that I'd be able to spend more time in Mumbai.
I have been through a lot of struggle. I indulged in a lot of net practicing in terms of Q voice. It was a great learning experience because it gives an artiste a chance to showcase his creativity. Obviously, it was heartbreaking when someone else would finally dub the song. But all singers go through it.
I did Ada and Dil Samander (Garam Masala) that was finally dubbed by Sonu Nigam and KK respectively.
Did you ever expect In Dino to be such a big success?
Not at all. I recorded the song in 15 minutes! I was wondering how it would turn out and whether the public would like it. When it was released, I started getting positive feedback. I was relieved that it was a hit.
How much were you paid before Metro happened?
My first cheque in Mumbai was for Rs 10,000. It was for a Marathi album that I bagged through T-Series. It had some eight songs.
How much are you making now?
Tabhi aath gaano kay liye jitna milta tha muje, aaja ek gaane mein use zyaada kama leta hu. (I get more for one song now than what I got for eight songs earlier).
How has life changed post Metro?
I am very thrilled with my newfound identity post Metro. There are quite a few offers on hand. There are people coming up to me and acknowledging my work now. It feels great. My hard work has finally paid off.
Anyone you credit for the success of In Dino?
I completely owe In Dino to Anurag Basu and Pritam. They have been responsible for making the song what it is.
The one compliment that moved you?
I visited a suburban mall a few days back and someone came up to me and said that after ages, they got to hear a soulful song that will be alive in people's hearts for the next 10 years. That compliment moved me.
Why were the four of you -- Pritam, Suhail, James and Soham -- re-christened as 'Band Metro'? Who's idea was that?
The biggest attraction in the film was the rock band though initially, I didn't agree with the concept since I was mainly interested in playback singing. It was a risk as it was a novel approach to filmmaking.
The band was Anurag Basu's brainchild which he started working on even before Gangster. He detested the stereotypical idea of actors running around trees. He wanted to keep it natural. The band took the narrative forward.
But it irked the audience.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Some liked the concept, some didn't. Moreover, it's not like everyone laughed off the idea. It received mixed reactions. When the film was previewed, we got positive feedback.
Did you always aspire to be a singer?
I was always passionate about singing. I used to listen to Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi. That's when I realised I wanted to do something similar. I used to sing at the Kolkata Radio station.
Your favourite singer?
I simply admire Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar. Among the contemporary lot, it'd be KK, Sonu Nigam and Shaan.
And music director?
Pritam. But I am also fond of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Ismail Darbar. Even Shailendra has done an amazing job in Dream Man (the onscreen adaptation of Makrand Deshpande's Hindi play Ek Kadam Aagey with Kay Kay Menon). You'll know when the music is out.
Are you a part of Metro 2?
I am not in a position to comment right now. I've heard about it but Anurag is the best person to confirm this.
There is Priyadarshan's Dhol and Makrand Deshpande's Dream Man. Then there's something else coming up from 'Band Metro'. We will record an album independently. It should be out in October.