Meet the voice behind Chammak ChalloRajul hegde in Mumbai
We all know that international singer Akon has sung Chammak Challo in Ra.One, releasing this Diwali.
What we don't know is that Hamsika Iyer is the female singer accompanying him. Hamsika is a popular jingle singer in the advertising world. Years ago, she got her big break in Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Eklavya with Chanda Re. The song was a chart-buster and popular with critics as well.
Some of her other notable numbers have been Ishq Barse from Rajneeti and Jhoola Jhool in Stanley Ka Dabba, Khushboo Sa in Khoya Khoya Chand and Ninagendhe in the Kannada film Prithvi.
Hamsika received her initial training in music from her father S Balachander, a Carnatic musician and musicologist based in Mumbai. She regularly sings for advertising jingles and in Marathi tele-serials. It's her voice in popular jingles for Slice Aamsutra (enacted by Katrina Kaif), Mirinda and Limca (in Tamil) and the Johnson & Johnson baby ads.
Hamsika chats with Rajul Hegde, and tells her how she landed Shah Rukh Khan's much-awaited film.
How did Chammak Challo happen?
Vishal (of Vishal-Shekhar fame, music composer duo) called me and said they have recorded a song and they want me to record a small female portion. I didn't ask too many questions before going to the studio because I like to surprise myself. I was zapped when they told me that it's for Ra.One.
I was, like, am I hearing it right? I was wondering why they called me for such a big budget movie.
What was the brief given to you before you recorded?
When Shekhar gave me the Tamil lines, I asked him whether the film is being dubbed in Tamil. He said no, there is a situation where Shah Rukh Khan is singing and dancing, and suddenly Kareena Kapoor also joins in to surprise him.
There were a few lines in Tamil and then four lines in Hindi. But there was silence for a few minutes when they told me that Akon is the male singer. Anyway, I thought I will have fun and not expect anything much from this recording.
'I loved the track and sang it in an hour'
Could be. They must have felt that I may be able to nail this. Also, may be, because I sound slightly different from the voices that are around. They have their own reasons for choosing me but it was a pleasant surprise to get such a wonderful song.
How did the recording go?
Kareena is a spontaneous actress and I visualised her before recording. The song is also very stylish and catchy, not raunchy, though it's a dance number. I loved the track and it happened naturally, I just rendered it in an hour. The music itself is so nice and bouncy.
Melodious and unplugged numbers are very much my style. Whatever I sang, they both (Vishal and Shekar) loved it.
'My nephews couldn't believe I'd sung Chammak Challo'
Did you call Vishal-Shekhar and ask about the status of your song?
They looked superbly happy during the recording and I never called them and asked. I just left it to destiny. But I got the good news on Ganesh Chaturthi that my voice is in.
My friend called me and told me to check on the net just before Vishal's call came.
Did you meet Akon?
No. We recorded separately and I don't know whether he recorded before or after me. I recorded last December. I hope to perform live with him in future.
How much did you know about Akon before this song?
My nephews and cousins are very big fans of his. It's like how Michael Jackson was for us. They have grown up listening to him. He is such a popular international star and my nephews (10 and 13 years old) refused to believe that I was the female singer till they saw the CD that I gave them.
They asked me, athiya (aunty) are you sure? Initially, I didn't tell my nephews that we had recorded separately. I made up stories and told them that I taught Akon Hindi!
They were keen to know every detail about him. I told them that he was a bit slow in learning Hindi but was a good student. I was thinking Vishal-Shekhar ko patha chalega (if Vishal and Shekhar get to know about this), they will send me to jail (smiles).
Now they know the real story but I am sure they have not disclosed it to their friends. They get all these cheap thrills you know (smiles). When I go to my brother's place now, they ask me whether I am free in the evening so that they can call all their friends. They come, take pictures and autographs. Life has changed slightly and I am enjoying all the attention.
'SRK said I'm the real star of the song'
Did you meet Shah Rukh Khan and Kareena?
Yes, I met them during the music launch and the whole team was very keen to meet me. Shekhar took me to meet Kareena on stage.
She said, "Oh my god you have such a beautiful voice." I told her that it's an honour for me to be your voice for this song. Shahana Goswami came and said it's such a refreshing voice.
SRK said, "Whenever I want to listen to Chammak Challo, I start from the female section and I wish that it was slightly longer that what it is now." He said it's beautiful and "I don't know why sab log Akon Akon bol rahe hai (I don't know why everybody is gaga over Akon). I think you are the real star." It was a huge compliment.
How did your parents react?
They asked me when I had recorded it. I hadn't disclosed it to them because, god forbid, if it didn't happen, I would have moved on, but parents get disillusioned.
Are you getting more work after Chammak Challo?
I have got lots of calls from reputed musicians. Chammak Challo is a big commercial break and this has given me the maximum mileage. Yes, this will definitely put me on the music map.
'Vishal-Shekhar are superbly cool musicians'
How was it working with Vishal-Shekhar?
I have worked with them before for jingles and a Telugu film. They are superbly cool musicians and they know what they want and also give you that space. Some days after the music launch Vishal calls me and says, do you have any idea what is happening? I didn't know, so he asked me whether I was on Twitter and I said 'No'.
He told me people have stopped asking about Akon and are asking about the female singer! He told me to join Twitter and enjoy the praise. I am very happy that they trusted me. I couldn't have asked for anything better than this.
What was the reason that you didn't do much work after Eklavya?
Actually, I was trying to reach out to people in advertising. I am glad that these songs happened when they actually happened because I also grew as a singer. I learnt technically how to understand and project myself on the mike. All this is a blessing in disguise and I am happy.
What's in the pipeline?
I have Boney Kapoor's It's My Life, Nikhil Advani's animation film Delhi Safari, a Marathi film and a couple of other projects.
Image: Hamsika Iyer