'I love that people recognise me after Munni'
Mamta Sharma is busy bagging awards at the recent awards shows after singing 2010's most popular song, Munni Badnaam, from 2010's biggest hit, Dabangg.
The singer tells Sonil Dedhia her story, and how life has changed.
Did you ever expect to win so many awards and fame for your first song?
I didn't expect it so early in my career. It feels great. For singers, either you don't get awards at all or you may get many at a time. Munni is my first song and I did not expect anything. I'm enjoying the moment now.
How are you handling this sudden fame?
I am behaving as normally as I can. I love that people now recognise me. I got a lot of compliments from the industry people. It feels great when people acknowledge your efforts and hard work. Kirron Kher told me that she had fallen in love with my song. Pritam and Prasoon Joshi complimented me.
Tell us about your early life.
I was born and brought up in Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh). My mother wanted to send me to college in Delhi, as my relatives were there. She was sceptical about sending me to Mumbai. But I insisted on coming here. I enrolled myself in Nalanda college (in Mumbai) to learn bharat natyam. I learnt that for two years, and then realised that it was not my cup of tea. I was never good at studies.(laughs)
I have gone through a lot of hardships but don't have any regrets, as I learnt from them. This is my 11th year in Mumbai.
Image: Mamta Sharma sing Munni Badnaam
'I started working in films as a junior artist'
You were interested in singing so what made you take up a course in bharat natyam?
I did it to get rid of studies! But after getting into the course, I realised it was more difficult! (laughs)
Tell us about your journey in Mumbai.
When I came to Mumbai, I didn't know anyone here. One of my classmates told me to join (singer) Suresh Wadekar's classes. I tried it for a couple of months but could not give my best. So I quit.
Mumbai is an expensive city, and I had to survive somehow. So I started working in films as a junior artist. I was a part of the crowd in a scene in Salman Khan's Dulhan Hum Le Jayenege. I was also one of the extras in the films Jodi No 1 and Chori Chori.
One day, I was just singing on the sets of a film when (choreographer) Ganesh Acharya asked me to try out stage shows. Luckily, I got a chance to sing in a Navratri show. Shravan of Nadeem-Shravan composer duo heard me and gave me a break in a film but unfortunately, it never released. I had to struggle a lot.
Finally, I got a break in 2007 when (composer) Lalit Pandit heard me in a stage show and offered me Munni Badnaam.
Image: Mamta Sharma sings Tere Mast Mast Do Nain from the film Dabangg
'I don't have formal training in music'
Did you always want to become a singer?
It started as a hobby. I've loved singing since the age of 10. I did a lot of stage shows for fun. I would also sing in jagrans (all night prayer, song and worship gatherings).
I would love it when the audience would start clapping or say 'once more'. My parents and a friend then encouraged me to take up singing seriously.
Have you had any formal singing in training?
No. I learnt a lot by listening to songs sung by Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Shamshad Begum and Suriya. I plan to get some training, as it helps build your confidence and to get the timing right.
Image: Mamta Sharma sings Maine Socha Na Tha from the film, Yes Boss
'I had to sing Munni Badnaam seven times at a stage show'
Did you ever think Munni Badnaam would become such a big hit?
No. But (producer) Arbaaz Khan was sure that it would become a hit. While recording the song he told me, 'Mamta, awards lene ke liye tayar ho jao.' But he too may not have imagined that it would become the song of the year.
So how many times have you had to sing it in your stage shows?
I have to sing it at least thrice in any show. The maximum was seven times!
Your next song Tinku Jiya in Yamla Pagla Deewana became popular too.
Anu Malik had the lyrics Tinku Jiya in mind and he asked me to give the song a rustic flavour. The song was improvised on the spot. When we saw the final result, we were all proud of it.
Both your songs are item numbers. Aren't you afraid you will be stereotyped?
I don't think it will stereotype my image. I love singing item numbers. They make people dance. I have sung some mellow and sufi songs for films too. When the films will release, people will come to know about my versatility as a singer.
Image: Mamta Sharma sings Tinku Jiya from the film Yamla Pagla Deewana
'It's a good thing that new talent is coming in'
A singer's career span is very short in Bollywood. And there's a lot of new talent coming in. What do you think of that?
In a way, it's a good thing that new talent is coming in. There was a time when only romantic numbers would work. Sunidhi Chauhan came and changed it completely. There were more masala numbers and variety. To survive, one must develop an individuality. It's difficult but not impossible.
Had you ever thought of participating in a reality singing show?I have never thought of taking favours from anyone. If I had participated in a reality show and won, I would have to sign a contract with them and they would then rule your life. You become a puppet.
Image: Mamta Sharma sings Chaar Dina Da from the film Hero
'Sunidhi Chauhan is a very versatile singer'
What do you do to maintain the quality of your voice?
Have lots of ice cream, and cold drinks! (laughs)
Seriously, I am not very particular. I enjoy life and that's what you should do. If I have a bad throat, I don't eat anything that would make it worse.
Who are your favourite singers?
I love Shamshad Begum. She's brilliant. Also, Alisha Chinoi. Her voice is so beautiful that even if she sings without any emotion, you will still feel the song. She has a very romantic and seductive voice, which no one else has.
I like Sunidhi Chauhan too because she is very versatile. And lastly, I love Shreya Ghosal because she has brought back the romantic songs the way Anuradha Paudwal and Alka Yagnik would sing.
Image: Mamta Sharma sings Munni in Sheila style