'I simply closed my eyes and sang'
18-year-old Shreya Ghoshal gives voice to Aishwarya's Paro in Devdas
Shreya Ghoshal is a typical college girl.
What makes Shreya different from the rest of her ilk is the fact that she has bagged the biggest film of the year --- Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas, starring Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai and Jackie Shroff. Shreya playbacks for Aishwarya Rai (who plays Paro).
Eighteen-year-old Shreya considers herself very lucky. It is not everyday that a filmmaker like Sanjay Leela Bhansali calls you up and offers you a film. The singer, like the rest of the cast and crew, is obsessed with her debut film --- she has even set her mobile phone ring to Bairi piya, her song in Devdas.
Shreya, who arrived in Mumbai five years ago after spending her childhood near Kota in the northwest Indian state of Rajasthan, discloses how she bagged the coveted film: "Sa Re Ga Ma, a popular Indian television show at the time, was on the lookout for talented singers. I grabbed the opportunity and mailed my songs in a cassette. Within days, I was called to audition." She sang her way to the children's finals, where she won.
The judges, musical duo Kalyanji-Anandji were so impressed with her that Kalyanji took her under his wing and trained her for a year-and-half.
When Bhansali noticed Shreya on the show, he knew immediately that this was the voice he wanted for Paro. It had innocence.
Shreya continues, "Sanjayji tried to trace me. I remember that phone call. I could not believe that the director of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam was on the line, asking for me. The film was such a hit, yet Sanjayji was so polite and humble. I was speechless."
Shreya was auditioned and selected. She remembers her first sitting: March 9, 2000. And the first song she recorded was Bairi piya, "I remember I was asked to rehearse the song once before finally recording it. I simply closed my eyes and sang without a break. When I opened my eyes, I noticed a lot of excitement and chaos outside the recording room. Then Sanjayji told me I had sung the song so well that they had recorded it at one go."
The song has done very well on the Indian charts and has made Shreya very popular in her social circle. "My friends keep teasing me with, Issh [a refrain in the song]! I do not mind it."
Playbacking for Aishwarya is almost a dream come true for Shreya. She states, "I have always admired Aishwarya. I was so excited when I realised I would sing for her. I met her first on the sets of Devdas. She is so humble. I remember between shots, we would sit together, and Sanjayji would ask me to sing Lataji's (Mangeshkar) songs. Aishwarya has a ear for music, so she would join in too."
She adds, "When I sang, I imagined myself to be Paro. Just like Aishwarya. I tried to bring in the Paro's pain, confidence and innocence."
About the director, Shreya says, "I never imagined I would work with Sanjay Leela Bhansali. He guided me a lot. I was nervous initially, but the cast and crew were so good to me. Ismailji [Durbar, composer] was also very nice to me."
What is most memorable for her is the experience of singing with those she had always admired --- Udit Narayan, Kavita Subramanium, Jaspinder Narula, K K and Pandit Birju Maharaj. "They encouraged me to give my best. I remember once, Uditji told me I that since I had talent and luck, no one could stop me from achieving my goals. This was a great moral boost, coming from such a senior artiste."
She adds, "Kavitaji and I sang Dola re dola together. We had a great time. I kept observing her."
Shreya, who first performed at four, says her mother is an amateur classical singer and her a music aficionado. Her father, an engineer working at Mumbai's Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, took a transfer from Kota to Mumbai only to further his daughter's interests. "When Kalyanji offered to train me, I was still in Kota. He advised my father to take a transfer to Mumbai if I wanted a career in music."
"Devdas has changed my life," she continues. "I now have to balance my life to include college and my career." Among her forthcoming films are Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Munna Bhai MBBS, [director] Shiva's Hindi version of the Telugu hit Badri, Viju Shah's Tujhe Mere Kasam and three films with Ismail Durbar --- Julie, Thoda Tum Bolo Thoda Hum and Desh Devi.
Shreya also has her own plans. "I want to establish myself in the industry. Then I will cut an [independent] album. I want to come out with a new concept, break the monotony in music. Lata Mangeshkar's Meera bhajan was so out of the ordinary, a trendsetter. I too want to explore different styles of music."
ALSO READ: The Devdas Special