New-age 'mehfils'

New-age 'mehfils'

In conversation

Bollywood’s well-known voice Shruti Pathak and her band Guzzler are contemporising‘ghazals’, much  to audience’s delight, writes Srabanti Chakrabarti .

The last decade has seen a plethora of good singers entering Bollywood — KK, Shilpa Rao, Madhushree, Arijit Singh. What has separated them from the earlier singers is their uniqueness. There was a time when aspiring singers would try to copy Kishore Kumar, Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar or Asha Bhosle. However, none of the singers who have risen to fame in the last few years have attempted that. They have created their niche in the industry. Shruti Pathak is one great example.

The singer who gave us hits like Mar Jawan from Fashion, Tu Na Jaane Aas Pass Hai Khuda from Anjaana Anjaani, Paayaliya from Dev D, Shubhaarambh from Kai Po Che! is in the news with a new ghazal band called Guzzler. If the name sounds strange, there is a reason behind it. The name is Shruti’s way of paying tribute to her favourite lyricist-filmmaker, Gulzar.

Her dream — Guzzler — turns one year old in August, and Shruti is happy that her listeners have given her baby much love. She says, “Guzzler is the result of the urge of wanting to do something fresh with ghazals. I love the ghazals by Mehdi Hassan, Ghulam Ali, Farida Khatoon and Begham Akhtar. I love their poetry content, and I am a die-hard Gulzar fan. I try to sing ghazals in a contemporary way, which could enable listeners a new experience.”

Why the name?

How did the name come up? “The name ‘Guzzler’ was suggested by one of my friends, since the band represents the youthful and contemporary version of ghazals. I am experimenting new sounds with Guzzler as it has a touch of Jazz. I also have someone playing sarangi in my band. It is about making it aesthetically better,” Shruti explains.

Shruti has five members in her band who play base, acoustic guitars and drums — being used to render ghazals for the first time. Talking about listeners’ feedback, Shruti says, “I have got responses from all over India while on city tours. Although I was initially scared, the first appreciation boosted my confidence level. I am happy that, from an elderly person to a young listener, everyone liked Guzzler. People from the music industry also gave me a warm response.” 

Shruti has a set of songs that she performs with her band. “Of them, Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo by Farida Khatoon and Shaam Se Aankh Mein Nami Si by Jagjit Singh are my favourites. The rich content of ghazals makes me enthusiastic every time I go on stage,” she points out. 

What about film music? How has the film fraternity reacted? Shruti says that she has no complaints about the songs she is offered. “As a creative person, I want to operate on a different level. I took my band to a radio station and have turned into a radio jockey now.” ‘Guzzler’ is a chat show that airs every Sunday at 9 pm, on Fever 104. “There will be a new guest singer/musician/poet every week to chat and jam over ghazals,” Shruti informs.

Radio show

Shruti adds, “Radio is a great platform to promote artistes. I have spoken to Hariharan, Rekha Bhardwaj, Shekhar Ravjiani and Richa Sharma, who were all mind-blowing. This is the first time I am taking the mike not to sing, but to interact.” Shruti dreams to invite two people on her show. “I am trying to get Ghulam Ali, as I am a fan of his singing. The second person is Shafqat Amanat Ali, with whom I have sung twice.” The singer, who has completed her musical journey in Mumbai for a decade, thinks the competition is tough in the playback music industry, but “I take that as an inspiration to work harder. I have fabulous singers like Anusha Mani and Shilpa Rao as my friends.”

Shruti’s focus is now on Guzzler as she works on her own compositions. Talking about her fondness for the eminent lyricist Gulzar, she says, “I have met him once. I bumped into him in an elevator and I froze. I couldn’t speak to him. I wish to sing a song of his soon.” Shruti, who has recently worked with composer Raghu Dixit for Amit Sahni Ki List, awaits a few more film songs. She is keen on working with composer A R Rahman. “I have been nominated for awards, but have not won any. My award is my listeners, who have always showered their love on me.”