Best of both worlds

Best of both worlds

Best of both worlds
It’s her voice. It’s different — original, earthy, strong, with a touch of Western sway. Earlier, Bollywood music lovers were used to hearing ethereal Indian classical music-based voices of Lata Mangeshkar, Alka Yagnik, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Shreya Ghoshal and others. That’s till 2012, when a girl in her early 20s started troubling fans with ‘Main Pareshaan, Pareshaan’, from Ishaqzaade. And within five years, in the film music industry, she went on to become a name, break records, and became a regular chartbuster.

Laughing heartily and recalling the euphoria of her early days, Shalmali Kholgade says, “And to think that I never expected to be a playback singer!” It was her debut song in Hindi films and she went on to win the best playback singer award at noted award ceremonies in 2013. And in this short span of time, her talent invited her to judge music reality shows on TV. The latest in her repertoire is being one of the judges on Dil Hai Hindustani, a musical show on Star Plus.

Support system
Shalmali was introduced to Hindustani classical music at the age of six by her mother, vocalist Uma Kholgade, and later she continued training under guru Shubhada Paradkar. At home, learning music every day was as compulsory as doing her homework. Her mother was strict. “But both my mother and teacher understood and encouraged me when I wanted to learn Western music. They never stopped me from hearing and singing those songs, and that’s how I developed a different style of singing and interpretation of songs,” explains the slim-built girl from Pune.

She says she couldn’t believe it when music composer Amit Trivedi invited her for an audition. She hadn’t heard a single song composed by him, perhaps just one from the film Dev.D.

What if, at the time of audition, Trivedi had asked her to sing a song composed by the legend Naushad or Lata Mangeshkar? Pondering over the question, she voices her thoughts aloud. “He wouldn’t have asked, for he knew what I sang; he was aware of my voice quality; and he knew which song he wanted me for. He was aware of my inclination towards jazz.”

In fact, earlier, she admits she was never into Hindi film music — she was more into Western music and loved to jam with different bands, write her own music etc. That is one of the reasons why she had tried to do a course at The Los Angeles College of Music. Though she got admission, she decided to forgo it as her singing commitments in India had increased. But one day in future, she says, she will pursue that course.

Her idol from the West is Amy Winehouse. Shalmali even performed a two-hour tribute to Amy Winehouse at a popular club in Mumbai.  Her room is full of pictures of Amy. From the Indian subcontinent, her idol is Sunidhi Chauhan.

“I love Sunidhi’s voice, her style of singing, and even the way she has conducted her life in the industry,” says Shalmali, who is also regular with Mikey McCleary’s popular act, The Bartender.

Mikey is known for his revamping of vintage Bollywood songs, giving them a sensuous and old-school jazz flavour. Remember Anushka Sharma passionately lip-syncing the song ‘Mohabbat Buri Bimari’ from the film Bombay Velvet? It was Shalmali’s voice.

One look at the recent chartbusters and you will realise that most of them are by Shalmali —‘Balam Pichkari’ (Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani), ‘Baby Ko Bass Pasand Hai’ (Sultan), ‘Daru Desi’ (Cocktail), ‘Chingam Chabake’ (Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania). In the beginning of this year, she also released her first single, ‘Aye’, on her Youtube channel, Shalmali Kholgade Official. It talks about women empowerment. She has not only sung the song, but has also acted in it and directed it.

Reality check
Coming back to her judging of the music reality show, she admits that when the programme is aired, viewers only get to see the edited version where all the judges sound completely in awe of the singers. But in reality, they do correct them gently, tell them where to improve, and where they have gone wrong.

“When the competitors are very young, we usually involve parents and tell them how not to be overenthusiastic, how to guide their children properly, and to teach them the importance of learning and practising. Education in every field is a must to master a talent, and it’s important not get swayed by one win or appreciation. One needs to practise, learn and listen till the end,” elucidates Shalmali Kholgade.

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