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Shreya's mellifluous voice and rich tonal quality have a spell binding effect on all music lovers. Shreya Ghoshal has indeed come far with her wide-ranging renditions of human emotions in her songs that have enthralled millions in India and abroad.
Her Early Life
Although Shreya Ghoshal was born in Behrampore in West Bengal, she spent her early years in Rawatbhata, a small town near Kota in Rajasthan, as her father was posted there. At the early age of four, she started learning Bengali songs from her mother who used to rehearse her singing while playing the harmonium at local club’s cultural activities. Shreya’s first stage performance was at the Club’s annual day function. At the age of 6, she started getting formal training in Hindustani Classical Music. She was taught Classical Hindustani Music by Rakesh Sharmaji of Kota and Shri Jayawardhan Bhatnagar her school's music teacher, and thereafter from Mahesh Chandra Sharmaji of Kota. Her initial exposure to Hindi film songs and Rajasthani folk songs came through the school music teacher. After shifting to Mumbai in 1997, she learned classical music from the late Mukta Bhideji. Later on, she received training in playback singing from Padmashree late Kalyanji Bhai.
Her First Successes
Her first success came in 1995 when she won the All India Light Vocal Music Competition organized by the Sangam Kala Group. Eminent musicians like Kalyanji - Anandji, and Pandits Rajan and Sajan Mishra, judged her during the various stages of the competition. Soon after, came her first TV performance called “Awaz Nayi, Andaz Wohi” on EL TV, which was also her first studio recording. By 1996, she won the 75th Children’s Special episode of Sa Re Ga Ma (now known as Sare Ga Ma Pa) contest on Zee TV. She won it again in the 200th episode held in January 1999. Regarding her participation in the contest Shreya says, “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.” The late Kalayanji convinced Shreya’s father to move to Mumbai saying he must do so if he wanted to see his daughter’s success in Bollywood, following which, her father requested a transfer to Mumbai. Shreya trained in playback singing with Kalayanji for 18 months. She then went on to record her first song as a professional singer in Marathi with the cover version of Ganraya Rangi Natchato, originally sung by Lata Mangeshkar.
Entry into Bollywood
Her first studio albums like Bendhecci Beena (1998), Ekti Kotha (1999) and Bonomali Re (2002) in Bengali received some acclaim. Soon, director Sanjay Lal Bhansali gave Shreya her first break. According to Bhansali, his mother who was watching Sa Re Ga Ma, called him to watch Shreya’s performance where upon he immediately realized that Shreya’s voice had the innocence required for the portrayal of Paro in the film Devdas. Bhansali and music director Ismail Darbar offered Shreya to be the voice of Paro (portrayed by Aiswarya Rai) in the year 2000. All her five songs Silsila Ye Chaahat Ka (solo), Bairi Piya (with Udit Narayan), Chalak Chalak (with Udit Narayan and Vinod Rathod), Morey Piya (with Jaspinder Narula), and Dola Re Dola (with Kavita Krishnamurthy and KK)3 were well received. BairiPiya was an instant success and topped the charts and Shreya recollects,“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 songs so well, that they had recorded it at one go.” As she was also studying for her Higher Secondary examinations during that time, she would often take her school books and notepads to the studio to study during the breaks. The film Devdas helped Shreya earn her fame. Her song Dola Re won a Filmfare, IIFA, and a Zee Cine Award for the Best Playback Singer. She also won a National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer for Bairi Piya. For her performance, she was bestowed with the RD Burman Award for New Music Talent. By 2003, she had begun singing in many big movies like Munna Bhai MBBS, Tujhe Meri Kasam, Saaya, Armaan, Xcuse Me, Out of Control, Jism and LOC Kargil. Her song Jaadu Hai Nasha Hai won her a Filmfare Award, an IIFA Award and a Screen Award for Best Female Playback Singer in 2004. This song was also nominated for a Zee Cine Award for Best Playback Singer. Some of her memorable songs in this period remain Silsila Ye Chahat Ka from Devdas and Aye Meri Zindagi from Saaya.
The year 2005 began with songs for movies like Elaan, Blackmail, Jurm, Fun- Can be Dangerous Sometimes, along with Classic Dance of Love. This time the composers were Anu Malik, Kalyanji- Anandji, Sanjeev Darshan and Bappi Lahiri. Her song Agar Tum Mil Jao composed by Roop Kumar Rathod for the Film Zeher7 in 2005 was a chartbuster for a long time and figured in compilation of Evergreen Romantic Hits. The song won a nomination for a Filmfare Award, and was praised by critics and reviewers of Planet Bollywood and Glamsham. In between, she worked with many notable directors for films like Shabd, Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye, Mumbai Express, Nazar, Yakeen among others, until she recorded her next romantic hit Piyu Bole with Sonu Nigam for the film Parineeta also in 2005. The song Piyu Bole won the 2006 Screen Award for Playback Singer (Female). Her second National Award was for the song Naam Adaa Likhna from the movie Yahaan. Then came her films like Aashiq, James and Shaadi No 1, followed by films like Saawan, The Love Season, Chup Chup Ke, Krrish, The Killer, Omkara and Anthony Kaun Hain in 2006. Her own favourite at this time were Pal Pal Har Pal from Lage Raho Munna Bhai, which Planet Bollywood rated as amongst the Best Melodious Tracks of the year. The song also won nominations for Filmfare and IIFA Awards. Her hit song Barso Re from Guru, which was composed by AR Rehman won a Filmfare Award, Zee Cine Award, Screen Award and an Apsara Award, for Best Female Playback Singer simultaneously. Her next hit number was Mere Dholna from the Movie Bhool Bhulaiyaa that won an IIFA nomination. The accolades kept pouring in as Shreya went on with another hit, Yeh Ishq Hai for the film Jab We Met. The song won her a third National Film Award.
After having sung for many movies like U Me Aur Hum, Sirf, Khushboo, Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic, and Kismat Konnection, her next hit song was Teri Ore for the film Singh Is Kinng. This song won her a fourth Filmfare and a fourth IIFA and her second Apsara Award. Later on, her songs in Ghajini became popular. However, the songs Pherari Mon from the movie Antaheen and Jeev Dangla from the film Jogwa got her the fourth and fifth National Film Awards. She continued to win State film awards in Malayalam, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil and Kannada. Some of her more popular songs include Yen Chellam for Tamil film Album, Vida Parayukayano from the Malayalam Film Big B and Kizhakk Pookkum from Anwar became great hits in Kerala and topped the charts. In 2010, Shreya sang Garba Ki Dhun with Rishikesh Kamerkar for an English Independent film When Harry Tries to Marry.8 The song is described as a “Song of festivals, celebrations and enjoyment.”9 In 2011, she performed at London’s Wembley Arena and De Montfort Hall in Leicester while the following year she toured Canada and the USA. In early 2012, she performed at Rosemont Theater Chicago, Sun Nation la Bank Center in Trenton, New Jersey and moving on to the Hershey Center in Toronto, then on to North Carolina, New York Ohio, Florida, Orlando, Florida , Atlanta, Washington DC, Texas, California, Connecticut and Guyana. In early 2013, she went to Australia and New Zealand and gave brilliant performances at the Brisbane Convention Center, Dallas Brooks Center in Melbourne, the Sydney Opera House and Vodafone Events Centre in Auckland. She then performed at the Cricket Association stadium at Sharjah, UAE. By late 2013, Ghoshal toured England and Europe in celebrating 100 years of Bollywood all over America and Canada. Even as she turned 30 in 2014, she released her first non-film ghazal album called Humnasheen, saying she was glad she chose ghazals as it gave a chance to do something she could not do in films as “Urdu poetry has its own charm and impact.”10 Her Tour Itinerary in May 2014 included De Montfort Hall, Leicester, Royal Albert Hall London, National Indoor Arena, Birmingham all in UK, and The Hague, Netherlands.
TRIVIA: Shreya Speak
On Singing and Rehearsing Style "I have a special way of writing the lyrics when it is dictated to me. No matter what the language of the song, even if it is Bengali, I write it in Hindi. I have certain notations and markings to indicate the way it should be pronounced. I feel the Devanagiri script is the closest to the phonetics of the language.” On Item Numbers "I do not have a problem with what I feel are bad lyrics. But I cannot sing double-meaning songs and worse. There were some parts of Chikni Chameli that I made sure were modified” On Diction "Diction needs to be very clear. I am a Bengali, but I was brought up in Rajasthan and that`s why my Hindi is good.” On Clarity "Now when I hear old songs of Lata-ji (Mangeshkar) and (Mohd.) Rafi saab, I can see how particular they were to ensure that the words were clear and beautifully pronounced." On her Bucket List “So my bucket list of places to see n things to do is overflowing. Horrible this is. I can`t wait no more” (tweeted).