Candid chat with singer Shalmali Kholgade

Scan through any Bollywood music charts in the recent few months and you’re bound to find at least one or two of Shalmali Kholgade’s songs on them. Debuting with Pareshaan (Ishaqzaade), the newcomer has managed to make the audience sit and listen with songs like Lat Lag Gayee (Race 2), Daaru Desi (Cocktail), Balam Pichkari (Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani), Tere Mere Beech Mein (Shuddh Desi Romance) among others. The singer’s glad her efforts are being recognised, with a host of awards to her credit. Excerpts from an interview:

Shalmali Kholgade hopes to bring out a private album soon. Photo Courtesy/Akshay Tambe

Do people still call you the Pareshaan girl?
Surprisingly, people have begun attempting to pronounce my name -- Shalmali! It’s a bitter-sweet feeling. The excitement and joy that comes from the very first time you’re recognised is unparalleled. But I’m also happy that people are interested in my singing and have made the effort to know my real name.

So many hit songs and awards in the last year. Now is there a pressure to deliver a hit song everytime you go in the recording studio? How do you deal with it?
I felt that pressure initially. And I’m learning every day, working with new people while understanding their expections. I have realised that I do better, knowing that no one and nothing is affected by my performance. I just have fun with the music I get to be part of without worrying whether its going to be a hit or not.

To add to the last question, do you ever question yourself, is this happening too much too soon?
I’ve asked myself that from the day Pareshaan released. I found it very hard to understand why the singer got so much importance in a song. Then to receive awards and popularity became the next thing to digest. I will always be grateful for everything that’s come my way. I think I was pushed into the deep end of the pool directly. But it’s okay, at least I can swim now.

Are you choosy when it comes to picking songs? Have you ever said no to any because of the lyrics?
I am not choosy about the songs I sing. The only thing that I object to is unsettling words. Words that are vulgar and don’t speak honorably of a woman aren’t acceptable to me. I have said no to such songs that have come my way.

How many languages can you sing in?
I’ve sung jingles in Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali and Oriya. I’ve sung film songs in Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Bengali and Telugu.

You’ve recently recorded a Czech song for the film Prague. Tell us a bit more about that.
Kap kap from the film Prague was my second song with music director Atif Afzal. The song is originally by a Czech artist and I dubbed the Hindi version of the song for the film. The song is soulful and minimalistic. My voice just has the accompaniment of one guitar and that’s the song. It has the soothing quality of a lullaby. This was one of my most enjoyable experiences recording for
a film.

You have been performing live for so many years. Now that you have delivered so many hit songs in Bollywood, does it give you an extra edge when it comes to singing on the stage?
It definitely does add an edge singing songs that are popular and are originally in one’s own voice. Over and above that, Bollywood is such a huge industry not only in India but overseas that it unmistakably adds a lot of value to the performance. People relate to Bollywood songs more and as a result, live shows have become very enjoyable not only for me but the audiences I sing for too.

Every singer likes to come out with private albums, to showcase their talent. Any such aspirations or plans?
I definitely will put out singles and then perhaps a complete album. But I have no deadlines on it. I am currently working on music of my own. It is partly in English and partly in Hindi/Marathi. I’m overly critical of my work so it takes me doubly long to convince myself that I have created something worth displaying to an audience.

You’ve acted in one film. Do you aspire to be an actress?
At the age of 18, I was the female lead in the first East Indian film. I won’t say no to acting in a movie as long as I feel like I’ll be able to do justice to the part I’m asked to play. But I’d like to stick to music-related projects.

Tell us a bit about your latest songs and future projects.
My song Naariyan from Amit Trivedi’s episode of Coke Studio @MTV Season 3 released a few days back. My first song with Vishal Shekhar for the film Gori Tere Pyar Mein will release soon. It’s a duet with Shankar Mahadevan. I’ve been very excited about that. I’ve been recording a lot with Sajid Wajid lately and that has been great fun. I also recorded with Himesh Reshammiya. So there’s a lot in the pipeline.

When it comes to music composers and fellow musicians, who’s on your wishlist?
I want to work with Karthik more -- he and I sang Naariyan on Coke Studio. As is any singer’s dream, I would like to work with AR Rahman. I’d also like to work with Shankar Ehsaan and Loy.

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