She was 18 when she won a talent hunt in 2002, and became a member of the first Indian all-girl pop band, Viva. Though the outfit disbanded after a few years, Anushka Manchanda managed to make her mark in the music industry. In 2006, she made her Bollywood playback debut with the title track of Golmaal – Fun Unlimited. Since then, she has sung around 100 Hindi songs in a career spanning nine years, including the latest hit, ‘Manma emotion jaage’, from director Rohit Shetty’s recent release. Apart from music, Anushka has also ventured into acting. In fact, her latest movie, Pan Nalin’s Angry Indian Goddesses, earned critical acclaim. Here, she talks about being satisfied with her career, why it’s a great time for musicians to enter Bollywood, and more.
Have you ever contemplated acting as a full-time profession?
I don’t feel the need to make any strong decisions. I always look at a project for what it is. “Is this a creatively inspiring project? Will I enjoy working with the people involved?” If yes, then I am in. Every art form is an expression. As an artiste, I am happy that I can express myself through the medium of film as well as music.
Which actors would you love to work with?
I’d love to work with Naseeruddin Shah. He has such an impressive personality. And what an actor! I really want to be his friend. I think we would get along. I’d be happy to just hang around him like a spot boy. I know I’d learn a lot from watching him work.
Listen to Manma Emotion Jaage here
Are there any film offers in the pipeline?
I have been called for the look test of a project, which I will do next week. I am excited about it. As an actor, I don’t feel the pressure to prove myself, as I often do with my music. I want to do this (acting) purely for pleasure. I hope some exciting work comes my way.
You were part of the first Indian all-girl pop band, Viva. How do you look back at the contribution the band made to your career?
I had never planned a career in music. Winning the contest (that helped her become a part of Viva) helped me land straight into the industry. Now, I cannot imagine doing anything else. Even after the band split, it was easier to talk to people I hoped to work with, because they knew who I was. But it was also harder to prove myself as a musician, because a lot of people looked at Viva as a manufactured band, which was more about glamour than talent.
Apparently, the band split due to creative differences. Will there ever be a reunion?
Pratichee (Mohapatra; singer and former member of the band) and I are soul sisters, and we are in constant touch. Mahua (Kamat; singer and former member of the band) and I speak maybe once a year. Neha (Bhasin; singer and former member of the band) and I couldn’t see eye-to-eye for years. Then, this writer friend of mine (Ashish Kate) called me, and insisted on doing an interview with us. His persistence got us together under one roof after a decade. That’s when we talked about what we were going through individually at the time of the split, and it was a revelation. We are in a good place now. As for collaborating again, I believe in never say never.
Listen to Chori Chori here
Was getting into Bollywood difficult?
Back then, if you had to pick one girl from Viva, who definitely would not become a playback singer, it would have been me. Fate had other plans. I was called in to sing ‘Golmaal’ (Golmaal: Fun Unlimited; 2006). The song became a hit. It was that simple. I worked hard, and learnt on the job. I had heartache many times during recordings, because I was an untrained singer. My attitude got me work back then, and it gets me work even now.
Listen to Golmaal here
You had already made a mark before venturing into films. How hard is it for a fresher to get into Bollywood’s playback scene today?
It’s equally hard and easy. It’s hard because there is a lot of competition. There are so many voices in the industry today, and everyone is super talented. It’s easy because music directors and film producers are always looking for fresh voices. There are many platforms for you to make your voice heard.
What do you enjoy more — singing for films or independent projects?
Both. When you sing for a movie, you are following a brief, and representing a film and an actor. Having said that, there is room for experimentation with almost all music directors today. With independent music, you represent yourself. There is more freedom, and bigger involvement.
You have been a Bollywood playback singer for almost nine years. Do you feel underrated?
I think I have had a great run so far. I’ve sung close to 100 songs. That’s pretty cool for an accidental singer. So, I feel good about the work I’ve done. Playback has been a constant in my life, but it has never been the only thing I’m doing. I’m a musician first, a singer later.
You don’t sing a lot for films. Are you selective or there are too many singers in the industry currently?
I’ll be honest. When a new music director approaches me, and I haven’t heard his/her work, I always want to hear the track. With all due respect, I don’t want to sing songs that are substandard or suggestive. I’ve worked too hard and too long, and I want to go home feeling good about the work I’ve done. Besides, there is no dearth of talented singers in the industry. This affects all singers, because there is more work for everyone, but less work for everyone at the same time. However, it’s also imperative for the growth of the industry.
Listen to Jaago Zara here
What’s your take on the current scene of Bollywood music?
The industry today is great, because its doors are open to fresh musicians and composers. It’s a great time to be a new entrant. There’s a lot more technical talent now, as softwares have become accessible to everyone with a laptop.
How do you think Bollywood music has changed over the years?
I think, a few years ago, Bollywood music became what pop music was. For example, EDM is the current flavour in the world, so you hear a lot of it in Bollywood music. Same was the case with hip hop, when it was doing well globally a few years ago.
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