The first song that Shalmali Kholgade sang for Bollywood — ‘Pareshaan’ (Ishaqzaade; 2012) — was a big success. The singer has since then proved that luck had nothing to do with it, delivering back-to-back hits such as ‘Shayarana’ (Dawat-e-Ishq; 2014) and ‘Baby ko bass pasand hai’ (Sultan; 2016). Her clear voice and western style have proved to be popular with the masses, but it’s not widely known that Shalmali initially learnt Hindustani classical music from her mother, Uma Kholgade. In fact, the singer credits her introduction to Western music to her elder brother and admits that she really likes Spice Girls. Excerpts from an interview:
How has the journey been so far? Was Bollywood always the plan?
I think my journey has been full of surprises, as I never planned to be a Bollywood playback singer. When I started off with my first song, Pareshaan, I was just a girl who sang in clubs and bars. I was surprised that Amit Trivedi wanted to try my voice for one of his songs. I was very excited to meet him, because I had heard Dev.D’s (2009) music, and I wondered who the composer was. So, what started off as a very exciting project turned out to be my career.
Watch the official video of ‘Pareshaan’ here:
Were you apprehensive about singing for Bollywood?
Honestly, I was not at all familiar with Bollywood music. At home, we only had two music cassettes from Bollywood films, Roja (1992) and Bombay (1995), so I was clueless about what Bollywood playback music was or what other Bollywood music was like. My plan was to write my own music, which would be in English as I was singing only English songs at that time. But I was aware of the phenomenon that was Dev.D, and I was very intrigued by it. I was really lucky to be contacted by Amit Trivedi, because he was the one composer I knew about in Bollywood. So, I wasn’t apprehensive, because I was excited that I was contacted by that music director.
I think my journey has been full of surprises, as I never planned to be a Bollywood playback singer.- Shalmali Kholgade, singer
Your mum is a Hindustani classical singer, but your singing is influenced by Western music. How did that work out?
My mum used to teach Indian classical music at home, so that was always part of my upbringing. I have an elder brother who is eight years older than I am, and he used to listen only to English music and artistes such as Michael Jackson, Queen and Spice Girls. I really like Spice Girls, by the way. So, he was the reason I started listening to English music, and was drawn to it more than anything else. Fortunately, my parents are very liberal and they wanted me to explore and see where my heart lies.
Can we expect any collaborations, given your skill at Western music?
I would definitely love to collaborate with any international artiste. For now, I want to write my own music. My next single is going to be in English. It’s almost ready, and I’m waiting for the final audio of the track. I have written the song, and I’ve worked on it without anyone telling me what to do. Hopefully, if that goes down well with the audience that I will eventually build for my English music, then we can hope for some international collaborations.
With bands such as Coldplay and artistes like Justin Beiber coming to India, do you think Indian audiences have become more accepting of western music?
I think our comparison is always with Bollywood, and you just cannot compete with them. All we can hope for is many people to hear your music and enjoy it. An occasional ‘Hey, I heard your song, loved it!’, should keep you happy. I feel that’s a more realistic expectation. Having said that, I’m really glad that acts like Coldplay and Justin Beiber are coming to our country, and people are looking forward to it. I feel there is an audience for that music, at least in the bigger cities, but that kind of music is definitely not as big as our movie songs.