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Singer Shalmali Kholgade can’t stop talking about her pan-India bike ride

Shalmali Kholgade talks about learning to ride a Bullet, meeting some amazing women, and nearly being pushed off the road by trucks

HT48HRS_Special Updated: Jul 21, 2016 15:04 IST
Arundhati Chatterjee
Arundhati Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Shalmali Kholgade,HT48Hours,MTV
Shalmali Kholgade’s musical journey has been a series of contrasts.(Photo: Akshay Tambe )

Shalmali Kholgade’s (26) musical journey has been a series of contrasts. Under her mother, singer Uma Kholgade’s tutelage, she trained in classical music. But her musical sensibilities were more Western — the singer confesses to being hugely inspired by pop stars such as Beyoncé and Amy Winehouse. She applied to the Los Angeles College of Music, and while she waited for a response, she sent her English recordings to composer Amit Trivedi.

When the acceptance letter arrived, her debut Bollywood number, Pareshaan (2012, Ishaqzaade), was already a hit. Kholgade didn’t take a second look at the acceptance letter. Sooner than she would have imagined, she was the next big Bollywood playback singer. Five years since, she is conflicted about this stamp, too.

“I would like to call myself an indie artist, but I am a mainstream singer for now. I have not yet released independent music. But I definitely intend to do that at some point in my life,” she says.

Singer on a bike

Earlier this year, Kholgade embarked on yet another journey — the longest road trip she has ever been on. Four singers — Kholgade, Jasmine Sandlas, Akasa Singh and Anusha Mani — rode on Royal Enfield Bullets and made their journey from Mumbai to the Wagah Border (Punjab), via Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab, over a span of 25 days.

Also read: Behind closet doors - Shalmali Kholgade

Four singers — Kholgade, Jasmine Sandlas, Akasa Singh and Anusha Mani — rode on Royal Enfield Bullets and made their journey from Mumbai to the Wagah Border (Punjab).

The ride was for MTV’s upcoming show, Angels of Rock, where the singers draw inspiration from extraordinary women across cities, towns and villages of India, and compose original tracks on the move.

But it was not all fun and games. “We had to learn to ride a Royal Enfield Bullet on the highways. Sometime, truck drivers tried to bulldoze us because they thought it was unusual to see women on the highway on motorbikes. It was tiring and demanding, but was the experience of a lifetime,” she recalls.

On their journey, the singers met inspiring all-women communities, such as the female firefighters of Jaipur, the crew behind the all-woman radio station in Sanand Taluka in Gujarat, the female rickshaw drivers of Jind in Haryana, and so on.

Also read: There’s more to being a biker than owning aviators and fancy machines

Music meets TV

In the past, shows like Sound Trippin, MTV Unplugged and MTV Coke Studio have garnered popularity, and gone on to register multiple seasons. While this is a first-of-its-kind association for Kholgade, she feels music reality shows, especially those on the road, are often successful because of the combination — travel and music. The singer hopes there will be more such shows on the tube, but asserts that web is the space to be for artists. “Going digital is definitely the next big thing. It is hotter than television. I plan to use the web to release my independent work,” says the artist.

When she is not singing Bollywood hits, Kholgade collaborates with New Zealand-based music composer-producer Mikey McCleary’s band, The Bartender. As part of the collective, she lends her voice to the reprise versions of Bollywood hits from yesteryears.

“Mikey will always be a constant in my life. He helped me get to know the musician in me better. I am recording more songs for his upcoming album,” says Kholgade, who also has a bank of her independent work ready.

In fact, she has directed and shot for a video for one of the original numbers too. But the singer confesses that her shortcoming lies in writing Hindi lyrics. And for that, she has a team of young writers to help her with the words.

Between Bollywood events and film projects, Kholgade says there is hardly any time left for personal projects. Besides, money, she states, is also a factor that keeps an artiste from experimenting beyond Bollywood.

“If you’ve put your foot inside Bollywood’s door and have kickstarted something great, you end up having very little time to yourself between shows and recordings. But I do hope that I’m remembered for the songs I compose,” she says.

Watch out : Angels of Rock will air every Sunday, July 31 onward, at 8pm, on MTV

First Published: Jul 20, 2016 00:00 IST