Shreya Ghoshal entered the Bollywood music industry with Devdas in 2002, and immediately won awards for her singing. I don’t think Devdas could have been anywhere near as successful without her voice, and when I think of her I automatically associate her with the star-power and beauty (but in a more abstract, aural way) of Aishwarya Rai. I like so much about her singing – its clarity, purity, and the way she pronounces non-Hindi words almost exactly as they should be pronounced.
So when I realised she was coming to Singapore I had to go for the concert.
They started on time, which I liked because it’s just far more professional. But we had to wait through an introduction and a singing segment by one of the winners of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa (Shiva, I think). I understood that most of the audience was North Indian, but I sort of wished that they used maybe a couple sentences less Hindi. Shiva was kind of a hoot – he was a great singer, though perhaps not as great a performer, and he had great song choices (Bachna Ae Haseeno, both the classic and the newer, Mast Kalandar)… but he was also wearing dark jeans with white patches, and a sort of shiny purply quilted shirt. Bit distracting, that.
It was pretty stunning listening live to a voice you’ve only heard through the headphones – and discovering that it’s just as good in real life as it is in a recording studio. I didn’t really know the first few songs, although the audience did – I believe she sang Chalo and a couple others that I didn’t really know, including Cheeni Kum; classics, though. About five songs in, the audience started yelling out favourites, and she eventually sang Jadu Hai Nasha. The crowd went crazy.
That’s the thing about Shreya Ghoshal – she’s not a diva, at least not with the audience. She’s very gracious, quite funny, and extremely grateful to the audience, all the time.
After this, I lost track of the song sequence, but I do remember a few specific ones that I’ve always loved. To my delight, she actually sang Thode Badmash, from Saawariya. It sounded exactly like the original – it was beautiful. Teri Ore was another; it’s one of those songs that you hope to remember, from a movie you hope you’ll forget, and Shreya’s duet with the Shiva guy was lovely.
It might have been after this that she said, “Listen, I need to say something very cheesy and emotional. No, really,” and then explained how she just loved the audience, and loves music, and loves Singapore. Just to end off on that note, she sang Rab Ne Bana Di – and I don’t care how silly the movie itself was, she was so completely into the song and the words that it really was a moving experience. The applause was extra loud at the end.
I believe it was during Piyu Bole that she got the audience to sing along, something that became a recurring theme through the evening. Pal Pal became a rocking jazz number, somehow – the beat sped up, the audience kept time and sang along. She stopped towards the end and said, very seriously, something like “This is India’s Independence Day, and you know, we should be happy that we can express ourselves – so let’s get really loud!” and launched straight back into another extremely enthusiastic chorus of Pal Pal.
“Let’s continue this atmosphere!” she said, and went straight to Yeh Ishq. And she can dance, too, so it was fun seeing her move – just a little, enough to let us know she was involved. The first part of the show ended with a song that she introduced as being from “not a bhooth movie, but a psych thriller, sort of thing, interesting combination!” Of course, it was Mere Dolna. I learned that she’s Bengali herself, and the Bengali bits of the audience clearly wanted some kind of recognition. So, being the nice person she is, she opened with Ami Je Tomhar and then moved into the Hindi version.
N and I skipped the comedy act to get some food, although when we got back, the mimicry was going along really well. For some bizarre reason they had a presentation to Shreya after that and then an intermission, so that she got a good half hour’s break before she came back.
And what an entrance – she came onto stage in a skin tight pair of black pants that looked like they’d been painted on, an incredibly sparkly black and silver top, and a silver shoes. I had about a millisecond to decide there was no point in being envious of someone who was nice, talented and gorgeous, and then she started singing Barso Re.
The audience finally got its way with Zoobi Doobi, which she carried off with such perkiness, they demanded an encore. Did I mention she was a nice person? She laughed, said okay, and sang the last verse again, to even more applause. This is honestly one of those Sonu-Shreya dream songs – they both sound so melodious and cheeky, if that combination makes sense. I think the concert would’ve honestly been incomplete without it.
After this, I have a lot of question marks next to the songs I’ve barely heard – there was Honth Rasiley, and a few more songs in that vein. Shiva came back on stage with her at some point, and they sang Salaam-e-Ishq, which I was hoping for, as well as Deewanagi from Om Shanti Om. It was just a little bit funny to hear them singing “all hot girls put your hands up”, and then see half the aunties in the vicinity throw up their hands.
And, of course, she ended the main part of her concert with Dola Re. “The very first movie I did,” she said, and later, “sing with me, I have to be Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai all in one”. What I liked a lot was that she sung the introduction, the middle bits, Madhuri’s role bits, and hers as well – no backup or anything, although she could’ve easily used it like she did in Barso Re.
Shreya ended by singing an extra song in Bengali – one of Shantanu Moitra’s, which had just got her another award. I can’t for the life of me remember how it even started, but it’s a very baarish-mausam type of song, which she carried off with her usual lovely sensitivity. The only thing that ruined it was the occasional awful feedback, which didn’t disturb her much, but which was silly because the entire concert had just gone off without a hitch.
Shreya had already made it clear how much of an honour it was for her to be singing an Independence Day concert, and it was, of course, fitting that she end off with patriotic songs. N was speculating which one she’d sing – but she sang more than we’d expected. First, Saare Jahan Se Achcha, and the audience sang along solemnly. Then she called all the major organisers – and her dad – out onto the stage, and began Jana Gana Mana.
Everybody dropped everything, stood, and sang the whole thing along with her. Reverent occasion or not, it was still a thrill to sing along with Shreya Ghoshal.
The thing with Shreya is, she makes everything seem so easy. If I hadn’t heard the original songs, I might not have really registered the precision and range required. And one thing she said was perhaps cheesy, but still lovely (and this is just an approximation): “I love music, and this is wonderful to have you all here experiencing it with me. You and I are on the same wavelength! Mere jaise hai!”
Oh, how I wish, Shreya.