Musically Yours: Shilpa Rao

By Nikhil Ramsubramaniam, Bollywood Hungama News Network

"When people meet me, they cannot relate that I am the voice behind songs like 'Woh Ajnabee' and 'Khuda Jaane'", said the incredibly talented Shilpa Rao when we met her for a rendezvous at her cosy Andheri apartment. She may not be a known face but there is no denying the fact that Shilpa is a name to reckon with among the current crop of singers in Bollywood today. In this edition of Musically Yours, we profile the Simple- Humble- Intelligent- Loving- Passionate and Artistic Shilpa Rao who shares her journey from the small town of Jamshedpur to the glamour of the filmy world in Mumbai.

Claim to Fame
"The song that is really close to my heart is 'Tose Naina Lage' (Anwar) but I guess the popularity which 'Khuda Jaane' (Bachna Ae Haseeno) gave me was way beyond expectations."

Family Background
"I am originally from Jamshedpur. My parents still live there. My dad is working with Tata Motors at a senior level. As far as music is concerned, it always had a special place in my life and my family. My dad has done his M.A. in Music but he could never pursue it as a full-fledged career as he had to support his family. Moreover, making a career in music was not considered such a wise option during those days. However, when I was small, I loved listening to music and my training in music began from a very early age. In fact, I didn't even realize it that I was being trained for music by my dad. After finishing school, I came to Mumbai in 1997 and joined Xaviers College for my B.Sc in Statistics. I also went on to do my post-graduation in Statistics. During that time, I met Hariharan who heard me sing once and felt that I should further nurture my talent. I never really thought of myself as a great singer but when someone of the stature of Hariharan sir said good things about me, it kind of hit me that I should take up music more seriously. Harirharan introduced me to his guru Ghulam Mustafa Khan saab. It was only then that I started learning and practicing singing seriously."

The Early Days
"In 2001, while singing at a competition, Shankar Mahadevan one of the judges took notice of me. He was impressed with my voice and asked me to sing in his shows. Later on I also did quite a few jingles with Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. That experience helped me a lot. I also developed a lot of contacts and met composers like Vishal-Shekhar and Rajat Dholakia during my jingle days."

First 'Big' break
"As luck would have it, my first big break came with a song composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy- 'Saiyaan Re' from Salaam-e-Ishq. I had already known Shankar well by that time and one fine day, he asked me to come and record a scratch. Nikhil Advani, Sameerji were all very happy with what they heard and the rest as they say is history."

The Hits that followed....
"Luckily for me, my first song 'Saiyaan Re' went on to become very popular in spite of the film not doing too well. After that, my next song was 'Tose Naina Lage' for Anwar. This was a completely opposite song as compared to 'Saiyaan Re'. Mithoon (the composer) and I were working on a song which didn't materialize. He then called me to record the scratch of 'Tose Naina lage'. And this time too it worked well with the director Manish Jha and I was on. The song is among one of my favorites and I am happy that in spite of it being a slow, soothing number, it found so much acceptance among the listening audience. Post that, I sung some really good songs like 'Woh Ajnabee' (The Train), 'Ek Lau' (Aamir) etc..."

'Khuda Jaane' - The 'Big' Turning Point
I had known Vishal-Shekhar for almost 4 years and had even done a lot of ad work with them. They were also looking to give me that one song which would suit my style and voice. One fine day, I got a call from them asking me to come to the studio to listen to a song. I heard the tune and immediately freaked out as it was a beautiful romantic song, something which I had never sung before. They asked me to just go into the recording room and try it out. I gave it a shot and Siddharth Anand (the director) felt that the voice was really apt. That really built my confidence. The song went onto become such a huge hit and won us 3 awards at the Screen awards (Best Male Playback- KK, Best Lyrics- Anvita Dutt Gupta and Best Female Playback). I truly had a blast working with Vishal- Shekhar, K.K., Anvita and Siddharth on this number."

Shilpa Rao Music I love listening to....
"I listen to any and every kind of music. As a kid, I grew up listening to a lot of Ghazals. My dad was a big Mehndi Hassan fan so I heard a lot of that. I also heard a lot of classical music be it Aamir Khan saab or Prabha Atre. My dad had this habit of putting on music early in the morning, so the first thing hat I heard in the morning was music. During high school, like any other youngster, even I was hooked onto Dire Straits and Deep Purple etc. When I was in college, I listened to a lot of instrumental music, jazz and blues. So you can say that I have always been open to any genre of music. In fact I just stand in front of my CD collection and pick up a CD depending on my mood at that point of time."

What's playing on my iPod?
"These days I am listening to Cassandra Wilson. I am hooked onto that at the moment."

Role Models
"Well...it has to be Hariharan hands down. I simply admire his style of singing, his vocal range, his diction and everything about his singing. He is just perfect."

Favorite Contemporary Singers
"There are a lot of great singers that I admire. I truly love and adore Rekha Bharadwaj, Shruti Pathak etc. Dominique is another wonderful singer who has been here for so long, she is like this Jingle Diva. I am happy she has finally got her due with the Rock On number ('Yeh Tumhari Meri Baatein'). Among the male singers, I really look upto KK, Mohit Chauhan and even this new singer Tochii (who has sung the song 'Pardesi' in Dev D)"

I wish I had sung...
"'Zara Zara' from Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein. That's such a fantastic song; a brilliant composition by Harris Jeyaraj and Bombay Jayshree's vocals took the song to another level."

The actress I wish I could sing for…
"I don't know how it will sound but I would love to sing for Tabu. I am a huge fan of her work right from Maachis to Cheeni Kum. In fact, I met her at a party and even told her 'I would love to sing for you someday'. She smiled and said 'Sure'."

My Future Projects
"I have just recorded a song for UTV's film Aage Se Right starring Shreyas Talpade, Kay Kay Menon and Mahie Gill. It has music by this new guy called Amartya and he has done a fantastic job. You can also hear me in YRF's Shahid-Rani starrer Hadippa. I've sung the promotional track with Mika and it is a really racy, peppy, high energy number. I have also sung a song in Onir's film Kill Chhabra which has music by another new composer Gaurav Dayal."

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