On her 36th birthday, Shilpa Rao sings 10 tracks that made her an unrivaled singer, from Tose Naina to Ghungroo
Shilpa Rao goes down the memory lane to talk about 10 varied songs (and sings them too!) after winning her first major award for 'Ghungroo' this year.
Shilpa Rao, who turns 36 today on 11 April, made her debut with 'Tose Naina' in Manish Jha's 2007 romantic thriller Anwar. While her first film song got its fair share of admirers, the song that stole the spotlight from that movie was Roop Kumar Rathod's 'Maula Mere Maula.'
Since then, Rao has held her own for 13 years now. She has worked with practically every big name in the Hindi music industry, and has soldiered on with all her conviction. "I'm fortunate to have worked with so many awesome music composers, lyricists, and directors. I've learnt a lot from all of them as a human, and that has added a lot to my life, not just my music. The best part about my journey has been that these people have never tried to change who I am. I'm really proud of that," says Shilpa, in an exclusive interview.
Earlier this year, Rao won her first major award (Filmfare) for 'Ghungroo' from Siddharth Anand's espionage thriller War. But she claims awards are not her primary incentive. "I don't think awards should matter so much. What gets you from one day to another is the process of going to a recording studio, singing, and hoping people will listen to it. The day the audience stops assessing my fans is the day I feel I need to introspect," she adds.
It is true that after belting out over a dozen immensely memorable songs in the past 13 years, Shilpa has not been tainted by the lack of recognition from award ceremonies. On the occasion of her 36th birthday, we rank some of her best songs till date. She is kind enough to share her memories associated with the song, along with crooning a couple of lines.
Mudi Mudi - Paa (2009)
Shilpa reveals she got the opportunity to sing this song through the lyricist Swanand Kirkire, whom she had collaborated with before. "He suggested my name to R Balki (director). They asked me to send him a CD with my work. They didn't get back for a long time so I though they didn't want me. But then they called me a month or two before the release of the film for the recording. I'm glad it turned out well as it's such a pretty song."
Pretty, soulful, and extremely challenging. The song, filmed on Vidya Balan and Abhishek Bachchan, sounds as arduous as a tongue-twister, yet Shilpa sang it in with the ease of counting your fingers. To make matters worse for her, the song was composed by veteran music director Illayaraja. "His aura precedes his presence. It's good to be nervous in a recording room but I was scared. It wasn't easy as he is very particular about what he wants. The direction is very clear. It was a new technique for me but there was no room for doing something else. But sometimes, an artist needs to be thrown into the deep end of the pool in order to bring the best out of them," she says, smiling.
Gustakh Dil - English Vinglish (2012)
Three years after singing in Balki's movie, she rendered a couple of songs in his wife Gauri Shinde's directorial debut. "Gauri put across the message of being sensitive to people so beautifully in the movie. I also believe in living my life the same way but I was only given the brief that it's a song about a dilemma when I recorded it. Later, when I watched the film, I felt even prouder that my art served a greater purpose, and I was part of a film that stood for what I believe in personally," says Shilpa.
Written yet again by Kirkire, 'Gustakh Dil' was composed by Amit Trivedi, who has a stellar combination with Shilpa Rao, as they have spun numerous incredible songs over the past 10 years.
Dhol Yaara Dhol - Dev D (2009)
This song marked the maiden collaboration of Trivedi and Shilpa, and was written by Shellee. Filmed on Mahi Gill, it was the opening sequence of Anurag Kashyap's Dev.D, a retelling of Devdas.
Shilpa reveals she was the one who introduced Trivedi to Kashyap. "I'd recorded an independent single with Amit. I knew Anurag from the time he was writing Gulaal, and he'd said we should work together. I bumped into him at MAMI (Mumbai Film Festival), and introduced him to Trivedi. So Dev.D was in fact made of a lot of singles Amit was doing with me, with Shruti (Pathak), with Tochi (Raina). It was Kashyap's brilliance that he fit all the songs into the narrative so well."
Tose Naina Laage - Anwar (2007)
This was Shilpa's debut song, which was offered by Mithoon. "I still remember when he called me to his studio, and sang the song on the harmonium. Mithoon is one of the few people who haven't changed even after so many years of tasting success. Also, I'm grateful to all the RJs who played this song and 'Maula Mere' on radio in succession those days, which really catapulted this album," says Shilpa.
Manmarziyan - Lootera (2013)
Yet another collaboration with Trivedi, this track from Vikramaditya Motwane's period romance was written by Amitabh Bhattacharya. Like every other song from the album, this one also captured the stillness pervading the film. Shilpa recalls it washer shortest recording ever."We finished it in hardly 30 to 40 minutes. It was one of the songs that fell in place lyrically and musically. I recorded it like my version of a ghazal. It came so naturally to me."
Ghungroo - War (2019)
A reinterpretation of Pankaj Udhas' ghazal 'Ghungroo Toot Gaye,' the song was picturised on Vaani Kapoor and Hrithik Roshan. It marks the fourth collaboration of Shilpa with both Vishal-Shekhar and Siddharth Anand. They had earlier collaborated on 'Meherban' in Bang Bang (2014), the title track of Anjaana Anjaani (2010), and 'Khuda Jaane' in Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008).
"I remember when I was recording 'Khuda Jaane,' I though I wouldn't be able to since it's a very difficult song. But the way Vishal-Shekhar and Siddharth Anand support a new artist, I managed to do it well. So 'Ghungroo' was a very familiar space to work in," says Shilpa.
Wo Ajnabee - The Train (2007)
Another collaboration with Mithoon in the same year as her debut, 'Wo Ajnabee' was filmed on Emraan Hashmi and Sayali Bhagat. It was a duet, like 'Ghungroo' (where she shared the mic with Vishal Dadlani), and had her music composer double up as the male voice. "It was a very different avatar of Mithoon I discovered. He has this incredible range of composing different songs, and yet that soul never leaves any of them."
Kalank - title song (2019)
In the same year as 'Ghungroo,' Shilpa had another chartbuster in the title song of Abhishek Varman's period romance Kalank. While the Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan-starrer bombed at the box office, the music continues to soar. "When I recorded it with Pritam (composer), we didn't discuss the song at all. We chatted about politics, and the series we were watching. That detaches you from the process, and you sing with a fresh mind. That's a human quality I love about Pritam, which separates him from other composers."
Bulleya - Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016)
Karan Johar's romantic drama starred Ranbir Kapoor as a singer. So naturally, there had to be a lot of songs. While Arijit Singh was his voice throughout the film, the character met a match in Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, who played a shayara. And she was voiced by Shilpa. "Pritam gave me two songs in the film. I recorded 'Bulleya' for one or one-and-a-half years. On the other hand, I recorded 'Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo' (rehashed version) in just half an hour. So ya sometimes songs do take time but I'm glad both turned out well."
Ishq Shava - Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012)
This song, featuring Katrina Kaif and Shah Rukh Khan, from Yash Chopra's romantic drama was the monument every singer waits for in their career. She got a call from music maestro AR Rahman's team. When she went to record the song, she didn't expect the flock sitting there: Rahman, veteran lyricist, Gulzar, Yash Chopra, and son Aditya Chopra. "It hits you that even after making great music for so many years, their efforts and energy in making a new song haven't gotten subdued at all. They have the passion to make the next one even better. That's something to admire and imbibe."
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