“Oberoi Middle East along with DSF 2010 are organizing a special solo concert of Sunidhi Chauhan. Why don't you interview her in that context?” When I get this call from the E-Plus editor, I am too happy to oblige. Because his command is straight from my wish-list! Ever since I first heard her in an obscure pop album 'Aira Gaira Natthu Khaira', I have been a vocal admirer of Sunidhi Chauhan, who was then just a young prodigy, who has now gone on to become the contemporary era's Indian pop icon.
Getting her exclusive telephonic interview amidst her busy recording and concert schedule proves a tricky business. The weak mobile network keeps wreaking havoc on me. After about a dozen attempts nipped in the bud, finally the interview takes off. Cool, confident and candid Sunidhi, the interviewee turns out to be as interesting as Sunidhi, the consummate singer. She just rocks!
“Looking back at the first decade of your career, which milestones and which people stand out in your mind?” My first question makes Sunidhi take a quick recap of her career. She carefully reflects: “There have been many memorable people and milestones. Egged on by his friend, my father encouraged me to sing. My win in the musical contest Meri Aawaz Suno set it up all. But even before that I had done a playback in Shastra. In that early phase, my training with Kalyanji-Anandji as a child artiste was very important in making me understand the nuances of singing and stage performances.”
“Then came Mast, where people first started noticing me. For that film, Sonuji (Sonu Nigam) had recommended me to composer Sandeep Chowta. I'd say Ramuji(Ram Gopal Verma) showed great courage in picking a raw youngster like me to sing three songs for such a major movie!”
“It was Anu Malikji's Ajnabi, which first made people realize that I was not just an item-song singer. Then came songs from Chameli, Fanaa, Omkara and many other films, which proved that I was versatile enough to sing all types of songs.”
Her music, her life
As a listener, I have always been intrigued by Sunidhi's twin tonal qualities- a husky sensuous one and a softer mellower one. I ask her if she always had that singing trait in her. She confidently says: “I think I always had it in me. Of course, over the years I had to further polish it up. These things are necessary for any singer if she wants to sing different types of tunes and be recognized as a truly versatile singer.”
She gushes when I tell her that her mellower 'Mere Sang Tu Chal Zara' from New York was her best song of the past year and says, “I am happy that there are still listeners who appreciate such melodious numbers even amongst the peppy chartbusters like 'Raat Ke Dhaai Baje', 'Chor Bazari' and 'Hadippa'. Such appreciation keeps motivating me to keep improving myself as a singer.”
Talking of appreciation, I ask her what was the best compliment she ever received as a singer. She just laughs and chooses not to reveal the specifics! She says, “Whatever compliments I receive, I always keep them close to my heart. I never delete such SMSes or emails. Whenever I am feeling low, those messages serve to recharge me as a person and as an artiste.”
The mention of feeling low brings to mind her amazing ability to bounce back after some bitter setbacks in her personal life. I ask her if that emotional turmoil affected her as an artiste. She diplomatically deflects the query and replies: “I have already forgotten that phase of my life. I don't dwell upon the past and sincerely believe that everything happens for the best!” So is 'Main Zindagi Kaa Saath Nibhaata Chalaa Gayaa/ Har Fikr Ko Dhooen Mein Udaata Chalaa Gayaa' ('I just went along with my life/ Letting all my worries fly into smoke') her philosophy towards life? She laughs and concurs: “Oh, yes, you could say that!”
Speaking about today's composers and changing musical trends, Sunidhi remarks: “I have sung with practically every composer. Today's composers are very talented and everyone has his own style. As far as the trends go, earlier there was the era of remixes, which gave way to Hip-hop. Now the hip-hop is on its last legs and the Trance-music is the flavour of the day. The music will keep changing. The change is an essential part of life.” May be, but that doesn't mean that she would become a composer. She says: “I don't know if I have that talent in me. I will do that only if I feel I am ready for that challenge.”
When I ask her why she isn't seen on the reality music-shows circuit, she cryptically says: “I have some issues with the formats of some of these shows and have currently chosen to keep myself away from them.” Leaving that issue aside I decide to needle her with a pointed query and ask: “Once there was a Mangeshkar Monopoly and now you along with Shreya Ghoshal are monopolizing the playback scene. So doesn't the cream always rise to the top?”
Sunidhi laughs and says: “Oh, no! There is no such monopoly today. First of all, Shreya and I are not sisters; we come from totally diverse backgrounds. It is true that most of the heroine- songs are coming our way but nowadays there are so many other singers making their mark. How could we forget singers like Mahalaxmi, Sadhna Sargam, Anushka Manchanda, Rekha Bhardwaj and Kavita Seth? They are so talented and they are all singing good songs. Even on the male playback scene, there is so much of variety with Sonu Nigam, Shaaan, Sukhvinder Singh, Rahat fateh Ali Khan and Neeraj Shreedhar all getting opportunity to display their talents.”
These are the few of my favourite things!
Favourite film; Sadma (Kamal Hassan, Sridevi)
Favourite Actor: Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan
Favourite Actress: The one and only Madhuri Dixit
Favourite Male Singer: Sukhvinder Singh
Favourite Female Singer; Lata Mangeshkar
Favourite own song: Le Chale Le Chale from My Brother Nikhil
Favourite food: Chinese
Favourite holiday destination: Wherever I have not gone yet! I'd like to go to Cuba!
Favourite hobby: Driving! I drive fast but safe.
Sunidhi's takes on other singers
Sonu Nigam – He is a legend. So versatile and constantly keeps improving himself!
Shaan – A darling, a dear friend and a very talented singer who has improved over the years.
Sunkhvinder Singh – I just love his voice. It is so rich and powerful.
Shreya Ghoshal - A well-trained melodious voice with perfection.
Lata Mangeshkar - Undoubtedly the greatest. Listening to her songs is a training in itself!