Shruti Pathak: I was in love with Sonu Nigam & he is my 4 a.m. friend

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As glamsham marks its debut in the special section, Music Mania, we recently caught up with B-town’s popular voice Shruti Pathak, who is also known as ‘Mar Jaawan’ (FASHION) and ‘Shubhaarambh’ (KAI PO CHE!) singer. This Amdavadi gal has been enthralling us for a quite while with her hit numbers ‘Paayaliya’ (DEV D), ‘Aas Paas Hai Khuda’ & ‘Tujhe Bhula Diya’ (ANJAANA ANJAANI), ‘Criminal’ (RA.ONE), etc. Here are the excerpts:

My family has nothing to do with the film industry or even music for that matter. It was just my father who was very fond of music. He sang really well but he was never trained into this profession. When I moved to Mumbai in 2003, it was like I had to start from scratch because I did not know a single soul in the city. I was clueless as to how to go about it, who to meet. I even did an event management course from EMDI just to keep myself a little tied up.

I was the first batch student and that’s where I met Shaan, as he had come as a guest lecturer. We students asked him to sing. Since my classmates knew that I could sing, they all suggested my name to sing along with him. That was the first time when Shaan heard me and offered to sing with him on a show. That’s how I started meeting up people, made friends and started taking up small projects. I started networking and sang a lot of remix albums, television title tracks. After a couple of years of struggle and hard work is when ‘Mar Jaawan’ from FASHION happened, my first ever film song. It was a perfect tailor-made song for me and I don’t think I could have asked for more!

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How your journey began in singing and how did you get your first break in Bollywood?
I am born & brought up in Ahmedabad. When I was studying in school, that’s the time my father recognized that I could sing. He was the one who pushed me to learn music & really supported me a lot. It was actually his dream that I should take up singing as a profession. I too kind of got hooked onto the same dream and pursued it.

It was a huge break at the same time it was for Salim and Sulaiman. When I moved to Mumbai, I had made a list of few people I wanted to work with & they were one of those. It was a huge deal working with Salim and Sulaiman, whom people look up to. They are simply fabulous!

So you owe a lot to Shaan, since he came as a mentor.
As I said I met Shaan at an event management institute. Likewise, I met a lot of other people at different occasions. I have toured with Vishal & Shekhar; I have worked with Kunal Ganjawala. I even worked with Sonu Nigam for years and toured with him for almost 4-5years, sung for him, did live concerts with him, much before FASHION happened. I have learnt a lot from him. He is someone whom you idolize while seeing him perform. So, I am really fortunate to have worked with these kinds of people.

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I can’t call anybody my mentor. I have had a great working rapport with everybody. In fact most of them are great friends & they are more like family. They all have helped me in some or the other way. The only person who inspired me to sing and because of whom I am here is my father.

What were the bad sides of struggles that you faced?
I would not say bad side because you know when you struggle and when there are lots of disappointments and insecurities, sometimes you actually get so impatient that you are like almost done. You want to pack your bags and go back, but that’s the time your patience, perseverance, hard work pays off and those are the moments that you’ll truly value when you are successful. When you pass that bitter phase of your journey, you value the achievements. I value each and every bit of my struggle.

Can you narrate one incidence when you actually tested your patience?
My first movie song was in 2008, so I had to struggle and patiently wait for those five years. I kept trying best to get a movie song and in India the moment you think of pursuing music as a career, the only destination point is films. So, it’s not a cakewalk that one fine day you land in Mumbai and next day you sing for films.

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But did you at any stage ever feel of giving up or your father pressurized you to quit?
Not at all. Actually my father neither pressurized me for anything nor persuaded to leave it. In fact, even before I moved to Mumbai, he was very supportive. When I was going through a rough time, he just said that ‘If you are tired and want to quit, I’ll support you with that also’. He was like whatever you do it’s your choice, your life.

But do you think you could have easily given a try for reality shows and cracked in Bollywood, since 80-90% crowd, that exists in the music industry today, is the product of these reality shows
Am sure! But for some reason I can’t work that way. I would love to sing what I want to as I am a little moody. I can’t understand the whole funda of TRPs…

The platform may be really huge but for some reason I could never understand or agree with it because for me, I would sing for myself or I would sing for somebody because I want to work with those people. But not with a frame of mind of getting more TRPs. I can’t handle those nautankis. So I chose to stay a little away. I just wanted to work with good musicians and sing nice songs. My agenda was never to do 100 shows and make lots of money…

Having said that, these days it’s quite easy for people to enter Bollywood but when I began it wasn’t that easy.

So do you feel this is the best phase for any aspiring singers to make a mark and do you regret of making an early entry?
Yes definitely it’s the best phase. If you see there are so many reality shows and so many singers coming in every day. A lot of people are getting good opportunities. They all are getting a good amount of work. So it’s a great thing.

No, I am happy the way my journey has been because you know I’d rather be one of than be one of those hundreds. I got to taste the struggle and that’s why I value, each and every thing that has happened to me; be it ‘Mar Jaawan’ or be it my latest song.

How you bagged ‘Mar Jaawan’ song from Madhur Bhandarkar’s FASHION?
‘Mar Jaawan’ was an amazing story. I had met Salim & Sulaiman, ‘Mar Jaawan’ composer, through a friend of mine and we worked on a couple of projects together. During one such recording, Salim asked me to do some variation, which was really high. So I was practicing the high part in lower octave and he was like what was that? When we started the final dub, he asked me to sing in lower octave. He was like, this one is sounding more beautiful. He deleted the entire song & made me record in lower octave. That’s when Salim discovered the husky texture of mine. When he was working on FASHION, he called for ‘Mar Jaawan’, as he had only me in the mind for that song. I am really glad because that one silly like casual effort turned out to be something special for him. And as they say rest is history. I got one project after another and some really good stuff to sing.

What was your first reaction about the song when it came out? What was the response like in your family circle, especially your father’s?
I did not get to enjoy my first song actually. 10 days prior to the release of my song, I lost my father. So I was least bothered that my song had come out & for almost two months I had no idea that the song was a rage. When I came back I got to know that the song has picked up and how and it was a massive hit. I was really thrilled! I think it was my father’s blessings that it made the song so huge and that too my first song being such a big hit. It will always remain special over anything on this planet because I consider ‘Mar Jaawan’ as my father’s blessing.

As you shared that your father recognized your talent, so is it that you used to emulate any particular singer as a child?
I used to emulate Kavita ji’s (Kavita Krishnamurthy) and Alisha Chinai’s (Made In India fame) voice a lot. I used to be a huge fan of them. Likewise, I was in love with Sonu Nigam. I used to have his posters in my room, which now even he is aware of. We are great friends!

Who is your favorite composer from the industry and whose body of work you really admire?
It’s such a difficult question to answer. I’ll be little biased because I got ‘Mar Jaawan’from Salim and Sulaiman. Then I’ll be biased because Tujhe Bhula Diya from ANJAANA ANJAANI took my career to the next level, which was by Vishal & Sekhar. Moreover they are such close friends of mine. Amit Trivedi is again a dear friend. So I can’t really differentiate. They all are special in their way. With Salim-Sulaiman it’s like I just have to go on the mike and they know that I’ll nail it in 15 min. They’ll just leave the song onto me. Whereas Amit knows exactly what he wants and he’ll tell me about his requirements. With Vishal &Shekhar it’s like we’ll chill and have a great time. A lot of fun happens while recording with them.

Looks like you are a composer’s singer because you click well with one and all
Yes I absolutely am. If I’m given a choice to do what I want to do then I would do but I mainly try to become the composer’s singer. I follow what they want first and then if they want me to bring in something of my own, I kind of add to it. I do understand their pulse and requirements. And that’s how I share a great rapport with each of them.

Bollywood is all about camps, be it in acting or music arena. But you share an equal rapport, understanding and comfort level with everyone, despite possessing different sensibilities. How do you manage to do that?
They all are good friends and they also know me as a singer very well that’s why it works smoothly. They know my plus points, and exactly how to bring out the best in me. I can proudly say that I am a comfortable person to work with. Even generally with friends, I am a very comfortable person, I make space for everybody and I kind of merge into that space. I am not someone who is uncomfortable in other people’s space. I like to make other people comfortable. So that attitude gels very well in your work circuit also.

Who’s your 4 a.m. friend from the industry?
4 am friends in the industry are actually quite a few and I’m really happy to say that. There is Anusha Mani, who is a singer, there is Sonu Nigam, who I can call at 4 a.m. and say I’m in trouble please help. Then Vishal & Shekhar, Tisha Nigam, Shilpa Rao are also my best friends. So there are couple of goog friends who I can call at any hour.

What is singing for you?
Singing, for me, is not just a profession. Even if I quit it professionally, I’ll still be singing, composing, and writing because music is a very essential part of my life. It’s as good as eating, breathing, walking and talking. Music is my life and passion. I don’t do it for profession only. I enjoy singing on stage and serving my music to people.

On a parting note tell us about your forthcoming projects.
Recently I worked for AMIT SAHNI KI LIST. There are lots of songs that are coming up. I am working with other music directors, who I have not worked with in the past that being Himesh Reshammiya, Sajid & Wajid, Sachin-Jigar. I won’t be able to talk about the projects right now. I would love to but I am not allowed to talk about the projects. I will definitely let you know.

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