If you try to re-collect a song from the recent popular film BAAHUBALI 2, then ‘Soja Zara’ ,rendered by Madhushree, will be the first song that you will remember because that’s how the charm of this melodious classical song works.
In an exclusive conversation, Madhushree opens about how a strong karmic connection helped her bag ‘Soja Zara’ which became the biggest hit of her career. The soothing singer also revealed how difficult it was to judge kids for 92.7 Big FM show 'Big Golden Voice Junior' and unlike Bollywood how the South Film Industry has an extremely planned working culture.
How did ‘Soja Zara’ happen?
It is a long story actually. I think it was all because of my belief in Lord Krishna. In the month of March I had brought one Krishna bhagwan idol in my home. As a Bengali I worship Devi maa but I really liked that Krishna murti so I brought it and did its puja but the next day unfortunately I received a very bad news because of which I was scared but still I prayed to Lord Krishna to help me find a way out of this problem. And miraculously on the same day I received a call asking me to come for a recording. I thought it must have been for some south project as I sing there as well but I told them that I won’t be able to come because as I am judging ‘Zee Sa Re Ga Ma Bangla’ so I was busy shooting for it. Then the production guy told me that the song in question is for BAAHUBALI 2 and M.M Keeravani sir has called me.
I simply couldn’t believe because BAAHUBALI was about to release in April so I wondered how come such a huge film’s song is yet to be recorded.
But I am a big fan of Keeravani ji so I went for the recording and there when I was learning the song then I came to know that it’s Krishna ji’s song. So I think there was a sort of connection and also it was a huge co-incidence that I was selected for this song. The song was not an easy one as it required lot of old singing techniques in which you rehearse a lot and then record the song in one take. The song is very classical, rhythmic and there is no place to breathe hence I didn’t record the song on day one. I learnt it properly and rehearsed it thoroughly and next day I recorded it in one take.
And what was the best feedback that you received for this song?
I won’t praise myself so you please go and check on internet what a terrific response it has received. People even compared me with Lata Di whom I consider as ‘Sangeet’s Saraswati’ but I told them that it’s not possible. How can they compare me with Lata di who is incomparable! So this was the best feedback because if someone compares you with your role model then what can be better than that and if I am able to sing even one percent like them then I think it is the biggest award for me. In fact so many people have uploaded their videos on social media sites in which they are either singing this song or performing on it. So in today’s time when people love and appreciate such melodious song then naturally it feels very nice. I am really thankful to Rajamouli and Keeravani ji for giving such a wonderful song to me.
You were seen as a judge in 92.7 Big FM's 'Big Golden Voice Junior' recently so tell us about this show and how was your experience?
I judged for the Mumbai city leg of this show and my experience was really very good. I was shocked to see the children perform so well. The other day we shot in two ways one with music and other without music but it was unbelievable to see the children perform extremely well in both the formats. It was tough to select the kids because all of them were so good and talented.
What are the difficulties one faces while judging kids?
It is very difficult to judge kids. Kids are very emotional and they are very innocent souls. So I always used to appreciate them, encourage them to do better and guide them. There was a time when we had to select only one kid out of three so it was very difficult. Many a times as a singer you know that a kid has a potential but you have to give them marks on the basis of their latest performance which can sometimes not be good. One of the kids started crying when she wasn’t declared winner so I explained it to her that it’s not necessary that only the first prize winner is a good singer. Many a times you must have seen that despite losing such competitions there have been people who still went ahead like for example Shreya Ghoshal and Arijit Singh and showcased their talent to the world and became immensely popular.
What advice would you give to all the aspiring singers out there?
I would advise them that if you really wish to show your talent to world then you need to have a lot of practice and later how much success you get is not important but how much you have prepared yourself by your hard work is the most important thing. Even I practice daily, do my riyaaz daily and make sure that I look after my health. So you will get lot of opportunities but are you ready to grab that opportunity? That is the main question. My first song for film MOKSH was initially meant to be sung by Kavita ji but she wasn’t available that day and I was asked to sing the trial version but I performed nicely and only then it was retained in the film. So you see how destiny works? And secondly no matter what kind of voice you have, never imitate others and always try to maintain your individuality because only then people will recognize your voice and appreciate your work.
Majority of your hits are with A R Rahman. So do you think that he is lucky for you?
I have worked with A R Rahman in many projects and he has given me some very beautiful songs. I have learnt a lot from him and he has given me good opportunities to sing for big films. But it has never been like I give my best only when I sing for him. For example today M.M sir’s ‘Soja Zara’ has become so popular which is the biggest hit of my life.
'No matter what kind of voice you have, never imitate others'
How is Rahman as a musician and as a person?
He is very good musician as we all know and he is a very good human being too. He has given chance to so many new talents. Today every musician try new singers but few years back if you see you would only listen some selected singers’ song as at that time no one preferred to try new singers. Rahman sir has given chance to me, Hariharan and many such singers. In fact he has a huge contribution in our career. So that is a great thing about Rahman ji.
Have you ever had any creative difference while working with him or are you people at ease with each other?
Music creativity doesn’t come from one person. It’s always a team job. Any art you take it’s always a combined effort. I have worked a lot with him from the beginning so he knows what my range is or which scale suits me and even I know what he is expecting from me so yes now we share a kind of equation where we both understand each other very well.
Who are the other composers whom you aspire to work with?
There’s no such particular composer as such. Now-a-days even the young composers are doing such a great job. And I have worked with few of them and I am really amazed that these 25-26 years old boys are doing such a terrific job. Mithoon, Sachin-Jigar are very talented composers. Amaal Mallik is also very talented. But I don’t have any particular person in my mind because for me it’s the song that matters now whether it’s composed by a newbie or a veteran composer that is not important for me.
Your voice suits actresses of all ages so what’s your take on it?
Because I am a child at heart. I am a 16-year-old who has 30 years of experience (laughs)
Since you have also lent your voice for the South films so tell us about the difference of working cultures between Bollywood & South.
Both of them are totally different. In Bollywood you can get a call at any random time stating, “Madhuji ek gaana hai aap karoge? Agar aaj hi ho sake ya kal hi ho sake toh?” But in South it’s not like that as while composing the song itself if they have you in their mind then they will set the song according to your scale and then they will ask you like “Madhu ji this song is for you and we have kept everything ready you just tell when you can come?” So you see they have an extremely planned working culture.
Also in South they are very much sure about their work, like for a particular song if they have two singers in their mind then are pretty sure that they will do justice to it. Like for example if I don’t sing nicely on recording day then they will say it’s your song and only you have to sing it so sing it again if you want. But in case of Bollywood they will ask you to sing the song and by chance if you are not feeling well on that day then they will be like “Madhuji gaana jam nahi raha hai kisi aur ko bula le?” this shows that they are not sure about their work. People here are very experimental.
'I am open to sing item numbers'
You have already lent your voice to actresses like Priyanka, Aishwarya, so which other actresses you would like to sing for in future?
Iss wakt toh Anushka ke khoobsurti mein main itna mohit ho gayi hoon ki main unke liye gaana chahungi. And in Bollywood I would like to sing for Deepika and Alia Bhatt. Yeh jo gaane ki bhook hai ya ichcha hai yahi toh hum artist ko zinda rakha hai.
What’s your take on the current trend of actors turning singers?
Yeh unke dil ki khwaish hai ki chalo ek baar gaake dekh liya jaye as they know that they are not singer they are actors. And it’s not like they are singing in each and every film so it’s not bad. Now I am a singer and if I get an offer to act so I will do it for once thinking its small role let’s give it a try but that doesn’t mean that I will leave singing and start acting. So it’s the same with the actors as well. It’s just that sometime they are music lovers and they wish to get behind the mike and they fulfill their desire that’s it.
All your songs are very soothing and melodious, so is that a deliberate choice?
No not at all it’s just that the composers feel that my voice suits these songs perfectly which is a blessing for me that they think of me. I am thankful to all the music directors who think of me while composing such beautiful songs. Once I had reluctantly sung an item number in ROBOT but later I realized that this song is not suiting me.
So are you open to sing item numbers?
Why not? But I will only sing those songs that will suit my voice. Item song doesn’t means you have to sing on high notes it’s just that they are peppy with little bit of masala. Earlier even Asha ji used to sing so many item numbers. But at the same time I also say that I will never sing any vulgar song for that matter. There are other singers for that. And there’s a difference between vulgarity and double meaning songs. You can sing double meaning songs in subtle ways. But songs which are overtly vulgar and demeaning I will never sing such songs.
So apart from classical songs will we hear you crooning other genres as well?
I have already sung songs like ‘Holi Re’ from MANGAL PANDEY, ‘Mahi Ve’ from KAL HO NAA HO, ‘Tumhe aaj maine jo dekha’ from KUCH NA KAHO so I have sung all types of song even folk, bhajan, ghazal, thumri. I try to be as versatile as I can be.
What’s your take on the current trend in Bollywood of recreating old classic songs?
Bollywood has always been very experimental. In fact the composers have even experimented with worst things so it’s a good thing that they are experimenting with old songs as at least they are using some good songs. Some time back there were songs using ‘gaali-galoch’ and I used to wonder where have I come? So I think this current experiment is better than those old rubbish things.
And also the classic songs have their own charm so even if its recreated version is out but after few days’ people will automatically go back to the original song.
Any message for your fans?
I don’t have words to express my gratitude towards my fans. They have showered so much love on my latest song ‘Soja Zara’. So I am very happy with their feedback and I love them all. Please keep showering this love on me which will inspire me to work more hardly. In fact the Holland government had specially invited me for this BAAHUBALI song and I had a great time performing there..(smiles)