WWShreya Ghoshal recalls debuting with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Devdas’: Every recording was like an audition; it was nerve-wracking
When Sanjay Leela Bhansali heard Shreya Ghoshal sing on a reality show, he quickly cast her as the singer who would provide the voice for Aishwarya Rai in the film “Devdas.” Ghoshal was only 16 at the time. Twenty years down, the ace singer is still trying to wrap her head around it. Shreya sat down with ETimes for an exclusive interview in which she reflected on the time she first met her mentor, shared strategies for overcoming low points, discussed what sets her apart, and more. Excerpts…
You made your film debut with Sanjay Leela Bhansali as the narrator of Devdas, where you played the role of Paro. You even won a national award for “Bairi Piya” as a result of it! What were your thoughts like when you learned that your first project had been awarded such a prestigious prize so early in life?
In all honesty, I doubt that I understood a single word. Honestly, I was just going with the flo and felt a mixture of elation and anxiety.When i was 16 when I recorded for ‘Devdas’ and felt out of place among all of these musical greats and music industry heavy hitters. I had to perform in front of Aishwarya Rai for a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film. Previously, the studio’s capacity was reached by a large crowd. It wasn’t like today, when we enter a studio and see a single operator behind the board. With regards to music production, I was educated in the traditional method. I was a part of it and got to see it happen. Each session in the studio was an audition. It was terrifying, but also an invaluable learning experience. In the course of the two years I spent working on “Devdas,” I picked up a lot of useful knowledge. I left the programme as a slightly more seasoned creative. My journey had already started, but I didn’t realise it at the time. After this, I planned to go back to school to earn my degree. However, that did not occur. The success of ‘Devdas’ paved the way for me to begin landing job after job. Having worked in this field for 20 years, I sometimes have to pinch myself. Yet, I continue to feel like the frightened little girl I was at the outset. There doesn’t appear to have been any significant changes.
How did Sanjay Leela Bhansali initially strike you? What, if anything, has evolved over time?
In terms of enthusiasm and fervour, he’s just as enthusiastic as you are. To my knowledge, he has never experienced a mental lapse. Now and then, all we want to do is kick back and relax without giving any thought to anything at all. I seriously doubt this man could ever be unable to think outside the box. He consistently performs at a high level. I’ve told him over and over that I’d like to study his brain in order to better understand mine. He’s capable of producing filmic work that’s intricate and detailed, and his music has the same kind of depth. Rare indeed is the artist who can also work in so many other forms. What you’ve done is incredible. His goal with every collaborator is to bring out their absolute best. He is someone who loves with all his heart and gets angry with all his heart. And all this is for the passion he has for cinema and music. He is a source of motivation for me. Complacency to each his own in the journey of life; aane se pehle life mein ek baar It’s all Bhansali sir’s doing, really. Your meeting with him will make you realise that you have barely scratched the surface. There’s still so much to see and do in this world.
You are one performer whose songs consistently convey deep feeling. To what extent do you differentiate yourself from the crowd?
I don’t make any deliberate attempts or even have any thoughts along those lines. My devotion to music has always been a constant in my life. It makes no difference to me whether or not I am performing in film. Even when I’m not in the studio, you can find me at home playing the piano or tanpura. Music keeps me going because it gives me a sense of purpose. It’s probably reflected in my output, which could explain why some people enjoy my work.
Since your first release, you have consistently remained at the forefront of your field. Have you ever experienced a low point in your life? Exactly how did you handle the situation?
My upbringing and my family are what I consider to be my greatest assets, and I am a very level-headed person. To put it simply, they help me maintain my equilibrium. Nothing I do, other than make music, has any significance to me. Keeping things straightforward is very appealing to me. My life’s guiding principle is the golden rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. Don’t ever intentionally hurt someone. Living a modest existence that still brings contentment is straightforward. That’s what I credit with keeping me grounded in reality.
It’s not uncommon for people to get puffed up. They believe their accomplishments give them the authority to dictate right from wrong. Pay attention to what the masses want. The people who saw you develop into the person you are now deserve your respect. You’ll be fine if you can keep your humility and composure.. My motivation comes from it. While it’s true that music is always changing, human nature is not. Good music, sur, taal, and soul continue to resonate with listeners. We can expect that to persist indefinitely. I think that sums up what it means to be relevant. Humanity is about being useful in the world.