Chai with Manju talks to Shreya Ghoshal about her life and music

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Chai with Manju host Manju Sheth recently met with Shreya Ghoshal after the famous Bollywood singer's September 22 concert at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium
Chai with Manju host Manju Sheth recently met with Shreya Ghoshal after the famous Bollywood singer’s September 22 concert at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium

September 22 was a very special day for Boston as we were completely mesmerized by the hauntingly beautiful and rich voice of the gorgeous and most famous female singer in Bollywood. Watching Shreya Ghoshal on stage was truly an unforgettable experience.

The process of interviewing Shreya was quite interesting. After a lot of planning, the organizers of the show arranged for Shreya to do this interview with us followed by her meeting with some special fans in a suburban hotel. It became more than a two-hour wait but was very touching when we found out that Shreya could not get enough of exploring our beloved city as she went sightseeing, enthusiastically explored Berkley College of Music and then shopped at Burlington Mall and enjoyed a meal at Rain Forest Café.

It would have been very easy to miss Shreya as she walked in the lobby of the hotel accompanied by her dad. After watching the “energetic powerhouse” on stage at Lowell Memorial Auditorium dressed in designer clothes it was a total surprise to see her walking in simple jeans sans makeup and not looking older than 16 years. An understandably protective dad completed the picture of the simple Indian family. She was very quiet and shy to begin with but soon warmed up and answered the questions that we had put together. She was joined by her dad who was also initially very hesitant but then happily added his views. The father-daughter bond was very obvious as they both came up with same answers for our rapid fire questions. In the brief time that we spent together, it was amazing to see her maturity when she said that she never worries about anything in life because “everything happens for a reason ” and at the same time her child-like innocence and enthusiasm when she said that her happiest moment this week was when she could not stop screaming with joy after the airline finally found her luggage after losing it a few days ago.

Ghoshal
Shreya was born on March 12 ,1984 in a Bengali Hindu family and lived in the small town of Rawalbhata near Kota in Rajasthan. Her parents–dad Bishwajeet and mom Sarmishtha Ghosal–have been the biggest influence and force behind her musical journey. Her mom was her first teacher in music and her dad , an electrical engineer, made her an electric tanpura for practicing her music as she dedicated the first 13 years of her life to education and learning music accompanying her mother since she was four years old. Her first stage performance was made at their club’s annual function. When she turned six, she started her lessons in Hindustani classical music. She got training in Hindustani classical music by Rakesh Sharma of Kota, Shri Jayawardhan Bhatnagar, the music teacher of her school, and finally from Mahesh Chandra Sharma of Kota. Her introduction to Hindi film songs and Rajasthani folk was made by Shri Jayawardhan Bhatnagar. Winning the popular singing competition Sare Ga Ma changed her life, and her family was later convinced by famous music director late Kalyanji to move to Mumbai, where he trained her in playback singing for 18 months. The rest is history. She sang for Aishwarya Rai for Devdas, watching her closely on the set and getting in role of “Paro” to sing from her heart. No one can forget her rendition of Bairi Piya, which got her a national award. Since then she has continued to win numerous awards including many Filmfare Awards and to hold the audiences spellbound with her wide variety and spectrum of songs from classical to popular like Piu Bina, Barso re and even the so called “item numbers” like Oola la and Chikni Chameli. She has worked with most music directors and is known to sing beautifully in multiple Indian languages. Here we share her story in her own words.

Q: Your dad always accompanies you on your tours. What has been his influence on you?

Ghoshal: My parents have been my biggest influence in my musical career, especially my dad. Whatever I have achieved today is because of them.

Q: You travel so extensively. What is your fitness regime?

Ghoshal: No special regime. I hate to say it but I do not exercise much when I travel. I am very strict with my diet though. It is an “almost perfect diet” at all times.

Q: You have sung for most Bollywood actresses. Who is your most favorite?

Ghoshal: I enjoy singing for all of them; although I have to say that I have specially enjoyed singing for Vidya Balan and Kareena Kapoor just to name a few.

Q: You have said that like most Indian girls, you also get pressurized to marry. What do you look for in an ideal man?

Ghoshal: Like all girls, I want him to be very loving. However, I am a very curious person and am interested in everything around me. I want him to have that curiosity about life too.

Q: How do you relax?

Ghoshal: I love to read and cook when I have time, and love to watch movies.

Q: What is your biggest strength apart from your talent that has helped you succeed?

Ghoshal: I believe in being unaware of who and what you are. Sometimes it is good to be ignorant of yourself.

Q: What would you change about yourself?

Ghoshal: Nothing at all.

Q: How do you prepare for going on stage?

Ghoshal: I have no special regime at all.

Q: You have won so many awards. Which one is closest to your heart?

Ghoshal: I have to say that my biggest Award is performing in front of my fans. Their love is my award. I truly get very emotional when I am performing and see their love for me.

Q: Starting from a very young age, you became a role model for many kids, teenagers and adults. What advice do you give them?

Ghoshal: Staying true to your passions is very important. Work hard and keep your foundation strong. Learn from your peers. I was so impressed today after meeting the professors at Berkeley (College of Music). There is so much to learn in life and learning should never stop.

Q: You dress so beautifully on stage. Do you have any favorite designers?

Ghoshal: I love to dress well and pick my clothes. I feel designing clothes is such an art. I do not like to get stagnant and like to change my style all the time. I focus on the esthetics and not a specific designer. Of course, my mom is the final authority on what I wear.

Q: What has been your happiest moment in life?

Ghoshal: I am a very happy person and am •superhappy’ all the time. Though, I have to tell you about my happiest moment of this week. While travelling to USA my airline Lufthansa lost my bag and I was very disheartened about it. I got a call while shopping in ‘Juicy Couture’ today that they had found my luggage and I started screaming in joy at the store like I won a lottery much to the amusement of sales girls and people around me.

Q: Do you have any regrets or worries in life?

Ghoshal: No, not at all. I have been very blessed in my life and feel that everything happens for a reason.

Here are Shreya’s answers to our rapid fire questions:

My favorite composer: Madan Mohan

Favorite song: Laag ja gale, phir yeh haseen raat ho na ho

Favorite book: Name sake, and I am looking forward to reading the latest book by Jhumpa Lahiri soon

Favorite travel destination: Jung Frau mountains in Switzerland

Favorite Indian singer: Lata Mangeshkar

Favorite international singer: Beyoncé

Favorite place to perform: (laughs) this week in Lowell auditorium in Boston

Favorite hobby: cooking

How do you de-stress: watching a movie.

My last word on chai is: I simply love chai and my day starts with Darjeeling tea and Marie biscuit.

(Every life has a story, share it with INDIA New England over “Chai with Manju,” an exciting, innovative and riveting series featuring interviews with some of the most interesting, active, accomplished, amusing and entertaining men and women. Conducting the interviews is Dr. Manju Sheth, a well-known physician at Lahey Health Systems and INDIA New England’s 2011 Woman of the Year. She is also president of Indian Medical Association of New England. Dr. Sheth leads and is involved with numerous professional groups, charities and advocacy organizations, In Chai with Manju series, she profiles people who have compelling stories to tell. If you or someone you know has a compelling story to tell, you may contact Dr. Sheth at chaiwithmanju@gmail.com or INDIA New England news desk at Editorial@MishraGroup.com.)

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