As I write this article, I have the iconic “Jaadu Hai Nasha Hai” playing in the background and this leaves me wondering about the timeless nature of music. Every word that is perfectly enunciated by Shreya Ghoshal is not just a word, it tells a story. Her voice allows your mind to wander imaginatively.
At a time when Hindi film music is going through its worst phase with all the rehashed and recreated versions of old songs, it makes me question, what happened to the greats whose melodious voices were bold enough to stand on their own? Shreya Ghoshal, was probably, last of those greats.
With innumerable singing reality shows on television today, we know that there isn’t any dearth of talent but we also know there aren’t many who make it in this tough business. However, the situation was dramatically different two decades ago. This was when Shreya Ghoshal made it. It is famously known that Shreya won Sa Re Ga Ma when she was only 16 and was soon roped in to voice tracks for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas.
It is almost impossible to not fall in love with Shreya’s voice that can probably be compared to crystals. I am no music aficionado. All I know is when I hear a melodious voice that makes me instantly look up and ignore all the noise around, it makes me appreciate the gift that is truly special. The same happened when I first heard Shreya Ghoshal’s voice in Devdas’ “Silsila Yeh Chahat Ka”. A teenager hopelessly in love with Shah Rukh Khan, I didn’t know that I would come out of the film with great respect for the girl who sang for Paro. Of course, it wasn’t just me singing praises for Shreya and listening to Devdas’ cassette on loop, we were all in the same boat.
The Queen of Melody, The Nightingale of India, these superlatives have always been reserved for greats like Lata Mangeshkar and to this, we can just say that Shreya was probably born a little too late. The Indian film music industry is unique in a lot of ways. Firstly, we are the only ones who boast of song and dance as a part of our films, here they are a part of the narrative. We hold our music sacred and when it dies a slow death as we can see today, it hurts us who have grown up on a constant diet of Hindi film music. Shreya, in that case, enjoyed the best of times.
In a discussion on Film Companion, a few female singers were quick to point out the sexism that lingers on in the music industry in terms of opportunities. While their point may be valid in the current scenario, such wasn’t the case until a few years ago. In fact, singers like Shreya Ghoshal were, and are still, doing so well at their jobs that their voices did not need the extra push. The songs they sang were not lost in the sea of music because they possessed a certain unique yet imperishable quality.
The early 2000s will be remembered as the last decade when Hindi film music still had that charisma and Shreya was an important part of that brigade. Shreya, along with Sunidhi Chauhan, gave vocals for almost all the memorable tracks of the early 2000s. Be it the iconic “Bairi Piya” that won her first National Award or Omkara’s “O Saathi Re”, Shreya’s voice has a certain soothing quality that strikes the right chord. Jab We Met’s “Yeh Ishq Hai”, which fetched another National Award for the singer, has Shreya voicing Geet in the most joyous way and the same joy can also be felt in Guru’s “Barso Re”.
Once a regular voice on the radio stations, the frequency of Shreya Ghoshal’s songs have reduced on the FMs now, just like her tracks in films. Her last popular tracks were “Suraiyya” and “Manzoor-e-Khuda” from Thugs of Hindostan.
Though we miss her presence on the Bollywood music scene, her classics make up for all her absence. In the crowd of remixes and deafening tunes of today, we would rather play Shor in the City’s “Saibo” and bask in the memories that Shreya Ghoshal has given us for life.