Updated: August 15, 2021 10:51:56 am
For Sunidhi Chauhan, “Ruki Ruki Thi Zindagi” and “Main Mast” changed the game, for good. The versatile singer, who’s given us some of the best songs across genres and styles in the past 25 years, calls each of her numbers, her “babies.” As the talented artiste turns 38 today, we get her to recall the first time she recorded a song as a playback singer at the age of 11, her most difficult recording experience and many other milestones from her journey.
“When I sang ‘Kaisi Paheli Zindagani’ for Parineeta, Raima Sen who’s part of the film, came to the studio just to hear me sing. I thought I was singing for her, and that’s why she was in the studio. But, when it released, I saw it on Rekha ji, and I was blown away. Rekha ji probably knew who sang for her, but I had no idea who I was singing for. She emoted like a goddess, she made me sound even better because of her expressions,” Sunidhi recalls the hit number that had a jazz texture with a touch of Geeta Dutt’s style.
Sunidhi claims that most of the time, she doesn’t know who she’s singing for or what the situation is in the film. All she needs to understand is the tune. She tells indianexpress.com, “Lyrics are also very important because they give me the whole picture, the emotions. I don’t need to know what face it’s going to be on, or what happened before the song came in the movie. It’s not the tonality of your voice that matches. It is the expression of the actor and the performer who’s behind the mic, that need to match.”
Sunidhi was spotted by late music director Aadesh Shrivastava among a group of singers. He got her to sing her first song at the age of 11, “Ladki Deewani Dekho” from Shastra (1996) with Udit Narayan. She also won the singing reality show Meri Awaz Suno on DD National. She was later roped in by Sandeep Chowta for Mast (1999). Thus began Sunidhi’s journey which soon made her the reigning queen of playback singing.
“I was 11 when I sang ‘Ladki Deewani’. Aadesh Shrivastava told me ‘Do you know who you’re going to sing for? It’s for the main heroine.’ I said how’s that possible, I’m just 11. How will my voice match?’ He told me not to worry.”
Sunidhi shares that after recording the song, she was so happy that she got down with fever for two days. “These things had value. I don’t think today you struggle that much to feel the importance of such things. You do get happy today, but you also know that if it hadn’t worked this way, it would have been some other way. There are many ways of trying new things. Earlier, it was just one way, that you have to impress the music director with your singing and you might get one chance to get on the mic.”
Sunidhi has crooned nearly 2500 songs till date, including the ever popular numbers “Sheila Ki Jawani”, “Deedar De”, “Beedi”, “Mehbooba Mehbooba”, “Bhaage Re Mann”, “Dhoom Machaale”, “Saaki”, “Sajnaaji Vaari”, “Kamli”, “Mere Haath Mein”, “Mehboob Mere” and “Ae Watan” to name a few.
In fact, one of Sunidhi’s most popular numbers, “Mehboob Mere” was recorded in 25 minutes. According to the singer, all you need to do is “grab the sur (note) of the song” because musicians keep trying for hours to improve it.
Sharing an interesting piece of trivia about the song, Sunidhi shares, “The new thing with ‘Mehboob Mere’ was that for the first time, I was doing double track. We mostly sing in a single track, but Anu Malik said he wants it in a double track. So I had to hear it, and then sing it. This process could’ve taken longer, but I think I was so good (laughs) that we managed to wrap up the song in 25 minutes.”
But double track can also be achieved on a mixer. So why did she need to sing it instead? “The beauty of double track is, you sing the second track trying to match with the first track, but it can never be exactly the same. The tone is always different. So that slight difference which you hear in both the tracks, gives a different kind of sound. (On the mixer) you can place multiple tracks but then all of it will sound the same, a single voice because the main track is a single track,” she explained.
Sunidhi places “Dil Mein Jaagi Dhadkan Aise” from Sur as her most difficult song. “I had to sing the whole mukhda in one breath. MM Keeravani (music director) said, ‘You take an hour if you need, but practice it properly and sing it in one breath.’ I did that and finally, we got somewhere.”
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Given that many of her songs have been pathbreaking for their on-screen talent, is she the one to be credited for their image makeover? Calling it a team effort, she said, “I know how much people love ‘Kamli.’ I’ve done it with my heart and it’s beautiful, but you can’t take away from what Katrina has done in the song as a performer. Similarly, in ‘Sheila Ki Jawani’, if it was a game changer for Katrina, it was for me also because the song had a big range. Also, the way Katrina has moved, I don’t think she had done belly dancing before. So, you make your own mark and set your own trend. Nobody is because of somebody.”
Sunidhi calls herself a “product of film music” given that she started very early in life. But would things be any different if she had entered the industry a little later with more experience or training? Stating that she would’ve anyway learned from the music industry, Sunidhi shares, “I love to be the student. I’m still learning. But I would definitely have had more opportunities if I had come 10 years later. Maybe I would’ve explored the YouTube space, put out my music there. One can’t take away the fact that for the past 5-10 years, there are more opportunities, it’s easier to show yourself. There’s less fear of acceptance. You just have to put your product out. There’s an audience for everybody. So, it would’ve been a bit easier. Today, you don’t need a label to be famous. You can do original content and independent music,” she concludes.
Happy birthday, Sunidhi!
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