Richa Sharma Curated
CURATED BY :
After more than 24 years in the industry, is there a genre of music you still wish to try?
I really want to sing true-blue romantic numbers. I did sing before but none of them rose to fame. I am a happy person but I end up getting all sad tracks to sing. I hope music directors soon give me an opportunity to sing a romantic track.
There are so many aspiring singers. Is there enough opportunity in the industry?
Yes, of course. If you have talent, there is opportunity. The industry is huge but you have to have patience, which is important. However, what I have noticed is the fact that today’s generation of singers are very impatient. They want instant success. They don’t want to work hard for it. It has been 24 years to me in the industry. I do riyaaz for 2 hours every day. So, my advice to them would be to practice every day because the more you practice, the more you polish the art. Also, they should keep in mind that it is okay to follow an idol but not okay to become their clones.
Is it still very difficult for playback singers to get recognition as independent artists?
I was fortunate that it was not with my case. I got the recognition first with my devotional music and then I was called for singing in the films. I was very famous in Faridabad and Delhi because of my performances but I had no album. Still, people used to change dates of their marriages and parties to suit my dates. You don't need any other platform other than a stage and if you are worthy enough of getting recognised, you will be picked up by the audience.
There was a time when devotional music was an important part of Indian cinema, but not now. Why?
We don't have bhajans in our films anymore. When we make our house, we usually have one corner of the house dedicated to God and I think that should be the case with films also. I am not saying that every film should have it but if you are producing 100 films, at least 15 films should have it.
How do you see the trend of training in music academies and compare them to the gharana system and guru shishya parampara?
I am seeing a lot of youngsters with classical training and I think it is essential in order to understand the nuances. Guru Dharan, as we usually do it, by personally following a guru and learn from them according to our own pace is a good thing. Slowly and steadily, the imprints of guru's training start showing in you. But I personally believe that in your initial journey, one should learn that in a music school to get diversity and understand the history behind music. We learn more in a group because of the support from each other and you have the competitive spirit to outperform each other while learning in a group.
As a singer, how do you see your association with a reality show?
A show like this have judges who can enhance the credibility. It is not just about being a singer coming to a show but it is about being a senior to whom new talented youngsters look up to, get the motivation and learn something new. I have a certain stature in the industry and I will use all my experience while judging the participants. I will try to be a guide or a friend, who can assist and help contestants in their journey.
How did your film innings begin?
I came to Mumbai for a religious concert in 1995 and Saawan Kumar-ji heard me and gave me “Mohabbat Aisi Mehndi Hai” with Vipin Sachdeva in the 1996 “Salma Pe Dil Aa Gaya” composed by Aadesh Shrivastava-ji, who also gave me “Dupatte ka Pallu” for “Tarkieb” and other songs. But my first hit film was “Taal,” in which I sang “Ni Main Samajh Gayi” with Sukhwinder Singh and “Kahin Aag Lage Lag Jaaye.” Later came songs like “Chhalka Chhalka Re” from “Saathiya,” “Maahi ve” from “Kaante” and “Jag Soona Soona Laage” in “Om Shanti Om” and others. “Billo Rani” in “Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal” and “Rabba” from “Musafir” were among my major hits.
Was your father or family into music too?
Yes, his name was Pandit Dayashankar Upadhyaya, and he was a priest who would recite the Katha in a Faridabad temple. His voice had a terrific throw and he could recite and sing without the microphone and be heard at a large distance. I took my earliest musical training from him and then did my three-year Visharad from Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. I think that I inherited the same quality of throw. We are six siblings — two brothers and four sisters. All of us sing, but only I sing professionally.
You have made a space for yourself as a playback singer, but your career encompasses more, including folk songs and Sufi music, Which one do you love more?
I love music, I enjoy every song I sing. Yes, of course, Sufi music appeals to me the most, but you know, I don’t know what Sufi really means. I get told I’m a Sufi singer but for me, it’s about connecting with god through my music. Maybe that’s Sufi. I really like Abida Parveen, who is according to me a real Sufi singer. Then there is Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rashid Khan and Salamat Ali Khan among others.
It’s been a long journey since you first entered the industry, and faced rejections because of your unconventional your voice wasn’t conventional enough. How was the experience?
When I entered the industry, I used to face rejection every day. I was told that my voice wouldn’t work; that they’d use it for a background alap or in offbeat scenes, but not for mainstream heroines. I used to feel upset about this, but then suddenly things changed, and my voice was used for Aishwarya Rai, the top mainstream heroine then. Trends change. After that, mainstream voices didn’t have to match the heroine’s, instead the concentration was on the singer’s talent. More and more experiments are happening since then, and after that, I have also used the nasal voice in songs like “Billo Rani” and “Jor ka Jhatka”, and nasal voices have become very popular. I think in this industry, for the first five years, you have to create a stable career, and once you have proved yourself, then the music directors start trusting you, and letting you improvise a little, letting you steer yourself. Of course, the final decision is with them, but you get a little more freedom. It was Rehman sir who gave me the most chance to improvise in the Mangal Pandey song, “Chaliya”, where I used three voice styles in one song. It’s great that now things are becoming more experimental, and more and more newcomers are getting opportunities.
Do awards matter to you at this stage of your career?
It is very important to get appreciation for your hard work. Therefore, I feel awards are a token of the reward for which you toil so hard. They mean a lot to me.
Which Bollywood actress suits your voice the best?
When I had initially started singing in Bollywood, I wanted to sing for all the leading ladies at that point in time. Be it Rani Mukerji or Kajol—they were all my favourites. But now, over so many years, I feel it doesn't matter who you sing for, but what you are singing. The song should be soulful, after all it is the voice which matters the most.
Which music director would you love to keep singing for?
I have worked with many good composers, and all are great in their own respective ways. I have enjoyed working with Vishal-Shekhar, Pritam, Salim-Sulaiman, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and the likes. From the younger lot I find Amit Trivedi very talented. Besides them, Sachin-Jigar duo is also interesting to work with. The kind of freshness and newness they bring to any song is just amazing.
Any favourite playback singer?
There are many who are really good singers. People like KK, Sunidhi Chauhan, Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghoshal and many more are great singers. From the current lot, I like Arijit Singh. He sings very well. In some ways, I feel, we all inspire each other to go good work. There are unique qualities in each of us, and we try to imbibe and learn from them.
Veteran singers like Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle are stalwarts. Do you feel inspired by their body of work?
Yes, of course. Both Lata ji and Asha ji are pillars of our music industry. They have always inspired me and others who are like me. We have always looked up to them for driving us towards music. When I started singing, all I wanted to do was sing like Richa Sharma. Today, I complete 20 long years in the music industry and I feel very proud of it. Good quality singing is what matters to me the most.
You have even rendered your voice for devotional songs. How has the experience been?
My first stint with singing was for devotional songs. I started off singing songs in praise of the Almighty. Gradually in 1994 I moved to Mumbai, and the city of dreams gave me my first break. I too had my share of struggles, before making it big in the industry.
At what age did you start singing professionally?
I was very young when singing intrigued me. I was just eight years old, when I picked up the mike and started singing professionally. I hail from Faridabad, Haryana and I still remember that my first pay cheque was for just Rs 11.
You have had an illustrious career in Bollywood. Tell us something about your journey.?
I feel really blessed to be a part of this music industry. I have had a great journey so far, where I have enjoyed my work and got appreciated for it as well. I was lucky to have become a part of this world, and still stand grounded on my feet. It's truly a blessing.