Such is the immense popularity of Shreya Ghoshal that she now returns annually to the UK for sell-out concerts.
The current queen of Bollywood music did that again last month by delivering unforgettable shows in three cities across three memorable days.
Shreya lit up the stage with her greatest hits and mixed them up with classics from the golden era of Indian cinema.
Eastern Eye managed to catch the in-demand superstar to talk about music, her recent marriage, love for the UK, the biggest lessons she learned from her idol Lata Mangeshkar and more. Friendly and polite, the softly spoken singer lit up each answer with an infectious smile.
You are performing all over the world and recording so many songs. How do you keep up with a demanding schedule?
I think if it was not so back to back or demanding, if I had a gap between any of these commitments, I would be very bored. (Laughs) I get tired of things very fast, so I really like this pace of life. I am happy it’s like this. If there are days where I do have two hours of doing nothing, I feel lost. (Laughs) So let it be like this for as long as possible.
Is it fair to say you are not going to slow down even though you are married?
Frankly, the truth is that I have become even busier. Since that time I got married, I have been only travelling. So it’s going to be really interesting, let’s see what happens. Right now I’m hardly getting to spend time with my husband (businessman Shiladitya Mukhopadhyaya). He is also travelling.
But the good thing is the compatibility and understanding we have – we have been friends for such a long time that we know each other in and out. So it’s going to be a very beautiful journey. We are looking forward to it and sharing our hectic lives, along with all the ups and downs together. But in terms of music, nothing is going to change. In fact, I would really be more inspired to do even better music now that I am married.
You are the undisputed queen of Bollywood, but do you feel like that?
I honestly have no idea what the term ‘queen’ means in terms of music. There are people who have done such great work and I am still learning. I am a student of music and a student of life. I have a long way to go. So I don’t know what the title is that I have, but all I know is that I feel very privileged and blessed that I have lots of lovely fans who expect a lot of good music from me. They constantly motivate me and I get to know and talk to them. Also I know that I am growing as an artist every passing day.
All your fans put you on such a high pedestal. Does that put you under pressure?
(Laughs) I’m not going to lie to you, Asjad, there is a little bit of pressure. But I think it’s a good thing. If you don’t have pressure then you probably won’t excel. I know that if today I have to constantly prove myself to the younger ones who are coming in and give them a good benchmark somewhere, they will be constantly inspired to do good music. So there is some kind of conscious effort from me on that level also. It has happened even in song selections.
What do you mean?
Sometimes I have not picked up a song which I have felt was probably not the right one to do, you know. A song that might not be the right kind of track to sing, where people who look up to me will feel, ‘why did she choose something like that?’ There is that constant effort in my mind.
Can you tell whether a song is going to be a hit beforehand?
I don’t know. Recently, the Journey Song from Piku has really done well and surprised us. Another song that was released recently, from a film called Humari Adhuri Kahaani, called Hasi is a really great song (and I felt it while recording it). There are also really great songs on the way this year, which I feel will do really well. There are some obligations so I really can’t reveal much about them, but am very excited about them.
So then you do know a song will be a hit when you are recording it?
Absolutely yes, I can. With certain songs, you can understand even just from the first line that it is going to be special. And you can feel that it’s different. Also, the production really matters as well – if the song is not properly promoted, then it can be the greatest song, but if it doesn’t reach the audience then that can make a difference. The film has to be promoted properly. So it is essentially a combination of all things. There are a lot of good songs in my life which never got really promoted. They were great songs, nonetheless, and they deserved to be popular.
We love your annual visits to the UK. How much do you enjoy coming here?
I think I’ve come at a very good time. The weather is lovely. It’s become like an annual holiday for me also, because I really look forward to the tour every year. I know the whole team of Rock On Music who are like family. Performing from city to city with them is like a big celebration. It’s like Christmas or Diwali. It really feels like that. There are so many good wishes and warmth from people here. I really look forward to singing for UK audiences.
Is the most difficult aspect of live shows choosing the songs because you have got so many now?
(Laughs) Every time we decide that we can edit out a certain song because we have performed it so many times, to make room for a new one, I go on stage and the audience will request the song we edited out. So we can’t really plan anything.
My concerts have actually started becoming longer and longer. Sometimes I really feel like I am singing too many songs. But then I always say that the audience is not leaving me also. I can’t describe the energy they give me and it’s so much fun. However long the list of song becomes, I think the love that I get from audiences and the love I have for them and singing, keeps us going. So it’s a two-way thing. I don’t care if the song list is never ending, I will keep singing.
Where do you keep all your trophies and awards? You must have run out of space at home?
I’ve put them all over the house on various shelves and hidden in corners. They have been put almost to the side because I don’t like to look at them and start feeling complacent. I still have a lot more to do in life yet.
How much do the awards mean to you, because you get so much adulation?
Actually all of that doesn’t really matter. What matters is constantly doing a good job. Every song that you sing and every time that you come to the mic, it’s a new day. You never know how you are going to sing. I think it’s a blessing that God has given me and I try to work hard to keep on moving forward. The adulation and awards are very motivating, for sure, but that is not the criteria of life.
Lata Mangeshkar is your biggest hero. What is the biggest lesson you have learned from her?
Lata-jee has been a great inspiration and so has Asha (Bhosle)-jee and Geeta Dutt-jee. Every day when I listen to their songs, I learn more and more about the nuances of music. The way they have learnt music with dedication, we do not have that kind of atmosphere around us any more. There are too many distractions and fame is very easily achievable. Before, it was very difficult to get a stamp of approval that you are a really great singer and you had to work really hard at it, whereas today it has become a lot easier. In fact, too easy. So every day when I listen to them, I have been revived and feel more motivated as a singer. I have a lot more to do and learn yet.