An enchantress casts her spell
People started pouring in Bangabandhu International Conference Centre, Dhaka before 5pm on May 27. Both floors of the Hall of Fame were getting packed. Dhakaiites were eagerly waiting for a Bollywood nightingale to take the stage. There was added enthusiasm however; this particular 'Bollywood Sensation' is Bengali.
As minutes turned into hour, the stage needed to be engaged. Kuntal Banerjee, an upcoming singer from Kolkata, was the opening act. Kuntal is a capable vocalist, no doubt, and he belted out a decent cover of Kailash Kher's Sufi hit “Teri Deewani” but unfortunately for him, it was a tough audience who were there for the main course and were not really appeased by the appetizer.
As he tried to work the audience, the singer rendered a Rabindra Sangeet, “Ami Chini Go Chini Tomarey”; a Kishore Kumar classic, “Neele Neele Ambar” and a Bappi Lahiri hit du jour, “Chirodin-i Tumi Je Amar”.
Around 7:30 pm, the wait was over. Four Indian National Film Awards winner, multilingual Bengali singer Shreya Ghoshal took the stage and like butter the full house seemingly melted under her charm.
Shreya began with a rendition of the song that gave her the seminal big break in the Mumbai-based film industry -- “Silsila Ye Chaahat Ka” from the film “Devdas”.
The songstress's rise to fame has not exactly been a Cinderella story but more of a steady recognition of her talent. As a child she won the children's special episode of the talent hunt “Sa Re Ga Ma” (now “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa”) on Zee TV. Renowned musician Kalyanji who judged the competition, convinced Shreya's parents to move to Mumbai. She caught the attention of filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali when she participated in “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa” for a second time. In 2000, he offered her the opportunity to lend her voice to Paro, the female lead of his film “Devdas”. This soundtrack earned her a Filmfare Award (her first) for Best Female Playback Singer. She also won her first National Film Award for the song “Bairi Piya” (from “Devdas”).
She has done playback for over 140 films and worked with all major Indian music directors, including Ilayaraja, AR Rahman, Anu Malik, Himesh Reshammiya, MM Keeravani, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Pritam. Besides Hindi and her mother tongue Bangla, Shreya also sings in Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu.
What sets Shreya apart from her contemporaries is perhaps the same quality that distinguishes iconic singer Lata Mangeshkar -- an innate ability to channel a sort of inner purity, and turn up the heat when necessary with equal ease.
For the soundtrack of “Delhi-6” AR Rahman superimposed the original rendition of Raga Gujari Todi by the legendary Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan with the vocals of Shreya. There must be a reason why Rahman chose Shreya. The late Ustad is undoubtedly a maestro, last heard in an Indian film almost half a century back (“Mughal-e-Azam”). But what's astounding is how Shreya keeps up with the legend with a kind of poise that can only come from a solid background in classical music.
Shreya's repertoire at the Dhaka concert included her recent and not-so-recent popular songs from films. With “Chalo Tumko Lekar Chale” (from “Jism”), she invited the audience to set out on a musical journey. With “Wada Raha Pyar Se” (from “Khakee”), she professed her love for her fans.
The diva continued to segue from one hit to another: “Agar Tum Mil Jao”, “Jaadu Hai Nasha Hai”, “Tujh Mein Rab Dikhta Hai”, “Teri Ore”, “Shukran Allah” and more.
The Rabindra Sangeet inspired “Piya Bole” (from “Parineeta”) was greeted with rounds of applause and cheer. But what brought the house down was a spirited rendition of “Ami Je Tomar/ Mere Dholna”. “Spirited” because it was as if the crooner was invoking the much-feared spirit, Manjulika, from the film “Bhool Bhulaiyaa”. Haunting indeed.
In between, the audience sang along with the artiste and Shreya had this to say about the Dhaka music enthusiasts at the show: “Not one of you is out of tune! Incredible!”
The show was managed by Mirror Media & Production Ltd and organised by The Financial Mirror, a national business weekly.