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Friday, June 19, 1998

Pardesi voice is here to stay

Rathi A Menon  
CHANDIGARH, June 18: Even in the remotest mofussil area, one can still hear "Pardesi Pardesi jaana nahin" in that husky voice which gave a distinct character to female playback singing in Bollywood's music industry.Now with a dozen films on floor and quite a few private albums in hand, Sapna Awasthi seems to be literally living the song! This Lucknowi is a "pardesi" in Mumbai's tinsel town but has asserted through her voice that it is "jana nahin" for her from here. Sapna was in the city today to record two Punjabi songs for an album being directed by Surinder Bachan at the HL Studio in Mohali.

In between the sessions, she spoke to the CN about her career that took a surprise swing in 1992. It was chance that gave Sapna, a graduate in music, a good banner to begin with and that was "Dushmani" directed by none other than Shekhar Kapoor. Her song "Banu teri" became a chartbuster that stayed on the countdown shows for a considerable time.

Sapna's career just took off and even she cannot believe it at times. "I was just a housewife and we moved out to Mumbai from Delhi when my husband who was with the National School of Drama joined an advertising firm there." After the first number hit it big, she did not have any dearth of offers. Thus we heard her in "Krantiveer" and "Anjam" before "Raja Hindustani" catapulted her to instant fame. "I had two songs in `Krantiveer', `Jankaro jankaro' with Udit Narayan and the climax song "Jay Jagadambe".

What does she consider as her strong point that differentiates her from other singers? "Definitely my voice which is quite an antithesis to the set pattern of `surili awaaz' for heroines. Now the concept has changed and the audience also has accepted it. You have playback singers like Shweta Shetty singing for heroines nowadays whereas earlier, it used to be either Lata Mangeshkar or Asha Bhonsle."

So it is natural that Sapna's voice is cashed in on by many of the stalwarts of music realm like A. R. Rehman for Mani Rathnam's first Hindi venture "Dil Se", Anu Malik for Sanjay Gupta's blockbuster "Khauf" and Ram Lakshman for B Subhash's "Dulhan Banoon Main Teri".

Has the industry opened up to the newcomers, as the earlier monopoly of certain singers seems to be over? "Yes, there is more scope for new talents. And if you have mettle, you will definitely stay on. But nowadays the youngsters are leaning on remix albums to become famous and such stuff will not last.'' Sapna feels that the kind of folk singing that she is into, has got takers in the country ever since Daler Mehndi came up on the scene. "But not all singers can excel in this format, you need a wide range in voice,'' says she.

This range in her voice must be the reason behind her bagging offers in many regional languages as varied as Gujarati and Assamese, what with an album under the versatile Bhupen Hazarika.

"Now I am planning an album with Kumar Sanu in Bengali for the Durga Puja." So how is the scenario in music world after the murder of Gulshan Kumar who was a pillar of strength for the newcomers?

"There is a big slump in the music industry, for along with Gulshan Kumarji, we also lost Nadeem-Shravan from the field. But there are a few companies and some of the albums are doing well. It all depends on the audience, on how they take to the particular voice in a particular style.''

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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