From Jamshedpur to Khuda Jaane!
Shilpa Rao owes her singing career to Shankar Mahadevan. If he hadn't suggested her name to director Nikhil Advani during Salaam-e-Ishq, she may have remained in Jamshedpur, where she was born.
Besides Saiyyan Re in Salaam-e-Ishq, Rao went on to sing great numbers like Woh Ajnabee (The Train) and Khuda Jaane (Bachna Ae Haseeno), and many more in films like Anwar, Aamir, Dev D and Gulaal.
Rao speaks to Nithya Ramani about her Bollywood break, and gives many a tip for aspiring singers.
Since when did you want to be a singer?
Ever since I can think of. I have always been musically inclined. My father is my teacher. He taught me all I know about music.
What happened after your first break?
After Salaam-e-Ishq, Anwar happened and then The Train. Raksha Mistry [director, The Train] wanted something very peppy and different for the song. We tried a lot of vocal styling. Music director Eric Pillai did the picturisation and Syeed Quadriji gave beautiful lyrics. It was a fun song to shoot and it shows.
Image: A still from Bachna Ae Haseeno
'Hariharan has the perfect voice'
What are your favourite genres of music?
I listen to all kinds of music. I grew up listening to a lot ghazals. I learnt classical music, and was in my school choir. Of course, in school, you can't escape the rock culture.
Who are your favourite singers?
I love Hariharan. He has the perfect voice, training and vocal styling. He is amazing. I also love Bombay Jayashree who has done a stupendous job in Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein (Zara Zara).
How did Dev D and Gulaal happen?
We worked on Dhol for Dev D and recorded it three years ago, free of cost. I knew Anurag Kashyup from his Black Friday days and he had promised me a song in Gulaal. He is an ace director.
Image: A still from The Train
'Be a literate singer'
How do you do your riyaaz?
That is an ongoing process till you die. You cannot stop. You can practice by listening to music, keeping yourself updated with all the new kinds of music. There is a lot of experimentation with the vocals, sound design and music.
What advice would you give aspiring singers?
Learn music. You should know what you are singing. Be a literate singer. Practice a lot and rest sufficiently. There are small things that make every individual unique, find that within you and enhance it.
How have your parents reacted to your fame and success?
They have always been very supportive. Whenever my songs are out, they are very happy. And I feel happy about it.
My dad doesn't know how the industry works -- how to get a song, what is production, hits and blockbusters... He just listens to my songs and is concerned with how well I have sung it. They believe that the only reason why I should be doing music is because it makes me happy.
Image: A still from Dev D