From Indian Idol to Race!
When Katrina Kaif lip synced to the sensuous Zara Zara Touch Me from Race, everyone was hooked.
Katrina's gorgeous looks aside, it was the sweet voice that beckoned us. The voice belongs to 24-year-old former Indian Idol 1 contestant Monali Thakur who hails from Kolkata.
Nithya Ramani caught up with the bubbly singer to know more.
How did singing come your way?
I sang in school but never thought of singing as a profession. When I was in college, Indian Idol happened and I took part in it. That is when I turned into a professional singer. My father is a singer and actor in Bengal. When I got voted out early during Indian Idol, I was discouraged. But it turned to be a blessing in disguise because I finally got my first break with Race.
How much did Indian Idol help you?
It didn't help to get into the industry. It helped me to survive myself in Mumbai. It was the biggest struggle period of my life. We were in a very pathetic condition money wise. We didn't have money for food. At that time the only option left was Indian Idol. Honestly, I wouldn't have gone for it because I'm not the reality show type. After Indian Idol, I did stage shows that gave me money to survive. To struggle, you have to stay here in Mumbai.
Since when did you want to become a singer?
Ever since I can remember. I always wanted to be a playback singer. But now after singing for beautiful actresses, I want to get into pop. I am trying hard to do that with my album and am keeping my fingers crossed.
Tell us about more about your album?
I am trying to come up with something new. Alisha Chinoy, I remember, tried something new and that is how she got famous. Now that we have bigger and better scope to go international. For once, I want a girl to become one of the biggest rock stars in the country.
I have also composed the songs for my album. I didn't know I could compose too. I am going to put in a lot of attitude into the album with a nice video as well. I love to dance too and want it to be classy and international.
Image: Monali Thakur
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
'I was asked to be as sensuous and seductive as possible with my voice'
How was it working with music director Pritam?
I remember the first time I met him. I sang an English song -- Celine Dion's That's the way it is. He was very happy with my voice as I could hit the sharp notes. I was very happy that I was able to please him and then I got introduced to Ramesh and Kumar Taurani [brothers who run Tips Music]. They were coming up with Race and Pritamda was dong the music. It just clicked and I recorded the song.
Pritamda is god. He knows what he wants and how to get it out of you. We clicked very well because both of us are Bengalis and we are very similar too.
What was the brief given to you?
I was told that the song was very sexy and sensuous song and would be picturised on Katrina. I was asked to be as sensuous and seductive as possible with my voice. I remember while recording the song, my mom was with me in the studio and I was rehearsing the song, casually singing. Later I asked people to switch off the lights as I couldn't do it anymore with so many people watching me.
How was the experience facing the mike for the first time?
Standing in front of the mike wasn't extraordinarily exciting because I had sung for the Lux commercial. But it definitely was exciting for me because I love what I do.
How has life changed after Race's success?
It has changed big time. It has also become hectic. It is an amazing feeling. When you are struggling you always hope that something right happens. But when it does happen you don't realise it. Luckily, I am able to realise it and it feels great. When I see my parents watching me on stage I feel very happy. I like it when people like my performance.
What happened after Race?
Golmaal Returns. That again was a very Pussycat Dolls kind of song with Suzy Q. She has a very powerful voice and I had to really work hard to reach up to her level. I am basically a melody singer and the first impression I got from Race was a sensuous singer.
With Meow, that impression changed and then Khudaya Khair from Billu Barber happened, which again changed the impression. It was a very melodious song.
Now my upcoming song is from New York. It is a duet with KK.
Image: Monali Thakur
'I know how to maintain my voice'
How do you do your riyaz?
I did classical training from Pandit Jatin Prasad and Pandit Ajay Chakraborty and I know my technicality and flexibility. So I know how to maintain my voice. Apart from that I listen to various songs. I listen to Leona Lewis, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion.
Who are your favourite Indian singers?
Sunidhi Chauhan, Richa Sharma and Shreya Ghosal. Lataji [Mangeskar] and Ashaji [Bhosle] are the best. I also love KK, Sonu Nigam, Sukhwinder Singh and Shaan.
How are your parents reacting to your success and fame?
They are happy. But somehow they were confident that this was going to happen one day more than I was. My sister too is a singer. We all thought she would make it big in Bollywood. I was jealous of her. She is one of the best singers I have ever heard. She feels like she is realising her dream through me. She is happily married now and sings for herself.
Where do you see yourself a few years down the line?
There are so many thoughts but I don't want to say anything now. I just hope to be where I see myself.
Image: Monali Thakur