You have heard her wonderful voice on some of the best tracks in the past year including: ‘Dus’ from Dus Kahinayaan, ‘Yeh Pyaar Hai’ and ‘Dhoka’ from Woodstock Villa, as well as the brilliant ‘Ganpat’ from Shootout at Lokhandwala. Since you may not know her name let us introduce you to Anchal Datta Bhatia – a singer with a unique voice that is making her mark in Bollywood. In this exclusive interview with BollySpice, Anchal talks all things raag.
How did you get your break into Bollywood?
I had been trying to meet all the music directors ever since 2004. But everyone I met would always say, “Hey you have a nice voice we shall definitely let you know”. But they never called me. It was only once I got married in Bangalore in 2005 and came back to Mumbai, I got back in touch with Mr. Sanjay Gupta of White Feather Films, whom I had known for very long. He told me he had a proposition for me and asked me to join his company as Executive Producer — Music, a post never given to anyone in Bollywood. That way I would get an opportunity to understand music better and also get a chance to meet the right music directors. That really interested me as I would be a part of music in a way which not many people get the opportunity. From there started my journey into Bollywood and the first song we were working on was for the film Woodstock Villa. Anu Malik was the music director and that’s when Mr. Gupta asked Anu Malik to hear my demo and everyone thought I would suit the song. I was on my way to sing my first ever Bollywood song and work on my first ever song as Executive Producer — Music.
You have sung a variety of songs in your young career including Tamil and Telugu songs, is there a difference in working in the South industry compared to the Hindi industry? Any difference in styles of music or composition that you noticed?
Yes, I have had the opportunity to sing in different languages. The only difference is the language I feel. The recording process is the same. The difference in styles is there as their compositions are much more melodic. Even after all these years of a lot of western influence in music, they have still retained the melody.
We always hear about actors working with senior actors and being in awe of them while doing so, you yourself have worked with a lot of established singers like KK and Sunidhi, how is it working with different singers? Do you think the interaction as singers is more limited to your own work and less dependence on the others?
Yes, I have worked with singers like KK, Sunidhi and Shaan. It is amazing being a part of a song with such talented musicians. There is always a lot to learn from you’re seniors and experienced people. I’ve learned a lot from each one of them. Yes, the interaction is less as singers as the recording procedures nowadays aren’t like the yester years when if it was a duet, the singers would sing at the same time. Nowadays, each singer comes at a particular time, finishes the song or the particular parts and leaves and then you get the other singer on.
We know there is always a ‘numbers game’ going on with film stars. Is it the same for singers? How competitive is the singing world?
Oh yes definitely it’s the same as film stars. There is a major numbers game here too. It’s highly competitive. No one is willing to let go of an opportunity of any song.
Who is your favourite singer currently and who is your favourite yesteryear’s singers?
Currently I have 2 favorites — KK and Sunidhi. These are singers who have a style of their own. KK’s voice is full of romance. Sunidhi is such a fantastic singer with a great voice and the most amazing expressions in her singing and the both of them are fantastic human beings. I think that is what makes them the brilliant singers that they are.
My most favorite yesteryear singers are Asha Bhonsle, RD Burman and Kishore Kumar.
As a music lover yourself what do you think of the quality of music that is out there today? Is there anything that you wish would change soon?
In terms of quality of music I think there is a lot of improvement in the programming of tracks, the recording technique, etc. The only place I feel I would like it to change is that somewhere down the line a lot of songs have lost the melody that we found earlier. A very small example is when someone is playing antakshari; everybody only remembers the old songs because they are still so fresh in our minds because of the powerful melodies of those songs. But even then, I think that is coming back now.
As a music producer for White Feather Films what do you look for when deciding what tracks will be part of the album?
As music producer of White Feather Films, when we work on a particular album, we see what songs are best suited with the theme of the film and the kind that it is. If it’s an out and out action film, then we look at songs which are fast paced and likewise. We also know our audiences well and know what they would like in our films thanks to Mr. Gupta who is known to have the best songs in every one of his films.
You have worked with the great legend RD Burman, an opportunity many would have given their left arm to get, how was the experience, how was it meeting the legend and working with him? What did you take away from the experience?
Yes, I have had the honor of singing and meeting the legend RD Burman. He was the most amazing man I have met, who not only was a great musician but an amazing person too. He always praised and encouraged me to do things I would be a little shy to do as I was much younger and to be on stage with him was the most exhilarating experience.
He taught me the most important thing in life which was — if music is what you want or anything else for that matter, don’t let anyone let you down and always believe in yourself. There will be a lot of people who will laugh at you but don’t let that stop you from doing what you’re doing if you know its right.
You have sung such a variety in styles, from shlokas to raps, do you think that is the example of a singers potential when they can succeed in a variety of arenas? And do you consciously try to sing such a variety? Which is your favourite style?
As a newcomer in the industry, I think I have been really lucky to sing different styles of songs as you can get typecast from your very first song. Yes, it is an example of a singer’s potential. I didn’t ever consciously try to sing this variety, I think I’ve been absolutely lucky that the people who made me sing these styles, believed I could do it. The Shloka that I sang in Dharm, I really didn’t think I could do, but my sister Bhavna Talwar who directed the film said this was meant for me and only I would do it. She believes in me and I’m glad I did it. I think I’ve yet to feel which my favourite style is as I have a long way to go from here to realize it. As of now, the more songs I get, I’m just going to give it my best and sing like the songs are my own.
Do you ever feel annoyed that as a playback singer you are never seen but only heard? Would you ever like to be in a movie yourself?
As a playback singer I’m not annoyed that I’m only heard as I have such wonderful and beautiful people dancing and singing in front of the camera to my voice. And what is the best part is that till date thanks to God, they have always said that my voice makes them groove more to the songs. My first song ‘Dus’ from Dus Kahaniyaan did feature me in the video of the song. As of now I’m not even thinking of being featured in movies. I need to make my mark as a singer/performer cause that I think is what I was born to do. I love the adrenalin rush when I’m on stage performing in front of people and I love seeing people dance to my songs at clubs, parties and films.
Many of the tracks you are heard on are out of the norm, are you drawn to songs like that? Your voice is is so different on each of the tracks. Is that organic when you first sing the song, is it the music that takes you to your tone?
Yes, my tracks are out of the norm. That I think is what was needed for the films I’ve sung for. Yes, thankfully my voice is different in all the tracks that I’ve sung… I think that’s what they say about being versatile. Yes, it’s always the music and also what the film/scene demands of the song to portray. But mostly, the tone I have is my own and I don’t make it sound like a particular one.
What type of music do you listen to when you are not singing?
I listen to old Bollywood songs, new Bollywood, I listen to pop, rock, Sufi, ghazals, and also Tamil songs which I don’t understand but hey! Music has no language right? Jazz and world music is what I’ve just started listening to.
Tell us about your rock band Tungsten. I read you have an album coming out. When can we expect it and what sort of songs will we experience listening to the tracks?
The band Tungsten was a 2 piece band with me as the lead vocalist. It was an amazing journey as I didn’t think I could sing/perform rock. It opened my avenue as a singer and also helped my versatility. Yes, we have an album recorded and ready to be released but I really don’t know when that would happen. This album has everything from a soft rock number to the hard hitting guitar pieces, the works. I hope it comes out soon.
What is your favorite thing about singing? What does it mean to you?
My most favourite thing about singing is that it makes me feel all the emotions a person can possibly feel — love, romance, lust, loss, etc. It means the world to me. Music to me is life. Singing brings me up and makes me touch whatever it is I want. As a singer I think I am touching so many lives in so many different ways and hope that I can keep doing that. It makes me one with the universe. I feel so close to God and know that he is showering me with his blessing every morning when I do riyaaz, and every minute of my life.
Have you done any composing yourself?
No unfortunately, I haven’t done any composing myself as I don’t know how to play any instrument. But now I’m working on starting some guitar/piano lessons and hopefully someday or rather ONEDAY, I will compose my own song.
What to you is the perfect song?
There is no such thing as a perfect song. Everyone in its own way is a perfect song. Every composer, programmer, musician, singer, engineer works really hard to make a song a perfect song. So it wouldn’t be nice to disregard anyone and point out what is a perfect song. It’s everyone’s hard work that comes out in the song. But simply put, a perfect song would be a great team put together to make a song a hit with the right balance of everyone’s effort.
If your singing career didn’t work out, what else did you plan on pursuing?
My parents and RD Burman (who knew my parents very well) always told me that I was meant to sing. So much so that when my sister and I were in school, our parents would make us stand on the dining table and make it our stage and pose as our audience and make us sing. They are the ones who made us loose stage fright. I think if it wasn’t singing I would definitely have been a part of music in one way or another.
Of the songs you have sung, which has been your personal favourite and will always remain special?
Of all the songs I’ve sung, the slow song in Woodstock Villa, ‘Yeh Pyaar Hai’ that Shaan and I have sung is my favourite. It is special to me as when I heard the song, I fell in love with it instantly and just wanted to be part of the song. But it was supposed to be a male solo. But while Shaan was singing it, Anu Malik thought that would make a nicer ballad if a female voice would be added and as luck could have it, and with the grace of God, I was there and Anu Malik and Mr. Gupta thought I would be a good choice and I got to sing the song that I absolutely loved.
Thank you so much Anchal for taking the time and for your wonderful answers. You said that you were born to sing and we could not agree more. We have loved you on all the tracks you have sung so far and can’t wait to hear your lovely voice on many more! We wish you the best of luck now and always.
Anchal will next be heard on the soundtrack for the upcoming film Acid Factory. Dia Mizra recently performed to Anchal’s track ‘Jab Andhera Hota Hai’ from the film at the IIFA Awards.
We have many more exciting interviews like this one lined up so be sure to check back here at BollySpice everyday!