Sophie Choudry may not have a huge box office hit behind her name nor is she re-occurring on the big screen all that often but regardless she is a household name! Having travelled across the seven seas to pursue her career in India, Sophie has definitely seen every corner of the entertainment industry in a short span of time. When her albums released there was nothing else to be found on both the TV and radio channels. It was as if the world was being taken over by the magic of her endearing voice and her hatke style. Today the woman who wooed India and Indian music lovers across the globe speaks exclusively to Bollyspice revealing all that went on behind the scenes in the creation of the Sophie Choudry we know and love today!
Music has been a part of your life since your childhood however was there a particular moment in which you decided that music is what you wanted your profession to be?
I always dreamt of being a singer. In fact when I was 2days old, my grandma had a dream in which she saw my face on record covers. The next day she told my mum that I would become a singer. Who would have thought? I never really planned my career. The path just unfolded before my very eyes and I was brave enough to take risks. My girl-band Sansara started when I was still studying, we split up and even though I have no family in Mumbai, my mum and I decided to move over for a year to see what would happen. It wasn’t easy but God has been really really kind. All I knew was that I was a straight “A” student and I would finish my education before embarking I’m so fortunate to be living out my dream.
Born and brought up in UK, how much exposure did you have to life in India and how was the move to India and more importantly Mumbai?
I was always a filmi-desi kid. I used to make my mum buy all the Bollywood movies which would release in England. The guys at the video store loved me because at that time one VHS used to cost 30pounds and I used to nag my mum to buy several at a time from the age of 4-5!! I used to pretend to be Neelam at that age and make my best friend, also a girl, dress up like Govinda! (Laughs) It’s so funny that they all know me now. I have worked with Govinda and Neelam is such a lovely girl and made me feel so welcome when I moved here. Growing up we had a house in Delhi and because of my mum’s business I even spent time in Kolkata, so I was very comfortable being in India. Nonetheless Mumbai is a whole different ballgame. It’s a different country altogether. The energy, the fast pace, the dirt, the overcrowding. It’s all unique. From a 5-bed house in Hampstead with a garden, dogs to a 2-bed flat in Juhu, the initial transition was tough and I couldn’t have done it without my mum’s support! She is superwoman and supermom all rolled into one! Today we have our own beautiful apartment in Bandra and it feels like such an achievement. Mumbai is a tough city. So many people come here to fulfill their dreams, but it’s also a city which gives you an opportunity to fulfill those dreams if you are willing to work incredibly hard and be patient! Today when I go back to London I feel like a tourist and within a week I’m dying to get back to Mumbai. It’s addictive and exciting. It’s not perfect but its home!
Your exposure in the musical arena in India has been predominantly for pop music and not Bollywood soundtracks i.e. playback singing, so was this a conscious decision that you made?
Yes it was. I loved the whole Nazia Hassan, Alisha Chinnai, Shweta Shetty and I’m so fortunate that I was launched by a man we all call ‘the daddy king of pop’, Biddu. He actually launched the careers of all the ladies I have mentioned and all of them were predominantly pop, hence that automatically influenced my thought process as well. Every artist should know their strength and their weakness. I’m an out and out performer and my voice was never classically trained for playback. I wanted to create my own audience. The thought of someone else’s face on my voice always felt strange to me, so I never pursued playback. In Pyar Ke Side Effects I sang for myself. Today things have changed and ‘different’ voices are being appreciated. Perhaps that’s why I also rendered my voice for playback for the first time a month ago. But my new album is ready for release and that’s what I’m most excited about!
Do you feel pop music is given its due recognition in India despite the fact that a large portion of the music industry is dedicated to film soundtracks?
In the late 80s and 90s pop was huge in India. Made in India by Alisha Chinnai is one of the highest selling pop albums of all time. It outsold many film albums. Today however the non-film market is virtually dead because film music has changed. Today most film songs sound like pop songs be it songs from Dus, Bluffmaster, Rock On and many many more. The average person will definitely connect more to a song which has SRK or Abhishek lip-synching than an unknown singer. Nonetheless, I am an eternal optimist and I truly believe that its all about the music and good music will always work; film or non-film.
Who are some of today’s contemporary singers that you admire?
I’m a huge Sonu Nigam fan. The quality of his voice is outstanding. Similarly I love Shaan. He is such a sweetheart and that reflects in his songs. I love the feel he puts into his songs. Amongst the girls Sunidhi is great at what she does and I love Shreya’s voice because it is the total opposite to mine!!
Any composers you aspire to work within your career?
Every artist dreams of working with the great A.R Rahman because he is such a genius and takes your talent to another level. I also love Vishal Bhardwaj and I think it would be an absolute blast to work with Vishal-Shekhar. They really understand the pulse of the youngsters and their songs sound fresh. Pritam is also fantastic. I worked with him in Pyaar Ke Side Effects.
You’ve recreated the magic of many classics in your various albums, did you ever feel that because you were working with already loved and adored tracks by millions and that recreating them was quite a responsibility?
Yes, most definitely. During the remix boom non-singers were coming out with albums because it was a quick ladder to success. Some of those videos were simply disgusting and cheap. It took me months and months to make a list of songs I wanted on my album. I listened to hundreds of songs and Harry Anand and I were sure that the quality of the song had to be brilliant. Ek Pardesi and Jadugar Saiyyan worked like magic. Rahul Sood came up with a sexy but cute videos and T-series did great marketing. Everyone young or old in all parts of the world loved my versions. It went number one everywhere and I still do shows thanks to those songs. That’s a huge compliment.
As well as singing you’ve been trained in classical Indian dancing, at what age did dancing become a part of your career and do you enjoy it as much as singing?
Dancing was just a huge passion and I love learning new things hence in London I learnt Bharatnatyam for four years and in Mumbai Kathak for two years. For the past one year I have been dedicated to salsa and even performed in an international festival. I love dancing. For me singing and dancing go hand and hand.
Moving onto to your career on television how and when did you receive your first offer for a television show?
Television was never part of my plan. I became a VJ for ZEE U.K when I was still studying and my show about Bollywood music and gossip went on to become hugely popular! It was crazy. At the age of 18-19 I was chief guest for functions in Europe. Then when I moved to Mumbai I realized that I needed to make a mark quickly. MTV offered me the opportunity and I grabbed it because overnight 23 million homes knew who I was. That was a wonderful platform.
Was facing the camera something you had wanted to do over the years or merely a work of fate?
I had always wanted to act. VJ-ing was never something I had thought of but clearly God had other plans. I love the camera. I’m very comfortable facing it in whichever medium; singing, acting or vj-ing.
You chose to debut on the big screen in a multi starrer rather than in a solo film, a common opinion people may have is that this would limit recognition, were you worried about this at all?
When David Dhawan calls you and says he wants to launch you in a film produced by Vashu Bhagnani and that you will feature in a song with Sanjay Dutt and star opposite Zayed Khan straight after Main Hoon Na you don’t think! You just go for it. I loved Davidji’s movies growing up. Karisma Kapoor was my favorite and sitting in London I used to dream of doing these things. In my first film I got to shoot songs in Amalfi, Capri, Lyon and Mumbai. It was a brilliant experience. I believe that you should work hard and with sincerity and leave the rest to God. The more plans you try and make the more they go for a toss! At the end of the day I am not a star daughter, I do not have a Godfather and I am not willing to take any shortcuts to fame. Shaadi No.1 is something I will never regret!
How was the experience of working on a multi-starrer such as Shaadi No 1 which had a host of stars such as Zayed, Fardeen, Sharman Joshi, Sanjay Dutt, Esha Deol, Ayesha Takia and Soha Ali Khan?
Zayed, Fardeen and I had been friends long before. I adore them and their family. I was the first person to interview Fardeen internationally at the time of Prem Aggan. We became friends then. Both he and Zayed were thrilled that I was cast in the film and they were a joy to work with. We had a blast. Esha, Soha and Ayesha are also lovely. Even today when Zayed and I get together we have so many stories to share about the shoot of this film and we still laugh so much! The best was that I speak Italian so when we were in Naples, the boys used to make me go everywhere with them for shopping be it wine, shaving foam, anything! During the day we would bring Naples to a standstill by doing jhatkas and matkas all over the city and in the evenings we would hit the shops! Within 2days the whole of Naples knew about the Indian Sophia who is like Sophia Loren. They knew where I was staying so the shopping would just be delivered to ‘la Sophia Indiana’!
David Dhawan of course is one of the most re-knowned makers of the industry, how was the experience of working with the comedy king? Was life off screen as much of a laughter riot as it is onscreen for us audiences?
David sir is just too cute! Anyone who has worked with him will have a thousand off screen stories to share. He is a riot. He loves his work and is like a little kid when he is working. He will love you like family but if he blows his fuse, you have had it! Then 2minutes later it’s as if nothing ever happened.
Tell us a bit about the concept of Sanjay Gupta’s Alibaug; and more importantly your role in the film?
It’s a truly beautiful film and unlike anything that Sanjay Gupta has ever directed. He is known for action, sexy songs, and style. But Alibaug is a human drama with comedy, romance and realism. It’s a beautiful story and will strike a chord with anyone who values friendships. I play a practicing psychiatrist. The college sweetheart who marries her boyfriend and is set to lead the perfect life but the exact opposite happens. Nisha is a wonderful character and my most fantastic role to date. The entire cast is brilliant, the music is outstanding. It’s a very special film and I look so different, so real. I think everyone will love the film and me in it!
You’ve had quite an exciting career path, singing, and television and now films. Currently does either one take priority of another. In other words what are you concentrating on at present?
I’m a complete multi-taker so although I have reduced my television work dramatically I am still singing and acting and in fact last week made my theatrical debut in a wonderful play by Anuvab Pal called “1888 dial India” . I’m an artist and do not like limiting myself, I want to constantly learn, explore and push myself. Theatre is a completely different high and I have learnt so much. I play 5 different characters ranging from a suicidal 13-year old to a nun. It’s exciting. I just work with my heart and my instinct and go with whatever feels right.
Which other films are in the pipeline for your fans to look forward to?
My next release will be a fantastic comedy by Inder Kumar called Daddy Cool. It really is a laugh riot and set for release in August. The music is brilliant. We actually got the rights to do the Boney M song ‘Daddy Cool’!! That was awesome. I play a very cute and sexy struggling model who lands up at a funeral by mistake and chaos ensues! The cast includes Suniel Shetty, Aftab, Aashish Choudhary, Javed Jaffery, Tulip and Kim. It’s such a funny and fun film.
There is also a really sweet film produced by Bobby Bedi in which I have done some great scenes and a fab song. My reason for doing it. A great script but more importantly Rishi Kapoor. I adore him and just wanted to stand in the same frame as him!!
And last but not least my original album which I have produced. I have worked with the superb Rishi Rich, Bappa Lahiri, Biddu and Gaurav Das Gupta of Aa Dekhen Zara fame. I’m sure you guys will love the album. No remixes. All originals.
Lastly, any message to all the fans reading this today?
Well just a huge thank you for all your love and constant support. We are nothing without you guys so please keep supporting me and my work and just remember one thing “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams!”
Well, with talent like hers and the never ending will to take up more and more challenges we’re definitely sure that she’ll not be forgotten anytime soon nor will her never ending list of fans ever shorten. So Sophie fear not as your fans we’ll always be here with all their support and love as you take each step in an even more rocking future ahead. Here’s to more rocking tracks, plays, movies and whatever else this girl full of surprises throws our way!