Interview: Suriname To Mumbai To Bollywood, Madhushree Bhattacharya Shares Her Story

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She has lent her voice to some of the most memorable songs composed by AR Rahman, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and MM Kreem. Does “Kabhi Neem Neem” ring a bell? Yes, I am talking about Madhushree, whose voice is as sweet as her name. Recently she won a LIONS Award and Darbhanga International Film Festival 2014 Award and has also performed at several recent award ceremonies including the Doordarshan Awards 2014 and Exceptional Women Achiever (EWA) Awards 2014. Let’s have a look at this talented vocalist’s journey.

Madhushree started her career as a vocal teacher and performer for the Indian Centre for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and spent several years in Suriname. “Since my students were keen to learn film music, I had to teach them that. But to teach the songs, I had to learn them by myself first,” said Madhushree. “My students started calling me Lata Mangeshkar. And, it was there in Suriname where people first recognized me on streets and asked for my autograph.”

Things were very different when she moved to Mumbai though to chase those Bollywood dreams. “Once I was in here in Mumbai, things were totally different,” she said. “I had to start form the ground up. Every music director gave me time, but why should they give me a ‘chance’ to sing for them? It was frustrating and depressing.”

But, she did not give up. Instead, she created an album in 1999 and sent copies to people from the music scene. But, the response was nill until the day when she received a returned copy of her CD from none other than Javed Akhtar. When she contacted him to find out why he returned her CD the answer was rather candid, “First of all I do not know you, second I don’t have time and third, I am not a music director, so why should I waste your copy?”

“It was clear and so clear that I knew this is the man who can help me,” said Madhushree. “After pressuring him to give me time, and after listening to the album he recommended me to Rajesh Roshan Saheb who gave me the first break, ‘Mohabbat Zindagi Hai,’ in the movie of late Ashok Mehta Saheb and debut film of Arjun Rampal.” And, from there things kept looking up for her, especially when she began working with AR Rahman, on a regular basis.

Madhushree and A R RahmanShe and her husband both pointed out that she is one of the few singers who is touted as being an AR Rahman voice. In fact, she changed her name to Madhushree as per Rahman’s advice—her given name was Sujata. “Kabhi Neem Neem,” “Tu Bin Bataaye,” “Pal Pal Hai Bhaari,” “Hum Hai Iss Pal Yahaan,” “In Lamhon Ke Daaman Mein,” “Baazi Lagaa,” “Yaar Mila Tha Saiyaan,” “Sharminda Hoon” and “Aye Sakhi” are just some of the songs she has recorded for him.

She has also received her biggest criticism and compliments from him. “When I was recording for A R Rahman at his studio in Chennai, he told me to sing in my original voice, because only then will I make a difference,” she recalls. “And, one day I got a call. Rahman was watching old Bollywood movies sitting in LA and listening to Lataji, he remembered me. That was the biggest compliment I have ever receieved.”

Work is looking up for her with regular concerts, world tours, award functions being a part of her career graph in the past few years. Some of her favorite shows include SaReGaMaPa on ZEE TV and her performances at O2 and Wembley in London. But, how has Mumbai been treating her overall, we wonder, hearing from a lot of other artists that it is difficult to make true friends in the industry.

It is a pity that people connect only professionally—that is why friendship cannot develop,” Madhushree says. “\Friendship means caring for each other, but one finds jealousy and insecurity more than concern in the industry today. How can we become friends?”

Having spent four years in Latin America, she’s excited that salsa, merengue, bolero and jazz are picking up in Mumbai, too, and she has also recently formed a band, as well.  Besides her recent track “Anari Lover” for Ebn-E-Batuta, she has a few more songs coming up, including a romantic track in Welcome Back, two songs in Sauten 2, an item duet with Rekha Bhardwaj in Dussehra and an item song in Dirty Politics.

“Mumbai means professionalism—it’s a city with great opportunities…people are here to make something of their life, and you can turn your dreams into reality here,” she points out. “No matter how much time it takes for you to stick it out, I believe positive things will happen. Things are always changing and that is good for everyone. There are no rules, no fixed buttons, no orders as abroad, maybe that’s why I like it here.”

Well, we’re happy Madhushree has found her home in Mumbai and the hearts of audiences everywhere. Tell us how you liked the interview below!

Post By Amanda Sodhi (10 Posts)

Born and brought up in Washington, DC, Amanda Sodhi moved to Mumbai from Los Angeles to pursue her passion for music and now fronts a pop-rock band called The Chudail & Demons. She is a vocalist-lyricist, VO artist, journalist, award-winning screenwriter & filmmaker and also runs a social media & online PR firm called Artist Handle.

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Amanda Sodhi

Amanda Sodhi
Born and brought up in Washington, DC, Amanda Sodhi moved to Mumbai from Los Angeles to pursue her passion for music and now fronts a pop-rock band called The Chudail & Demons. She is a vocalist-lyricist, VO artist, journalist, award-winning screenwriter & filmmaker and also runs a social media & online PR firm called Artist Handle.