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Success on the musical path

Sadhana Sargam is the singer in the news on account of her National and Screen Awards. This talented artiste, who has been in the industry for a decade, is rendering songs in other languages as well.



SONOROUS JOURNEY: Sadhana Sargam. — Photo: P.V. Sivakumar

RECOGNITION IN the form of awards finally touched base with Sadhana Sargam although she has been around as a playback singer for some years. She won the National Award for the best singer for the Tamil song Padacholli padacholli in Azhagi (may seem rather surprising as she is from Mumbai) and the Screen Award for the best singer for Chupke Se from Saathiya (incidentally she rendered the same song in the Tamil original Snehithane... and later dubbed in Telugu as Snehithuda...). Although the awards are perhaps a trifle late, Sadhana is nevertheless happy.'' I am happy to be recognised by the industry. Though Tamil is not my language, I am thrilled to get the National Award. I must give credit to Ilayaraja for making me sing the song,'' she says when she visited the city for A.R. Rahman's Unity of Light concert.

Today Sadhana is a familiar name in the playback industry not just in Bollywood but in the Tamil and Telugu industry as well. Add to that a host of other languages like Bengali, Oriya, Nepali, Assamese, Gujarati and Marathi. It is not surprising considering the fact that the trend today is to have singers of the North and West singing in South Indian and East Indian films. "It is a great experience to sing in so many languages. Of course I write the song in Hindi and the music director and others help me with the pronunciation. I am well versed with Marathi as it is my mother tongue and Gujarati having lived in Mumbai. I can understand most of Bengali but still find it difficult to learn the Southern languages. But I think I can kind of recognise the difference between Tamil and Telugu today,'' she says with a smiling face. "Everybody is professional and it is the same recording in Mumbai or Chennai.''

One is struck by her new makeover - gone are the long tresses and the plaits she used to sport. She is looking slimmer too. What one sees instead is shoulder length permed hair left open. Was the change of image necessary to be in tune with today? "Yes. Today I feel better with this new look, more confident. Also it is easier to maintain permed hair.''

Rewinding about her earlier years Sadhana refers to her training in classical music initially from her mother and later from Pandit Jasraj for seven years. She pays enormous credit to her mother who unfortunately died two years ago. "I am in music because of her. She gave me the first lessons in music. I remembered her and missed her terribly on the day I received my first National Award. My father was present on the occasion.'' Sadhana strongly advocates singers to have a background of classical music (are wannabe singers listening?). "This provides the base - one's sur and taal become strong and it helps you pick up confidence.'' But she shifted her focus to playback singing. "Marathi is my mother tongue and I had to learn Urdu from Sayed Ahmed Sayed. I used to sing classical in low pitch then I had to practise in higher pitch for films.'' She is not learning classical music as it is difficult to handle both film and classical now.

Singing in Bollywood was by sheer coincidence. "Anil Mohile took me to Kalyanjibhai once. Since Kishore Kumar who was to record came late Kalyanjibhai listened to me and realised the potential. He taught me some techniques and I improved my pronunciation.'' Interestingly it was Kalyanjibhai who added Sargam to Sadhana's name. "My surname is Ghanekar but Kalyanjibhai said that my second name (since Sadhana is connected to music) should be something connected with music. Sadhana Sargam sounds better and so he gave me that name and then I started using it.''

She arrived in Bollywood when there were other singers in the fray as well. But she maintained her niche. Songs followed from Pehla nasha, pehla ghooma (Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander) to numerous ones in Hindi and other languages. Constant trips between Mumbai and Chennai are part of Sadhana's life today.

Today the techniques of recording have changed. "The system is different. Sometimes the voice is dubbed and the music is added later on. Rahman is adept at doing this.'' Has the voice taken a backseat to orchestration? "To a certain extent it has to flow with the current trend. Previously one could notice the total energy of the singer in the song. The voice was important. Today orchestration is equally important and therefore the rhythm and sound has to be catchy. We try to impart full emotions but it is not as it is before,'' she replies.

Sadhana has experimented with some private albums as well. Vaada, composed by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan where she sung with Roop Kumar Rathod was one. Two years ago she sang some romantic numbers for a private album Oh my Love.

She hopes to do some albums in future. "This is an era of remix and fusion. I want to put in some classical and folk music which will be enjoyed by the connoisseurs, classicists and the masses.''

Her forthcoming assignments include Bollywood films like Lakshya, Kuch na kaho, Mere Jeevan Saathi and she has sung two Telugu songs in Mohan Babu's film (she does not remember the name).

How does she maintain her voice? "I eat bhajiyas (love them) and ice cream. I hated doing riyaaz as a child but over the years I understood its importance and now I make it a point to do riyaaz at least for an hour.''

On seeing Sadhana wearing a locket of a guru one was tempted to ask her about him. "He is Sant Prabhu Mastramji. He has given me valuable advice and guidance even on singing as well. I have full faith in him and I recite his mantra Om Prabhu Shanti and do havan as well.''

Sadhana has been in the industry for more than a decade. "It feels good and I am sustaining by the grace of god as this is a field where one comes into the limelight fast and fades away fast,'' she says in all humility. And one walks off with pleasant memories of this comely and talented woman.

RADHIKA RAJAMANI

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