SONGSTER Popular Bollywood singer Mahalakshmi Iyer loves to experiment and this is reflected in the versatility of her work. RIA SHAH
With her strong musical background, Mahalakshmi Iyer has gone places. She has sung for well known music composers like A.R. Rahman, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Jatin-Lalit. Her voice was one of those in the award-winning number Jai Ho from “Slumdog Millionaire”. Her latest hit number was Mauka from “Aarakshan” starring Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone. NXg catches up with her to take you through her journey…
At what age did you start singing?
I started learning Hindustani classical music when I was just 10 years old.
Did having a musical family make it any easier for you?
I am the youngest of four daughters all of whom sing. My mother Vijaya was trained in Carnatic music. The whole house was full of music, so many genres… I guess it was easier for me to pick up the nuances faster.
You started your career with a composer like A. R. Rahman? You sang for Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy for their first film composition?
My first song was for Mukul Anand’s “Dus”. Unfortunately after his death the film was never released but, since the entire soundtrack was ready, it was later released as a tribute to him. This song went on to be very popular. My first song with Rahman was from “Dil Se”, the beautiful Ae Ajnabi.
Is it just your voice or the working relationship that Rehman and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy have you sing their songs so often?
Rahman loves to experiment. With Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy it is a longer association, as I was already working on a lot of advertising campaigns. So they knew my voice and style. My work has really evolved under their baton.
How has your musical journey been so far?
I have been working with so many musicians, directors, banners, singers… I have learnt a lot but am far from content. I still have a lot more to learn; a long way to go…
Anyone you would like to add to your work list in the future?
Vishal Bhardwaj and some of the newer composers like Amit Trivedi.
Is there any particular genre you love to sing?
My voice and style suits ballads, romantic and soulful songs. But I have also sung a lot of peppy, fast-paced songs and the item ones too.
How important is an independent music album parallel with film albums?
I think it is really imperative that we have an alternate music industry. Non-film albums explore a wide variety of content, styles and genres that are yet not part of mainstream music. Plus, an album is an artist’s self expression. That cannot happen in film music because it’s structured, script-bound; though I must acknowledge some new films have explored different content, which is why film music has undergone a huge change in the past few years.
How important are awards compared to recognition?
Both are important. I would pick recognition over awards. Having said that, an award does recognise one’s contribution.
Your favourite Bollywood singers?
Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar.
An interesting song in “Aarakshan”; almost like an item song! I had super fun doing it. Then there is a song in “Force Chittagong”.
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