Shalmali Kholgade is an Indian playback singer who has established herself as one of the most sought-after singers especially in Bollywood industry. Apart from singing in Hindi films, Kholgade has sung in many regional languages like Marathi, Telugu, Bengali and Punjabi films. She was also given the Filmfare award in 2012 for Best Female Playback Singer.

Q. When did you decide to be a singer?

A. When I was in college, I had a life changing experience that convinced me that music was what I wanted to pursue. It was the final round of Western solo singing at Malhar, an inter-collegiate festival hosted by St Xavier’s College Mumbai. As I sang “Desperado” by the Eagles, with just a guitar accompaniment, I held the last note of the song till I ran out of breath. I felt like I wanted to hold on to that moment as long as I could, because I knew it wouldn’t come again for a long time. But that is the reason why I am pursuing music today. I wait for that moment where there’s complete harmony of voice, accompaniment and calm. It is indescribable.

Q. Your mother is also an Indian classical singer. How has it impacted your career?

A. Actually, my mother knew nothing of the industry so I can’t say it helped in that respect. It did help to have Indian classical music around at home. But my entry into Bollywood was more of a freak accident.

My mother taught Indian Indian classical music at home. She is the reason why I sing at all. Till my mother was eight months’ pregnant with me she went for her music lessons to her teacher, Shruti Sadolikar. She believes that it affected my musical leaning in some way. My mother made it compulsory for me to sit for music classes twice a week for an hour each, and though I reluctantly sat for it, I owe so much to those classes.

I am so grateful to have parents who are so incredibly talented, supportive and encouraging. There’s no way I would’ve been here today if it weren’t for my parents.

Q. Who are your favourite composers? With whom would you like to work in future?

A. I love working with Amit Trivedi, Pritam, Sachin Jigar and Vishal Shekhar. They are all super fun and incredibly musical people to spend time with. But  would love to work with everyone’s favorite, the maestro A.R. Rahman.

Q. Nowadays, several actors have tried their hand at singing. What is your take on this?

A. We have had actors singing in films even earlier. We never questioned it then, we shouldn’t now. If there’s an actor who wishes to sing in the film he/she is acting in, that’s great. Singers do get most of their recognition from film music, but that’s not where it ends. We have an entire independent musical career we can build outside of the film world. Everyone should be free to do what one pleases. It’s perfectly alright for people to do what they enjoy doing. It’s not a competition. If an actor wants to try his or her hand at singing they should definitely do it. In fact, that’s what the West still believes that the actor on screen is singing all the songs that they’re enacting.

“The biggest challenge is not to be perturbed by what others call competition from contemporaries. There has been, is and always will be competition. But do not let it waver you from your goals and aspirations is a challenge at times.”

Q. Your song “Pareshan” from Ishaqzaade made you get a Filmfare award in 2012 at the very start of your career. How have these awards and accolades helped you establish yourself as a singer?

A. Winning the Filmfare award and the shower of wishes and expectations that followed have changed quite a lot in my life suddenly. From wanting to pursue music, to singing Pareshaan, to becoming a playback singer, to winning a Filmfare Award has all happened in quick succession. I feel more responsible and I want to live up to the expectations of people and moreover the expectations I have from myself.

I am doing a lot of shows, especially so in colleges all over India and that is something I am enjoying a lot. The youth is so full of life and love that it is always a pleasure singing to them.

Q. What is your take on singing reality shows? Do you think such platforms actually help in building one’s career as a playback singer?

A. If one sees music as their career, every little musical experience, whether it is as huge as appearing on television on a reality show or singing at a restaurant, holds equal value. I believe that treating every experience as gold bears fruit in the future. I wouldn’t say reality shows are the only way to build a career in music. I have a career in music today and it didn’t stem from a reality show. Having said that, the experience and seasoning one gets in a reality show is immense.

Q. How to survive and flourish in Bollywood?

A. The biggest challenge is not to be perturbed by what others call competition from contemporaries. There has been, is and always will be competition. But not to let it waver you from your goals and aspirations is a challenge at times. The addiction of being on top of one’s game and then staying there is one that takes a toll on oneself over a period of time.

Q. You are also into regional songs. Tell us about your experience and how different it is from singing a Bollywood song.

A. I love singing in regional languages. I’ve sung in Bengali, Telugu, Tamil, Marathi, Kannada and Punjabi so far. I enjoy learning the different sounds, inflections, intonations of each language and their consequences. It’s not always that you can understand the true meaning of what you are singing, as a direct translation doesn’t bring out the beauty in the language as far as metaphors are concerned. But it is interesting to understand the thought and try and pour those sentiments into a song. As far as singing is concerned, I wouldn’t say it is very different from singing in Bollywood. Only perhaps what the different regional music industries prefer in terms of tone or style of singing might differ. Like the southerners like the high husky tone and most songs would be in that space.

Q.  You will be seen on a new show, Angels of Rock on MTV. What is the show about and share your experience working with other singers?

A. Angels of Rock is going to be a beautiful journey of four musicians including myself, who travel on motorcycles through the country making stops at various villages and cities to tell stories of women who have made a mark in their respective fields. Each of the 10 episodes of this show will culminate with a song each, composed by one of the four musicians, taking inspiration from the
story that the episode comprised of.

Anusha was an acquaintance before this show, but I met Akasa and Jasmine thanks to the show. I think I’ve found wonderful friends in them. Creatively we come from different backgrounds but having said that we really held each other’s hands through it all and also let each have their creative space. Every song was led by one of us, so the other three just helped put it together.


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