Please tell us about yourself
Singer-composer Vijayaa Shanker, who makes her Bollywood debut with upcoming film ‘Baankey Ki Crazy Baraat’ is a versatile singer and linguist. The singer has previously collaborated with artists from Denmark, UK and US for psychedelic trance and fusion. She has also worked with Louis Banks on the 2010 version of ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara’. Apart from being a full-time singer-composer Shanker is also a social worker, and is associated with NGOs that work closely with underprivileged and physically challenged children; and the empowerment of women.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?
I belong to a South Indian family where learning singing is a part of the culture. So, I grew up learning carnatic music. My love for music grew with age and I started participating, and wining music competitions in school and college. I was also the lead singer of my college theatre group. In fact, as a kid I used to musically direct plays on play dates with my friends. I used to use the vessels in the house to create sound.
Creating sounds is a part of composition. Was there always a composer in you?
I did not think that I would have a long journey in singing or a chance at composing. But my thirst for more, on the music front, grew with each passing day. Thus, from classical music I got into learning Hindustani music. And then when I moved to Mumbai with my husband, I decided to learn opera. So, I trained under an opera teacher in the city. It helped me understand the western voice culture.
Did you try your luck in films in Mumbai?
I actually started with an animation series with kids. The educative series was my first professional assignment as a writer/singer/ composer. ‘Oh God Ganesh –I / II’ were my next projects. I even did voiceovers for a couple of animated characters- Mushak and Ved Vyas. After these I started working on an album for my bother. He wanted me to make a ‘Shiv Shloka’ album to distribute amongst our relatives. Luckily that turned out to be really good, and my brother pushed me to take it to Times Music. Times liked the concept and put it on their catalogue. ‘Mukti Mantra’ was my next album for them. I did not want to limit the sounds of my albums to carnatic or hind music, but I wanted it to be a global sound. So, I usually compose my albums that way.
Was your association with Times Music only limited to religious albums?
Not really. I have done remixes for Times with DJ Suketu; the album was called ‘440 Volts’. That album did really well for me especially the ‘Tumse Milke’ number.
You have also sung a lot of jingles.
Yes, I have. In fact, my journey started with Vicco Turmeric. I have sung jingles for a lot of products like Maggi, Maaza, Dalda and Amway, among many others.
What about films?
I have done a lot of playback singing in the South. I worked on a Kannada film as a composer, and have sung songs with well-known Bollywood voices like Leslie Lewis, Shankar Mahadevan, Kamal Haasan, Hariharan, Benny Dayal, Kailash Kher and Udit Narayan there. I have also sung with Shaan in Bangla. But, I have not done much work in Bollywood.
How did ‘Baankey Ki Crazy Baraat’ happen?
When I met Aijaz Khan (director), he was a bit skeptical about having me as a music composer for ‘Baankey Ki Crazy Baraat’. That was because I had done jingles, classical and animated series, but had never composed anything for Bollywood. So, the team at ‘Baankey Ki Crazy Baraat’ asked me to make a presentation of two songs, and they liked it so much that they asked me to compose the entire film.
Tell us a bit about the songs in the film.
They wanted a song on the lines of ‘London Thumakda’ and that is how ‘Baby Modern Modern’ was created. The song is sung by Sonu Nigam and Shivranjani Singh. It was quite an experience working with someone as legendary as Sonu. Then we have the title track ‘Crazy Baraat’ and ‘Daat Saiyaan Ne’. Initially, we were to rope in Rekha Bharadwaj or Sunidhi Chauhan to sing the title track; but that did not work out because of date issues. Thus, I ended up singing both these songs.
We also have a sufi and a romantic number. Abhishek Nailwal who recently sang ‘Hogi Kranti’ for ‘Bangistan’ sang the romantic number ‘Yeh Kya Hua Hai’. He also sang the sufi song ‘Dum Ali’ with Sabri Brothers.
Are you expecting more Bollywood projects to come your way post ‘Baankey Ki Crazy Baraat’?
I feel that arts and commerce should go together in any company. Unfortunately, in Bollywood only the faces matter. However, if the art is good, artists should come up. Moreover, music composition in India is a man’s world so; getting more projects would be encouraging.
How difficult is it for a newcomer to get into the music industry?
I remember I had released a pop album with Leslie Lewis – ‘Teri Meri Raah’. Around that time physical CDs were not in vogue, and marketing the song became really tough. You had to spend on the product, marketing and then the PR. So, in today’s world survival is becoming really difficult. There are so many people from different fields, who quit their jobs to come into this profession, but they only realise later how difficult it can be.
Do you have a list of composers that you would like to work with?
As a singer it has been my dream to sing for A.R. Rahman, Shankar Mahadevan, Vishal-Shekhar, Amit Trivedi, Mithoon, Sachin-Jigar and IIayaraaja.