Yes, Vasundhara Das is certainly getting her name up there in capital letters. With five super hit film songs, some great performances, a music band that is touring the world and has recently performed in Atlanta, this light eyed Indian beauty is building up quite an astounding amount of professional strength.
BY SWATI BAJPAI
Her petite frame, grey-green eyes and peaches and cream complexion got her cast as innocent Mythili in Hey Ram by Kamal Hassan and Aditi in Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding. Hey Ram was critically acclaimed and her presence was noticed. Monsoon Wedding was nominated for the Oscars. Vasundhara Das had arrived as an actress. But few know that the original voice behind `Shakalaka Baby' getting rave reviews in Bombay Dreams was hers. Fewer still know that most of the songs that have risen to the top of the charts in recent times??Ori Chhori' in Lagaan, ?Rabba Rabba' in Aks, ?It's the time to Disco' in Kal Ho Na Ho have been sung by her. The extremely talented Vasundhara Das was in Atlanta recently to perform with her band, `The Arya'. Excerpts from an exclusive interview with Khabar.
Tell us about how The Arya was conceptualized? And how did you think of such an original name?
There is a very simple logic behind the name. We were participating in a concert in Europe and we needed a short and easily pronounceable name. Arya fitted the bill and also it means, `Melody' in Italian. The band was started by me and my friend Roberto around two years back and we have performed in many places in India, Dubai, and Europe. Now we are touring U.S., with performances in Orlando, Atlanta and New York.
What kind of music does your band play?
I have no language bias. I was born in Bangalore so I speak Kannada, my country is India thus I can speak Hindi well; I studied in a English Medium school, so am very comfortable with English. Besides these I also sing in Spanish and French.
Your last non-filmi album ?Meri Jaan' was released in 2001 and did fairly well. Yet you haven't had any music release since then.
Well, recently I had a solo release in French, L'ete Indian which means Indian Summer. As far as Hindi albums go, I don't see it happening in the near future as the public is not all that enthusiastic about solos. Remixes are ruling the roost and hence musicians have stopped giving original and creative work. But all this too will pass as remixes will reach a saturation point but of course good music is certainly suffering.
How does it feel to hear your song ?Shakalaka Baby' on Broadway (Bombay Dreams)?
I have not sung for the theatre version of Shakalaka Baby as the actors have to sing live. I have seen the recording of Bombay Dreams when it was being performed in London. It was sung by Priya Kalidas in English. It feels great to know that the song is on Broadway. I have sung the Tamil, Telugu and Hindi version of the song.
You have worked in Hindi and South films with Kamal Hassan, Naseeruddin Shah, Girish Karnad, Mammootty, Mohanlal, the doyens of Indian cinema. You've also done crossover films like Monsoon Wedding. What's next?
My next release would be ?Filmstar' directed by Tanuja Chandra in which I play the role of a convict who is accused of killing her husband. My costars in this film are Aryan Vaid and Mahima Chaudhary. I am also acting in the film titled, ?Patthar Bezubaan' based on Mathura rape case in which a quarry worker was gang raped. I play a cop who tries to help the victim. It's a story of human emotions and relationships.
Like Suraiyya and Noorjehan you are blessed with dual talents of singing as well as acting. Do u plan to sell this unique combination to the filmmakers?
Hindi films are musicals in essence and thus the industry acknowledges my work. As far as roles go, I am always ready to work if an interesting character portrayal comes along. I like to work for people who see things as I do, who can give me roles with which I can identify. I like doing roles which have a meaning. One that is true and shows the strength of women.
Which directors and co-stars have inspired you the most?
Not one but many. I have been inspired by Kamal, Mira and Naseer. My experiences in life have inspired me greatly too. When I meet people to infuse life into my characters, their grit, their humility, their generosity inspires me. Amongst directors, though I would feel honored to work with Mani Rathnam with whom I missed doing my first film, I look forward to working with Rajiv Menon and Revathi. I have sung the title song of her first directorial venture in Malyalam.
Your mother is a scientist with IIS and your father is a CEO of a Multi National Corporation. Who has been the inspiration behind Vasundhara, the singer?
My grandmother, who passed away recently. She was my first guru and started my training at the age of five. Later I was trained in Hindustani Classical by Parmeshwar Hegdeji.
Besides singing, what are your other passions?
I like traveling, meeting new people and discovering new cultures. I am a people person. Since I am not fussy about food, I am comfortable in any part of the world. Besides traveling, I am quite passionate about environment protection and am a member of Greenpeace. I am also associated with women rights' groups as I feel deeply about such issues. My passion of traveling has found an outlet as I have been made the brand ambassador of Karnataka Tourism and will be attending the Travel Convention in China as a part of the Indian delegation. I will talk about my traveling experiences in Karnataka as an active step to promote tourism. The state has so much to offer?temples of Belur, ruins of Hampi, waterfalls, forests, rapids, rock climbing, virgin beaches more beautiful than Goa, Mysore palace, sanadalwood carvings, Western Ghats and a diverse cuisine.
Who are favourite singers?
My favorite singer is Aziza Mustafa from Azerbaijan. I was introduced to her music by my friends. I grew up listening to Whitney Huston, Alternative Scene etc. I like Macy Williams and Sting. In Hindi I like Richa Sharma who sang in Ankhen, Kailash Kher and Sukhwinder Singh. They have a depth of folk music in them which makes their music distinctive. I lack the folk influence as I was born and brought up in the cosmopolitan environment of Bangalore.
What kind of a man makes you go weak in knees? Will you have an arranged `Iyengar' wedding or will look for love?
My parents too did not have an arranged wedding. They have left it to me. But where is the time. I am balancing four careers, playback singing, music recordings, band and acting. My hands are full. If I see a good-looking guy, I look at him but that's it. I would like to marry a dependable man who can give me security in all forms.
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