Barnali Chattopadhyay
Barnali Chattopadhyay

World Music Day: Classical singer Barnali Chattopadhyay is ready to embrace Bollwyood after an impressive Hindi debut in Heeramandi

The talented artiste lent her voice to the superhit songs Saiyaan, Phool Gendwa, picturised on Aditi Rao Hydari, and Azadi in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's magnum opus for OTT, Heeramandi

Born in Varanasi and growing up in an environment surrounded by music, it wasn’t unnatural for classical singer Barnali Chattopadhyay to be naturally inclined toward the art. “I have seen musical soirees and stalwart musicians like Bismillah Khan calling on my maternal grandfather. I understood very early on in life that I would sing and my formal training started as early as 3 years,” recalls Barnali, who spent 27 years learning Benaras gharana from Girija Devi and a few years more learning Jaipur Gharana from Shobha Gurtu.

With the spotlight firmly on her after her Hindi OTT musical debut in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus Heeramandi (where she lent her voice to songs like Saiyaan, and Phool Gendwa, for the mesmerising Aditi Rao Hydari, and the ensemble finale song Azadi) Barnali is ready to embrace all that lies ahead in her musical career. On World Music Day, she speaks about everything sonorous with us.

Q

How do the young listeners perceive classical music?

A

Usually, everybody thinks classical music is something serious. The process of learning it and rehearsing for hours indeed requires unflinching devotion, but otherwise, it’s not that serious. It depends on the presentation and after learning many gharanas I have developed my own style. For the new generation, to feel one with the music, it’s important to understand the meaning of the song, so I introduce a song before I sing it because the language mightn’t be comprehensible.

Barnali Chattopadhyay
Barnali Chattopadhyay
Q

As a complete outsider in the Hindi film industry, was it difficult for you to make through. What kept your chin up?

A

I am very much blessed in one way that I never had to use my music to earn a living and I could pursue it with lot of love and passion. But one should know how to be patient and surge ahead in life.

Q

How did Heeramandi happen to you?

A

It was a pleasantly strange experience and I never thought it would happen. I was referred by someone known to Sanjay Leela Bhansali when he heard me at a soiree. I went to a studio and recorded 5 or 6 songs and forgot all about it. But after a year I got a call directly from Bhansali and the rest, as they say, is history. He is so affectionate, good, creative, and patient. I really don’t have any words to describe him.

Barnali Chattopadhyay
Barnali Chattopadhyay
Q

How was life changed after Heeramandi?

A

I’m working with a lot many ace directors and just finished a project with filmmaker Subhash Ghai and there are others in the pipeline about which you will get to know as things materialise.

Q

Any composer you would love to sing for?

A

AR Rahman.

Q

What inspires you?

A

Music – it’s in my blood, everyday I’m into music at least for 16 hours in form of riyaaz, teaching, or listening. What inspires me as a singer is the way I feel -- there’s is so much more to music to discover and learn. It’s a universe in its own self. I have been moved by so many musicians and singers, from Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle, Md Rafi, Begam Akhtar, to Naina Devi, Gauhar Jaan, Kumar Gandharv, and many more.

And being a worshiper of this art, on World Music Day, I hope that globally the culture keeps flowing.

Barnali Chattopadhyay
Barnali Chattopadhyay
Q

How has your taste in music evolved over the years?

A

It has grown over the years because with content flowing everywhere these days, there’s so much to see and hear. It helps enhance my musical senses.

Q

Any fond memories of years spent with the late Girija Devi?

A

Girija Devi was a fascinatingly strong woman. She seeded in me the essence of my gharana and about all that life, love, and music entails. She taught me to embrace my true self through my singing and always staying rooted to that.  She has always been fierce in being who she was and that is a mantra to embrace.

Within three days of coming to her to learn music, she took me to Delhi to sing with her and test my level of skills. She kept a slot for me in front of the audience and I got so much appreciation besides learning where I lack. She taught us that music requires not only art but honesty too, which can be attained through restraint alone.

Q

Your upcoming projects?

A

I am looking forward to collaborating on a more global level as a musician.

The scope is definitely increasing and with more work happening content wise, artists have better working opportunities. Competition doesn’t have to be complicated anymore. There’s always a healthy way of looking at life and music heals.

CREDITS

Pictures: Debarshi Sarkar / Hair and makeup: Surojit Sarkar / Styling: Abhisek Roy / Sari: Mitan Ghosh / Blouse: Bohurupi Santiniketan / Jewellery: Jalsaghar Calcutta

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