Interview Bengali Hindi

I always wanted to lend my voice to film music: Singer Ujjaini Mukherjee


In an interview with us, Mukherjee offered glimpses into her journey so far and also shared her experience of her recent work with Bickram Ghosh for Harsh Chhaya’s Khajoor Pe Atke.

Roushni Sarkar

Playback vocalist Ujjaini Mukherjee is a dreamer and carries an undaunted spirit. She participated in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2005 with the aim to become a popular singer. In 2006, she won the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Ek Main Aur Ek Tu along with her co-contestant Aishwarya Nigam. Since then, there has been no looking back for her.

Mukherjee not only turned into a celebrity singer at an early age with her participations in Jo Jeeta Wohi Superstar (2008) and Music Ka Maha Muqabla (2010), but also eventually gave major hits singing for both Bengali and Hindi films. She rose to fame with 'Mannu Bhaiya' from Tanu Weds Manu (2011), 'Dil Rasiya Re' from Byomkesh Parbo (2016) and also sang along with Rupankar Bagchi for 'Chupi Chupi Raat' from Chalo Lets Go (2008). 'Chupi Chupi Raat' was her first playback in a film that went on to become a huge hit.

In an interview with Cinestaan.com, Mukherjee offered glimpses into her journey so far and also shared her experience of her recent work with Bickram Ghosh for Harsh Chhaya’s Khajoor Pe Atke.

Your songs from Khajoor Pe Atke are creating quite a buzz. What do you have to say about that?

See, every time I sing a new song it is a new experience for me and of course there are expectations from each and every song. But it is always a special experience for me when I get to work with Bickram Ghosh because he is not just a composer, rather more like a mentor to me and I have an association with him for long. Sitting in Calcutta and doing music for Bollywood makes a special impression on the entire project. Also, singing a duet with Divya Kumar has been a unique experience as he happens to be one of my favourite vocalists of this era. So, yeah, altogether, working for Khajoor Pe Atke was great!

You started your career at a very early age. How has the journey been so far?

Well, it has been full of ups and downs, mostly downs. But I prefer to look up at the good times. I think the most important thing is to have a positive note inside oneself and I have been trying to do that as much as possible. For me, singing is the most important thing. Singing good songs keeps me motivated. In that case, I have been very lucky as I have been able to sing good songs. Also, there have been a lot of inspiring factors in my life. I am thankful to the people who preferred to have me on board. And I think if there are no negative sides in one’s journey, one cannot really cherish the positive ones too. I guess I am enjoying every moment of it.

Who are these inspiring figures in your life?

There have been many, in and outside the industry. Like I said, Bickram Ghosh is really like a mentor to me. He is aware of both my musical strengths and weaknesses. He keeps on encouraging me to do better. I worked with Krsna [Solo, background score] for Tanu Weds Manu. He really supported me in those days in Mumbai. Though we are not really in touch, he has been a good friend.

Anupam Roy is a source of inspiration for me; Rupankar Bagchi, who I consider to be one of the best singers in the entire nation, has also motivated me time and again. I must mention Jaya Sil Ghosh, Bickram Da’s wife, who has been very kind and supportive towards me. She always makes it a point to encourage me by listening to and discussing my songs. Needless to say, that my parents, friends and my husband have worked as the biggest support system throughout.

Ashu Chakraborty, a brilliant musician and an even better friend keeps me steady on my really weird days with his amazing musical innovations and encouraging words.

You started your training as a Hindustani classical vocalist. How did you evolve and explore different other areas of playback singing? Did the reality shows you participated in help you in this regard?

You know in almost every alternate Bengali household there is a musician or a singer. My uncle and Pishi (father’s sister) are into music. Pishi encouraged me a great deal and gave me her harmonium and tanpura when I was a kid. Those days were really special for me. In my family it is considered that without the training in Hindustani classical music one cannot be a complete singer. So, I followed my family tradition and was into very strict riyaaz (practice).

However, in my mind, I always wanted to be a popular singer and wanted to lend my voice for film music. I remember, when I was a kid, my mom asked me whether I wanted to sit and sing with a harmonium or I would like to stand and sing with a microphone in hand. I chose the latter and said that I wanted to entertain people, make the audience dance.

Then the reality shows happened. I had a musical background and but there was no one from the industry to tell me what to do and what not to. So, the reality shows provided with a great platform for an aspirant like me.

You also do a lot of live shows around the world. Any special experience or memory to cherish forever?

I really enjoy performing live and my concerts are generally called Ujjaini Mukherjee Live or UML. Yes, there are moments when I really feel alive while performing on stage. I performed in the prestigious Wembley Arena in London with Himesh Reshammiya and it has been one of the most cherished moments of the lot. I have also enjoyed performing with the late Aadesh Shrivastava ji. Every time I perform I feel very nervous because I keep telling myself that I need to do better than the last time, I have to be good enough.

So do you think that reality shows are still impactful the same way as they used to be in your time? Or they have more or less turned into commercial platforms?

See there are two sides to every mortal thing. For people with no one to back up from the industry, reality shows are a great platform. On the other hand, the contestants must remember that reality shows are nothing but a launch pad; it is not the end game. What I see in the young contestants today, when they become popular, is the tendency to think that they have already reached a height. But that is not so.

The grand finale of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Ek Main Aur Ek Tu was held in Dubai and after we [co-contestant Aishwarya Nigam] won the show we got amazing responses. We literally lived like stars for a few days. Then one day I realised that that attention was not that real. I felt that I needed to carry forward the legacy with my own abilities and build a career. It all depends on the individual, on how one strategises one’s career or does the right calculations at the right time. That is how one sticks around or vanishes off like a bubble.

What are your next projects?

There are many actually. I have sung for Srijit Mukherjee’s Uma, Arindam Bhattacharya’s Flat No. 609 and soon I will be again collaborating with Bickram Da for Arindam Sil’s Byomkesh Gowtro.

Any dream music director you want to work with?

I have a long list of dream directors (laughing). I am a big fan of Shankar ji, and I would love to work with Shankar Ehsaan Loy. I love Vishal-Shekhar, they are really awesome. Pritam is these days almost heading the industry. I have met him and I really look forward to working with him one day. And of course, THE AR Rahman! Every vocalist has a dream of working with him.

Do you consider any particular song to be a turning point in your career?

Well, some of my songs have been really popular and like I said, if I get to sing a song that I really like, I feel wonderful. If I have to name particularly one song in this regard that would be 'Chupi Chupi Raat' from Anjan Dutta’s Chalo Let’s Go composed by Neel Dutta. I love to sing the song till now. I got a request to sing the song on my way to the concert today as well. The song is even more special for me as I sang it with Rupankar Da.