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12 Timeless Hits By Birthday Girl Shreya Ghoshal

Hear the singer at her powerful, sublime best across 20 years

Amit Vaidya Mar 12, 2022

Shreya Ghoshal.

It’s been 20 years since playback singer extraordinaire Shreya Ghoshal blew us away with her National Film Award-winning vocals in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas. The singer has come a long way and now has a career that includes over 2,400 songs in more than 20 languages.

Ghoshal has been the definitive female playback singer of the past 20 years, especially in the Hindi film world.

Today, March 12th, she turns a year older, and what better way to celebrate the singer than with 12 timeless songs that showcase her evolution as an artist.

2002 – “Silsila Yeh Chahat Ka” (Devdas)

No other singer has had such a superlative playback singing launch into Bollywood than Ghoshal with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus Devdas. Picking Ghoshal to be the voice of the reigning beauty queen of the time Aishwarya Rai for the entire soundtrack was a genius move, and the beauty of her voice, especially on “Silsila Yeh Chahat Ka” proved to be the best introduction to a star you could imagine. What’s more, being able to match up to veteran playback singer Kavita Krishnamurthy (Subramanium) on “Dola Re Dola” was a vocal masterclass matching the moves of Rai and Madhuri Dixit.

2003 – “Jadoo Hai Nasha Hai” (Jism)

It’s hard to believe that in less than a year, Ghoshal, who was already known as the sweet voice of Aishwarya Rai from Devdas, would go on to add a level of sensuality to her melodious vocals. So tastefully done, “Jadoo Hai Nasha Hai” became a rage. The Bipasha Basu-led film has Ghoshal and this M.M. Kreem tune to thank for making not only the song hot but the film a big hit!

2005 – “Agar Tum Mile Jao” (Zeher)

The mid-oughts were high on melody and this composition “Agar Tum Mile Jao” is a perfect example of how Shreya Ghoshal was able to deliver an outstanding vocal on an otherwise basic song. Her ability to infuse emotion into the track made it a standout from the hit soundtrack, and Ghoshal proved that her voice could elevate any song to another level.

2005 – “Piyu Bole” (Parineeta)

In just three years, Ghoshal became the quintessential voice to introduce a new actress onto the scene, and much like she did wonders for Aishwarya Rai in Devdas, she sang all the songs for Vidya Balan in her Hindi debut film Parineeta. “Piyu Bole” was exciting because it was rooted in yesteryear Bollywood melodies yet introduced and then attracted a new audience thanks to their professed love for Ghoshal. 

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2007 – “Yeh Ishq Hai” (Jab We Met)

While the Pritam soundtrack for Jab We Met was laced with multiple blockbusters with almost all songs performed by male singers, arguably the most endearing and enduring single from the superhit album was “Yeh Ishq Hai.” In an author-backed role that won Kareena Kapoor nearly every acting award that year, there was only one song in the entire film that captured the essence of her character Geet, and it happened to be performed by none other than Ghoshal.

2007 – “Barso Re” (Guru)

While Pritam had tapped the pep in Ghoshal’s voice, A.R. Rahman brought in not just sensuality and pep to this song but also a large dose of sass. Ghoshal had otherwise been known for her romantic and often somber song choices, until Guru came along. It offered the singer a chance to showcase multiple sides of her vocals in just one song; something that would lead to future music directors taking creative risks and asking the talented vocalist to shine across different genres and styles.

2011 – “Ooh La La” (The Dirty Picture)

The perfect example of where that diversity landed Ghoshal was in The Dirty Picture and the superhit Eighties-style throwback single “Ooh La La.” Once again singing for Vidya Balan and paired with the late great Bappi Lahiri, the song required Ghoshal to be playful but also parlay the sauciness that Asha Bhosle had made her signature style and Alka Yagnik also had put her stamp on all through the Nineties. Ghoshal officially became the newly anointed “hun aah” girl.

2012 – “Chikni Chameli” (Agneepath)

It came as no surprise that Shreya Ghoshal was asked to infuse the otherwise naughty item song from Agneepath with some charm and vocal sweetness. This Ajay-Atul number proved to be the perfect culmination of class and mass when Katrina Kaif lip-synced to Ghoshal’s absolutely larger-than-life vocals that had everyone, across all age groups, singing and dancing along.

2013 – “Sun Raha Hai” (Aashiqui 2)

Only Shreya Ghoshal could upstage a rock number in a mere few minutes and own the song. While Ankit Tewari’s performance was lauded, Ghoshal’s stripped-down version truly creates a magic that fit perfectly into the narrative of the film, where Shraddha Kapoor’s character proved to be the more successful singer. Whether it was intentional or not, who knows – one thing the song did do was prove to many other singers that a reinterpretation could sometimes be not just as good but also potentially superior to the original.

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2013 – “Nagada Sang Dhol” (Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela)

Sanjay Leela Bhansali turned music director for his film Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela and, thankfully, he continued to bless us with Ghoshal’s vocals on the Gujarati garba smash “Nagada Sang Dhol.” By now, Ghoshal’s songs had made their way into nearly every function and holiday, and this piece was yet another feather to her seemingly never-ending cap of songs that get us going. Bhansali did good here by creating a superior selection of his own film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’s “Dholi Taro,” and is now the Navaratri song.

2015 – “Deewani Mastani” (Bajirao Mastani)

Just two years later, Bhansali and Ghoshal struck gold again with “Deewani Mastani” from Bajirao Mastani and then again with “Ghoomar” from Padmaavat. By now, the Ghoshal- Bhansali-Deepika Padukone trio proved that when the voice fits, the song and the movie soar.

2019 – “Ghar More Pardesiya” (Kalank)

While Ghoshal is now less often heard than in her glory days, she’s now become the senior artist in the playback space, and, as a result, it seems it’s the “big” song from an album that will feature the singer. Such was the case with Kalank, where Ghoshal and Alia Bhatt created magic on “Ghar More Pardesiya,” reminding us that even nearly 20 years later, nobody can do semi-classical like her today. Also, even with younger actresses, her voice – like the late (and incomparable) Lata Mangeshkar – Ghoshal’s voice will forever be young and we’ll keep listening to her for many decades to come.

There is no doubt about it that Shreya Ghoshal has made it good in the music industry. Her ability to morph and match her voice to the faces of many actresses over the years is impressive; especially as the “soundtrack” itself has become increasingly less of an album and more a collection of songs. Ghoshal has always been known for her ability to infuse her youthful voice even into most mature of songs with grace and dignity. Here’s wishing Shreya Ghoshal a Happy Birthday, and here’s to the next two decades and beyond, hoping she continues to be part of the celluloid and future actresses, even those not even born yet, get the chance to sing along to her timeless voice.

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