Interview: Award-Winning Bengali & Bollywood Singer RUPREKHA BANERJEE on Her Career & Upcoming Projects

By Hirak Bhattacharyya

Ruprekha BanerjeeCalcutta, September 22, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio) Ruprekha Banerjee is a well-known singer from India, a Fame Gurukul (a talent hunt reality television show) champion whose debut album Yeh Pal with fellow champion Qazi Touqeer went Double Platinum in India and sold over 5 million copies worldwide. She chats with Hirak Bhattacharyya about her latest Bengali songs album, Tollywood and Bollywood film songs and other projects in this musical interview video. Do not miss her solo performance with no instrumental accompaniment demonstrating her awesome voice.

Tell us about your journey into professional singing.

When I was a kid, my grandfather saw potential in my voice and proposed to my father that I should be given lessons in singing. My parents have inspired me equally in academics and music. Later on, becoming a winner in Fame Gurukul opened up a new phase in my career in music.

In which year did you become the champion in Fame Gurukul ?

In the year of 2005.

Did someone inspire you to compete in Fame Gurukul or did you decide to participate on your own ?

I used to watch the participants in Indian Idol closely, and subsequently decided to try to compete in a show like it. After registering for Fame Gurukul, my sister received a text message on her cell phone informing us of my audition scheduled for barely two hours away! My dad asked me if I was ready, to which I spontaneously responded “Yes! Why not!”.  I showed up for audition, eventually reaching my next milestone of winning the contest. I am grateful to my family - my sister and parents - for their incredible support before, during and after the days of the competition.

What's your take on these reality TV shows ? Did they help you progress in your career ?

Ruprekha BanerjeeYes - I think reality shows are very useful. Also they don’t have any disadvantages. Some people think I have easily achieved this milestone. But that is not so - I have worked very hard to archived this goal. My friends and family have also worked hard off camera. At times we have had to go without sleep for 48 hours, followed by just a six-hour nap. After that sleeping session, our practice continued next day along with yoga and dance.

What did you do in these 48 hours ?

Besides our practice, we spent significant amounts of time being interviewed by many channels, shooting, recording and even practicing for dance performances. We even did live shows. It was pretty challenging.

Do you miss those golden days ?

Yes - I miss them very much but also get apprehensive thinking about the period of hard work. Because of the struggle I receive lots of love and blessings from my fans wherever I go - and that really inspires me in my journey forward.

How do you feel about the participants who did not make it to the winning positions ? Did they get depressed ?

Of course! They suffer depression, but I think the most difficult thing is to hold that particular position.

Who were your judges?

Shankar Mahadevan, Javed Akhtar & K.K. I used to avoid looking directly at them while performing, trying to keep myself fully focussed on my performance. They helped a lot in improving ourselves and we used to get many useful tips whenever we met with them. In shows like this, making a mistake also affects one's partner. I always tried to give it my best. Perhaps that is one reason I have been the top student for the most number of times - I have been 4 times the top student.

Did the judges help you ?

Besides “GALA”, we were never helped by the judges. We only used to get help from our groomers.

Tell us about your current projects.

I am keeping pretty busy currently. An album of mine featuring songs composed by Joy Sarkar is about to be released - I have performed in the album along with two songs by Rupankar Bagchi and two other songs by Goutam Ghosal. Besides, Vickram Ghosh and I are working on a different project - we have previously collaborated on an album featuring works by Rabindranath Tagore and an unreleased classical music album. I am one of the singers of the Calcutta Book Fair theme song.

Have you done any playback singing of film songs ?

I have sung a considerable number of playback songs for Bengali Films and continuing to do so. I am also a playback singer in some Bollywood films - but as there was a spelling mistake of my name in the credits, I don’t talk much about that!

What languages other than Bengali and Hindi have you performed in ?

Bhojpuri, Guajarati and others.

How do you make time for yourself in your busy schedule?

Good question! For example - I do a live show from morning 9 to 10 AM, from there I go to the airport and then to Siliguri, and returning from there I am here now with you. My dubbing is going on and after completing my recording, I will go to Mumbai.

As far as I have heard you are planning on visiting the U.S.A. ?

You are right! But I am too busy in my work here at this time - I can’t visit the U.S.A. just now. However, I was there a couple of years ago.

What have you planned for Durga Puja ?

I have many live shows. I will return on doshomi. I come from a joint family and we organize our own Durga Puja for the last 300 years, and I feel really bad that after winning in Fame Gurukul I am not going to be with my family during Puja.

What is next ?

After completing my recording here, I will go to Bombay. There I am working with some renowned people. There is an opportunity of working with Shankar Mahadevan and Anand Raj Anand, and a few more Bollywood personalities.

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