After Slumdog Millionaire won four at the Who’s Going Home With The Golden Globes, we make Tanvi, who sang two songs including the much-acclaimed ‘Jai Ho’ for Danny Boyle’s masterpiece, take the hotseat and shoot a few questions of our own.
“Why are you talking to me,” she shoots back. “Talk to Rahman. It’s his time,” she adds, quite flummoxed by the fact that her phone hasn’t stopped ringing since. She wonders why. “Life has changed. Suddenly, people are calling me. But, I’m glad my hard work is paying off.”
She had no idea that she was driving towards a life-changing twist, on her way to Rahman’s studio to sing some backing vocals for a song that she thought was meant for Subhash Ghai’s ‘Yuvraaj.’
“I went in a heard Sukhi’s voice and I was in awe of the notes he hit. And Rahman said: Go in and try something different. Think out of the box. Throw your voice out loud like no one’s around to listen. I couldn’t believe he wanted me to sing and the challenge was that I had to match up to Sukhi.”
Tanvi also wrote the Spanish bits for the song, given her knack of adapting to demands of songs that require foreign sounds. In the past five years of singing for Rahman since she did backing vocals for Fana in Yuva (“It was on May 13, 2003,” she remembers), she had been to the studio for all kinds of singing.
“I love doing backing vocals for him because every time I go in, I come out learning something new,” says the singer who also officially trained under Augustine Paul.
Apart from ‘Jai Ho,’ she joined BlaaZe for Gangsta Blues for Slumdog. “Rahman’s brief was simple. He said: Go wild.”
After that initial burst of easy questions, we shift to the million dollar ones: Having followed and worked with Rahman for the last five years, does she truly believe that Slumdog Millionaire is his best work till date?
“My favourite is Rang De Basanti and Bose – The Forgotten Hero. This particular score is good no doubt but I’ve heard better from him. But that’s because from an Indian audience point of view, we’ve heard so much. I don’t think Hollywood has heard his music. Take Bombay, Thiruda Thiruda, Iruvar, Guru or Bose and the scores he has given for those films… If you listen to Azaadi or Jaage, you will get goose bumps. Or Swades and Lagaan. You put all these songs on one side and then you put Slumdog and what do you think? Recently, we worked on this movie called Ada. That movie, you must listen to the choir. It was a super duper difficult piece. I’ve noticed in the last couple of years, he wants to push himself trying out new sounds. He would say: I want a Bulgarian voice, I want a screaming voice, I want to hear Andalucian mountain women, I want a high pitched voice, I want a whisper that breaks into a full-throated voice and then go nasal.”
That’s where singers like Tanvi come in to play.
“I can give Soprano, Tenor, Base and Alto all by myself. There are times when I’ve done that but there’s an amazing chemistry when we sing in a choir. Jai Ho was done in a couple of hours,” she recollects.
Tanvi only realised that the song was going to be used for Slumdog much later.
“I went in for some recording and I asked him out of curiosity if he had retained my voice in Jai Ho?” And he’s like “Of course. Gangsta Blues also. I was like “Thank you, Thank you, Thank You. I was so happy. After five or six years, you get to sing for a Hollywood movie, would I be excited? Hell, yeah. Now that the film has won four Golden Globes, I feel elated, I feel happy and I’m glad that I’m at least .25 per cent of it.”
Tanvi also sings for Yuvan, Premgi, Srikant Deva, GV Prakash. “I’ve done quite a bit of work with Yuvan,” says the singer who can sing in 14-15 different languages.
“Whatever I am today, it is because of Rahman. Four things I learnt from him: Dedication, Determination, Patience and to be humble. Without these, you can never grow.”
And yes, like most of India, she’s yet to watch Slumdog Millionaire herself. “I’ll watch on the 23rd when it releases.”
The Business Woman
“I have my own business. I have been doing interior design for the last one and a half years. And my jewellery line is out. It’s called Exotic Store. I wanted to give a funky name like Vitamin T. Someday, I am going to do a song and Vitamin T is going to come out.
If I keep singing, you tend to lose it. You need a distraction. I am lucky to have two professions. I just put my heart and soul in whatever I do because I realised life is too short. If I don’t do it now, when the hell would I do it?”
Flashback – Life before singing
“I did Masters in Ceramics and I didn’t like it much there in the US as a graphic designer in the World Bank. I came back in 2003. Life in the US is monotonous. You are working Monday to Friday like a dog. And you only get to meet up with friends on Saturdays. They drink and wake up with a hangover on Sunday. Someday, you have to do your groceries, laundry… You are not saving any money. All your money goes off on credit card, shopping, parking. When I was there, I would just sit by Georgetown (in Washington DC) and keep sketching because I was an art student.”