A conversation with Priya Saraiya – the Bollywood singer/songwriter, and a new mother, whose versatility ranges from the sublime “Saibo” to the in-your-face “Karma is a Bitch!”

By Zaiceka Ahmed


 (Priya Saraiya in MTV Coke Studio)

Music is a traveler’s best friend. In my case, travel means a forty minute commute in a public bus from Jadavpur to College Street, and the source of music – the radio in my weather beaten mobile phone. And anyone who has taken a winter morning bus ride will know that the constant movement of the vehicle is to a grown up what a lullaby is to a baby. Speaking of public buses, is there a ground more fertile for pickpockets than these overcrowded ferry on wheels? In all likelihood, no.

Therefore, I present to you the superhero who prevented my wallet (half) stacked with 100 rupee notes (a commodity whose value far exceeds the number printed on its face in the post-demonetization days) from being nabbed – Priya Saraiya! Ok, so the famous Bollywood singer/songwriter wasn’t present there physically to grab the potential perpetrator of the crime by the wrist – but it definitely was her kickass Song Karma is a Bitch that kicked my ass out of slumber into full-on alert mode which subsequently curbed the incident.

I was lucky enough to get a chance to speak with this guardian-angel (what else would you call her?) with a mile-long discography of chartbusters to her name which she has penned if not also performed, including the likes of Saibo (Shor in the City), Khoon Choos le(Go Goa Gone), Bezubaan (ABCD 2). Very forthcoming and extremely patient, she took time out from her tight schedule (which includes taking care of her 3 month old son, Mahit) to answer a few queries.

How cool is it that I can share some of her thoughts with you?

Very, I say!

“There are many who are most disinterested in the arts –books, paintings, theatre – but no one who doesn’t enjoy some good music. What do you think draws people to music so much?”

Music has been a part of our evolution, it runs in our blood. Humans started to whistle and hum tunes to communicate way before language developed. It goes beyond entertainment and into the realm of meditation for many. Also, a more popular take would be that everyone sees their life like a movie where they are the protagonist, and no movie is complete without a background score. It conveys their emotions for them when they can’t.

“Your tracks are so contemporary in sound. Which style are you actually trained in?”

Hindustani Classical music. I have been training since age six.

“Wow, that’s early! When did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in the music industry?”

I think I had always known that! Back in school I used to write poems and perform them to tunes that I composed. The principal took note of that and informed my mother of my knack for writing and singing. She even recommended a good Hindustani Classical music teacher who I trained under. 25 years have gone by and every day of my life has been musical since.

“Your fans want to know who you are a fan of. Which artists do you listen to?”

Internet has made it so easy to access and connect to global music, so this would include a few foreign names – Ghulam Ali, Adele. I love John Mayer. From India, I’m a fan of Rekha Bhardwaj.

“Any genre you don’t like?”

Death metal!

“A favourite from your own works”

Saibo’  is my all time favourite. It was also when I was working as a lyricist that I met Jigar (my husband). Sachin and Jigar were working on ‘Shor in the City‘ when I was offered a chance to pen this song. The melody came in 30 minutes – it was only my 2nd or 3rd song in the industry, and that feat gave me a boost in confidence and motivation.

“Between ‘Khoon choos le’ and ‘Karma is a Bitch’ – both incredibly catchy numbers – which was more fun to perform?”

Definitely ‘Karma is a Bitch” – it is also written by me. Quite fun to introduce a word that has never been used in a Bollywood song before!

“Here is a strange one for you – some people think you resemble Sunidhi Chauhan. Have you ever been mistaken for her in public?”

Haha! I have heard so too, but I personally don’t agree. We did grow up together and train under Kalyan Anandji, so there is that association.

“Your discograghy keeps growing – how do you manage that with a three month old baby at home??”

A lot of people were skeptical about how I would maintain a balance between work and motherhood, but the choice was clear. Being a mother is top priority for me. I’m largely off work for now – singing is not a priority for the time being. I am doing some writing, though, as it comes much easier and naturally to me. I can write in my sleep.

“Your husband – Jigar Saraiya – is a superstar. How musically charged is your relationship?”

It is a very dynamic relation that we share – a little bit of completion is good, we are constantly improving one another. I am brutally honest when he asks for my take on some of his compositions, which at times doesn’t impress me. He in turn doesn’t hesitate to tell me when some words of my lyrics are too difficult to understand. Somewhere I feel I want to be as good as him – his energy and passion towards his profession is inspiring. That apart we love to jam at home – our baby loves music too!

“What word of advice would you give to aspiring musicians?”

My funda is very clear – don’t go for short term success. Keep at it and continue to improve your art because it is really difficult to sustain a career in Bollywood. India is full of talent and music composers are experimenting with so many styles. There is scope for nearly everyone.

“A random one – which animal do you identify with most?”

Cats! They are so dramatic.

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