For many of us who grew up in the 90s, watching Indipop videos was the thing to do. Satellite cable was alluringly new and these music videos felt much more personal than a movie — they were in our drawing rooms, on our clunky television sets. They had dewy-fresh faces crooning about first loves and secret first dates; they sang of fortuitous meetings in college corridors and friendships forged in raucous canteens. They made us woolly about love, and gave music to our starry-eyed daydreams.
In this happy universe, there stood out a voice, sweet and girly — it instantly spoke of innocence and signalled a kind of delight that singers struggle to bring forth. For Falguni Pathak though, it felt natural. Perhaps the very reason why every song that she sang became such a huge hit. Who can forget the peppy ‘Chudi jo khanke’, with four highschool girls dressing up and planning for an evening out or the lilting ‘Payal jo chankai’ where a pretty puppeteer finds love in a talent search competition. There was also the ethereal ‘Meri chunar udd jaaye’, arguably, one of her best. These songs were instantly picked up for College Day and School Day functions because of their easy rhythm and ‘earworm’ quality.
The album culture
Ask her how these hits came about and Falguni is at a loss to explain. “It is hard for me to say where my music came from. For me, everything felt like a flow — and I went with the flow.” Falguni grew up in an atmosphere of music at home. Her mother would sing garba songs and her elder sister is a visharad in classical music. But interestingly, Falguni herself is not a trained singer. “I would listen to music, especially old Bollywood songs, all the time at home. All that I know is gathered from what I have heard,” she says. Her favourite singers are Asha Bhonsle, Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi. She describes them more as her gurus than her favourites. “I gave my first stage performance at the age of nine at an Indian Navy programme for Independence Day. Right from that time, this is all I have wanted to do.”
Indeed, Falguni never looked back. Stage performances helped strengthen her confidence and, slowly, she overcame her stage fright. “I still feel clammy and nervous before every performance, but now I use it to my advantage. Once I am on the stage, everything recedes and only my music remains with me.” So does she prefer live performances over recordings? “Yes, I do. The energy and passion that I experience while singing live is something that cannot be replicated in a recording. When you are singing in front of a huge audience, you draw your inspiration from them.”
This does not necessarily mean she is not open to other forms of singing, she clarifies. “I would be happy to sing for Bollywood if such an offer comes up — I would love to work with A R Rahman and Amit Trivedi,” she says. She goes on to speak about the bane of piracy and how it has discouraged singers from bringing out private albums or singles. “We have to live with it now. In this age of instant downloads, it becomes tough for musicians to survive on their own without industry backing,” she rues.
But survive she has for more than two decades now. The 1990s teenagers might have outgrown those pop hits, but Falguni has never stopped being a name to reckon with. Every year, during the Navratri dandiya season, Falguni continues to be one of the most in-demand singers. Her mix of pop hits and traditional Gujarati and Hindi folk numbers attract audiences in huge numbers and people are willing to pay twice the amount they usually do for a dandiya night with Falguni. “I am surprised and humbled at this interest in my shows. Usually, with time, the interest wanes but in my case, it has only heightened.”
In fact, Falguni is bringing out a new single for this Navratri and she is understandably excited about it. “I am also nervous; let us see how my fans receive it,” she says.
She should not really worry. If it is anything like her 90s’ hits, a new generation of teenagers might just be waiting to jiggle their anklets.
Published in Deccan Herald on 4 September 2016. You can find it here:www.deccanherald.com/content/568506/no-love-lost-90s.html