Raags to riches
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First you saw her on BPL Oye. No, wait a minute,
wasn't she on something before that? Govinda, Govinda,
Chunky and the monkey? Ring a bell? Drenched to the
bone in Aakhen? Eeks, that was her? Blink once, and
she's gone. So that was before Channel V? And after
the BPL refrigerators? Which came first? Or did the two go
And then there's that music video. You mean it's her own? An album? Duniya?
And Now Making It At Mtv. The Mtv Ek Do Teen Girl!!!!!
This PERKy girl is now Going Places On a SCOOTY spreading her Pyar Ka Rang
Considering she's barely in her 20's, you're wondering what the rush is all about.
But then again, Raags has always done things before her time. Take her career,
for instance. First, she did Bollywood and the masala brigade where things
didn't work. Veejaying came next, and things did work. BPL sponsored the
show, so it naturally followed that she sponsored BPL.
Then came Duniya, her debut album, launched by BMG Crescendo,
music videos, live concerts, promotionals....
Considering everything was going for her, why venture into uncharted
territory -- singing? "Well, it all started with my father, who's been
interested in music for and many years now. In fact, 25 years ago,
he won a national award for the music he composed based on the
theme of freedom. But, back then, he had a family to support,
so he opted for a government job as opposed to being a full-time composer.
He kept in touch with his riyaaz, though, and he was dedicated to it in a
completely non-commercial way."
Among the many songs he composed were Oye Shaba, Raafta Raafta and
Chahat, all of which are included in Duniya. And he encouraged Raags, who
loved singing, to work along with him. "I started just for the heck of it but, later,
things got serious." They recorded a demo tape which the music companies
thought was "too serious for my cute image," she recollects. "They wanted me
to stick to the 'tu tu, chu chu' stuff, but I didn't want to do that. I wanted to make
music that has a message. It doesn't have to change your life, but it has to be
Disillusioned with the response from the music companies, they decided to
produce the albums themselves. "But we were lucky. We found a sponsor like
Coke and, later, BMG Crescendo stepped in. So it all went very smoothly."
Duniya, according to her, is a contemporary album with a traditional base and
different elements. "It's an upliftment of pop music. We thought, why ape the
West when we have so much to choose from here? And so, in Duniya, we've
fused simple traditional melodies and lyrics with reggae, to make a pretty
But is that the kind of stuff that is selling today? "Dad understands
young kids and what they want -- don't get taken in by all that grey hair!
Seriously, his Urdu is pretty tough, but it sounds beautiful.
And as for how the album's doing -- well, we've got repeat orders from
Cochin and Trivandrum, despite the fact that Hindi pop never sells in
the south. We sold 1,25,000 copies, a first in the history of Indian pop.
We increased the cost of the album, though we weren't too
happy doing that. But I console myself with the fact that we're doing
free publicity tours for Coke."
Was it an easy move, from veejaying to singing? And did the fact that
she was already an established face have anything to do with the success
of her album?' "I can't think of anyone in India who's made as many changes
as I have. While I was anchoring Oye, I was pretty much in touch with what
was happening on the music front. So I'd like to think I'm clued on in to the scene.
As for people buying my music because of my VJ status, I don't think curiosity
could drive you that far. And, if being a celebrity had anything to do with it,
then why wasn't Amitabh Bachchan's Aby Baby successful?
"I think that being known does generate a fair amount of interest, but that's
about all. After that, you and your music stand alone."
But is she really standing alone? Considering that her father's composed the
album and her brother Rishab's directed both her music videos, Duniya
(the titletrack) Oye Shaba and now Pyar Ka Rang? All
in the family, is it?
Duniya was well-shot, the clean look suited the song and Rishab
wasn't even paid a penny. Oye Shaba, the other video has a very
different, almost grunge look but, again, that suits the
"If I were promoting someone with no talent, I'd understand people
pointing fingers at me. But I'm working with some of the best creative
talent available, so why talk?"
Raags sees music as her future, because she believes that Hindi pop is really
'going places'. Recalling something she had read, she says, "The article talked
about how the West is exhausted today, and about how the next superstar
phenomenon was going to be from Asia. I'd agree to that, because we have so
much going for us -- there's the Colonial Cousins, Alisha Chinai -- I respect their
music so much."
Reflecting a moment, she adds, "It's difficult to be different, because people
tend to criticise you more. But I think that if you stick to your beliefs, you
definitely can conquer the world."