Shalmali Sukthankar — the name takes us to Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Little Champs, a very famous reality show on Zee Marathi in 2009. A school student back then, Shalmali has now grown up and has a few songs to her credit. Her latest song Chandoba is in news now. Speaking about it, Shalmali says, “It is a soulful song, telling the story of a young man who is forced to keep his old mother in an old age home because of his wife. It depicts the state of mind of that man.”
Born in a family of academicians, singing was just a hobby for Shalmali. “I started learning classical singing at the age of five and took my lessons from Dr Vaijayanti Joshi. I never watched any reality shows till then,” she adds.
It was a relative who insisted that Shalmali should participate in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Little Champs as she was already receiving awards at school level competitions. Recalls Shalmali, “When the show was aired, I was just 13. There were four rounds of auditions before appearing on TV. I cleared all of them and was a part of top 50 and then was on the team of top six.”
The show totally changed the equation for this young singer. A hobby transformed into passion. Of course, not immediately. Even till the elimination round, Shalmali, who was preparing for her Class X board exams, didn’t think of making a career in music.
So how did she handle the elimination from the show? A calm Shalmali responds, “Elimination was not a shock to me. As I wasn’t crazy for fame or being on screen, it was just a normal thing for me. I only cried because I was going to miss all the friends I had made on the show. We were a team and we all enjoyed and had fun.”
The most cherishable moment of her life, says Shalmali, is meeting the legend — Bharatratna Lata Mangeshkar. “It was a surprise for us. None of us knew that we would be meeting her till we reached her place. She interacted with us as if we were her grandchildren. It was the best day of my life,” says an excited Shalmali.
Speaking about life after the show, Shalmali says, “After school, I took up the Arts stream at Ramnarian Ruia College, Mumbai. I started taking singing lessons from Varsha Bhave who had groomed us during Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. I liked the way she taught us.”
Hard work soon paid off as she got her first break as the playback singer for the lead actress for Marathi film Hasle Mani Chandane (yet to be released), courtesy renowned music composer and arranger late Anil Mohile. “I couldn’t imagine becoming a playback singer at such a young age,” says Shalmali.
Throwing light on her first album, Aathva Swar, Shalmali speaks, “This was my first album with all the top eight contestants of Sa Re Ga Ma. Varshatai was in charge of this project. It gave all of us a great start and a lot of confidence. After this album, I sang a few bhajans and songs. All of this was new and different for me.”
As for her future plans, Shalmali says, “I want to sing for Bollywood. I want to be a playback singer.”