I've had the pleasure of listening to both these singers chalk up bravura singing on noteworthy songs. They have been hired by big composers, yet they seem to be flying under the radar. But there is no mistaking that their careers as vocalists are now red hot.
We all know Vishal composes music with Shekhar Ravjiani (no slouch himself on vocals). We all know he sings songs. But late last year something really interesting happened. Confined to singing stuff that required a Western / Rock / Dhaasu slant (unless he cast himself), Vishal worked the microphone for two songs of such breezy, delicate beauty (Jaane Kyun, Khabar Nahi) on Dostana - that it stunned everyone, especially me. (More on this from Vishal in this interview)
Dostana was a smash, the music really worked and everyone saw Vishal the vocalist in a completely new light. This year Vishal followed up with three standouts.
Working for Salim-Suleiman, he rasped his way through the unsettling and delicious Nazaara Hai (8x10 Tasveer). This song highlights why Vishal has broken into the scene. His work as lead singer for Pentagram positions him well when a rock song is being cast. Vishal has the accent, the attitude, the ability to hold straight rock notes and the gruffness that goes with this genre.
Later on he paired up with Sukhwinder Singh on the delirious Dhan Te Nan (Kaminey) for composer Vishal Bhardwaj. Dhan Te Nan is full of Vishal's trademark energy - when he sings the chorus, you can feel the reckless abandon he brings to a song.
Finally with his work on the ballad You May Be (Aladin) he made everyone connect with unconditional love and everlasting devotion. It was a reminder of the fact that his voice, despite everything else it brings to the table, remains a very mainstream voice. It's not marginal at all, it works across a variety of genres.
Vishal's voice is not gorgeous by any means. It's not clear and ringing and full of sargam. But this is an advantage. As Indian cinema comes to grips with realism in movies, there is room for a voice that sounds more ordinary than ethereal, but can still convey extraordinary emotion.
Vishal's definitive song list as vocalist
Boss Kaun Tha (with Amit Kumar), Jo Gaya Vo Gaya (with KK), Ruk Ruk - Jhankaar Beats, 2003
Popcorn Khao! Mast Ho Jao - Popcorn Khao! Mast Ho Jao, 2003
Tere Ishq Mein (with Mahalaxmi Iyer), Chand Chahiye (with Sunidhi Chauhan) - Supari
Le Jaa (with Harshdeep) - Karam, 2005
Gyan Guru - Home Delivery, 2005
Sholon Si (with Sunidhi Chauhan) - Shabd, 2005
Ek Ajnabee (with Sukhwinder Singh, Sunidhi Chauhan) - Ek Ajnabee, 2005
Golmaal (with Anushka Manchanda), Mast Malang (with Kunal Ganjawala) - Golmaal, 2006
Dhoom Again (with Dominique Cerejo) - Dhoom 2, 2006
Albela (with Shankar Mahadevan) - Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Limited, 2007
Cash, (with Sunidhi Chauhan, Shekhar Ravjiani), Na Puchho (with Sunidhi Chauhan), Rehem Kare (with Sunidhi Chauhan) - Cash, 2007
Saaiyaan - Ta Ra Rum Pum, 2007
Jame Raho - Tare Zameen Par, 2008
Break Free - Krazzy 4, 2008
Tashan Mein (with Master Saleem) - Tashan, 2008
Jaane Kyun, Khabar Nahin (with Shreya Ghoshal) - Dostana, 2008
Nazaara Hain - 8x10 Tasveer, 2009
Dhan Te Nan (with Sukhwinder Singh) - Kaminey, 2009
Barson Yaaron (with Roop Kumar Rathod) - London Dreams, 2009
You May Be - Aladin, 2009
Bachke O Bachke (with Shankar Mahadevan, Shaan, Sunidhi Chauhan) - Aladin, 2009
Also: Vishal and Shekhar's official web presence, Vishal's band Pentagram
Photo of Vishal by the super talented Kanika Nagpal. More of her work on Sleepy Maggie Photography.
Given a break on the monster hit Golmaal by Vishal himself, Anushka has transformed her career from band member of the all-girl band Viva to MTV VJ to Tollywood songs to Bollywood playback. She's done this with a stream of hugely entertaining songs.
Her performance on the raucous Bad Girls (Chak De! India) for Salim-Suleiman got her wide spread notice. Later Vishal and Shekhar cast her against type on the delicate and seductive Hone Lagi (De Taali). Last year she sang the title track for Chandni Chowk to China for Shankar Ehsaan Loy.
In the last 12 months, her career has achieved near warp speed.
So what is unique about Anushka? (Sure she's hot, but this is a post about music so let's focus!) Two things: she has a voice that sounds great at lower octaves. Its husky, its sensual. Importantly its in tune with the current zeitgeist in Bollywood music that eschews squeaky 'innocent' girly voices and embraces full throated singing.
Anushka also brings a balls to the wall type of attitude to her vocals that translates into a unique bindaas chick energy in the songs. Its fairly valuable to a composer who wants to cast a fresh, young voice that can sing in Hindi and English with equal proficiency and make the song pop.
Anushka's definitive song list as vocalist
Golmaal (with Vishal Dadlani) - Golmaal, 2006
Zindaggi Rocks - Zindaggi Rocks, 2006
Bad Girls - Chak De! India, 2007
Naughty Naughty, Zara Bachke - Cash, 2007
Akh Lad Gayi - Ek Chalis Ki Last Local, 2007
Karle Gunaah (with Ishq Bector) - Ugly Aur Pagli, 2008
Hone Lagi (with Shekhar Ravjiani), Everybody put your hands together (with Sunidhi Chauhan, Shaan) - De Taali, 2008
Money Money (with Krishna) - Victory, 2008
Tu Saala - Golmaal Returns, 2008
Apni Dum Bhi Oonchi Ho (with Kunal Ganjawala, Earl, Salim Merchant, Jugal Hansraj) - Roadside Romeo, 2008
Nobody like you (with Neeraj Shridhar, Ishq Bector) - Mission Istaanbul, 2008
Sexy Mama (with Baba Sehgal) - 13B
Chandni Chowk to China (with Neeraj Shridhar, Shankar Mahadevan) - CC2C, 2009
Welcome to Hollywood - Kambakkht Ishq, 2009
Kabhi Kabhi - Mere Khwabon Mein Jo Aaye, 2009
Lagaa Le - Luck, 2009
We are the Queens (with Mahua Kamat, Pratichee) - Aamras, 2009
Akiro Kurasawa - Chintuji, 2009
Do Knot Disturb (with T. K. Karthik), Bebo (with Neeraj Shridhar) - Do Knot Disturb, 2009
Genie Rap (with Amitabh Bachchan) - Aladin, 2009
Also: Anushka's official web presence, her band Shkabang on MySpace
My thanks to Anushka for helping me with her song list