Singer, model, daredevil, actor…Anushka Manchanda’s life has taken many turns. But it is music that binds it all for this rock chic.
She became a sensation even before she turned 18. Discovered on one of the first reality shows in India Anushka Manchanda went on to be a part of India’s first girl band VIVA. And though the band split, Anushka moved on to be a VJ, model and even lend her bold and sassy voice to the Hindi film industry. Currently she is making waves for her uninhibited performance in the film Angry Indian Goddesses.
But it wasn’t planned like this. In fact this Delhi girl wanted to go to Cornell in New York to study advertising. It was while studying for her SATs that the talent hunt beckoned and the rest as they say is history (or ‘her’story in this case). Although her days of pop singing are long gone, Anushka has managed to carve an interesting niche for herself in the Indian music world. She brings a certain freshness, chutzpah, glam and groove into the music scene. That’s commendable for someone who’s had no formal vocal training. But music was always omnipresent in the Manchanda family that loves its rock and roll. Anushka started playing the piano at a very early age and grew up listening to a lot of rock and roll, Jimmie Hendrix, Santana, Iron Butterfly and Sting.
Anushka made her playback debut with a Tamil song and went on to sing for many more south Indian films, the lyrics of which she didn’t understand. “Whenever I asked the meaning of the songs, they would be very embarrassed and would say, ‘just sing in a sensual husky voice’. Afterwards, when I got a friend to translate the lyrics, I was quite shocked to know I was singing some very raunchy lines,” laughs the singer. Her big Bollywood break came in 2006 when she crooned for Rohit Shetty’s Golmaal. Composed by the hit music director duo Vishal-Shekhar the song turned out to be a thumping success. Numerous other songs followed with noted music composers like Anu Malik, Salim-Sulaiman, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Pritam Chakraborty and Anushka became the new ‘western voice of Bollywood’ a tag solely owned by Sunidhi Chauhan. She continued the dream run with hit number like Dum Maaro Dum, Dance Basanti, Bezubaan Kabse and Allah Duhai Hai.
In the meanwhile her affair with television continued and she won the second season of the celebrity version of Fear Factor-Khatron Ke Khiladi. The stunts were much harder than they looked on television says Anushka who loves to live life on the edge. Understandably the helicopter stunt where she had to walk from one wing to other still remains her favourite. Biking is another passion and it’s not rare to spot this tall and lanky singer cruising through the Mumbai traffic.
While playback singing is where the money is, live gigs are Anushka’s first love. “There’s so much adrenaline pumping through your body. There have been times when I was sick, but yet went up on stage and had a rocking show. Being on stage just gives you a kind of power and energy that you can’t replicate. It is just amazing,” she says. She can play the crowds as well as myriad instruments (piano, guitar and some drums), with equal elan.
Not one to mince words Anushka admits to being nervous in a recording studio. Not being classically trained only adds to her disadvantage. “Just like on stage where I know my strengths as a singer, at a recording studio, I know my drawbacks. Since I am not classically trained, it is harder for me to do certain modulations. Some harkats don’t come naturally to me,” she confesses.
Acting was a natural progression and Anushka made her debut in the flop movie ‘Dulha Mil Gaya’. But it’s her second and latest film Angry Indian Goddesses that she’s really proud of. “I don’t think the audience has seen such a film before in India. The depiction of women in Bollywood has been very stereotypical and away from reality. But AIG has very real characters,” adds Anushka.
Apart from her singing and acting the one thing that this Electronic music fan is known for is her fashion sense which is anything but boring. Though she loves fashion, she doesn’t let it rule her wardrobe which is a reflection of her self – fun and irreverent. “Whatever I wear, I will make it strong. Even if I wear a pretty dress, I will wear my boots. It is fierce fashion. I go in for the one thing that no one will wear,” says the actress who admires Neha Dhupia and Kangana Ranuat for their sartorial style.
ASKED ALONG THE WAY
What’s playing your iPod?
Lots of music ranging across Alter Ego, Prodigy, Aerosmith, Bubble, Frou Frou, Sean Paul, Death Cab For Cutie, Reverse Polarity, Shkabang and Pentagram.
One stage obsession
I need my boots. They are strong, making it easy to jump around and they also add to my look. But most importantly, they just get me into the mood to rock.
A ritual you follow before going up on stage
I touch the stage and my heart before she I foot on the stage.
Your biggest advantage over men
My height. I intimidate a lot of men because I am quite tall. I have been subjected to unpleasant instances and have turned around and given it right back which shocks a lot of people.
An actor you would love to go on a date with
Keanu Reeves, so I can profess undying love and a 10-year-long crush to him.
The one thing you would love to do that you have not yet done?
I have not done the concert of my life yet. I am working on it!
I am looking forward to the song I have sung in ‘Dilwale’. I am also writing music independently as an artiste.
NIVEDITA JAYARAM PAWAR