Winner of the singing reality show, Sa Re Ga Ma in 1995, Sanjeevani Bhelande has been singing for 25 years and has done 2000 live concerts worldwide.
After winning the show, she sang the many film songs including, Chori chori jab nazren mili (Kareeb; 1998), Chidiya too hotee toh (Nayak; 2001), Nikamma kiya iss dil ne (Kyaa Dil Ne Kahaa; 2002), Makhmali yeh badan (Road; 2002), O yaara rab rus jaane (Socha Na Tha; 2005) etc.
For her, singing playback helped as they gave her a “voice identity” and had a huge reach. Bhelande explains, “When the history of music is written to have your name as a playback singer and to be known for your original songs means a lot. I am fortunate to be a part of some good songs. Nikamma was my biggest hit.”
She adds, “Later on, I composed over 100 spiritual tracks which is where my strength lies. Many of my aartis have a million plus views on Youtube. Internet has been a blessing as I have a huge online following including Spotify where I have 60 thousand listeners.”
In the last year, the singer has released three albums including a spiritual album for prayer meetings, and one where she sang traditional bandishs in raag format. “I have authoured a book, Meera and Me, which is a contemporary interpretation of Meera. I have also sung love songs in English in an album of the same name. I am working on a thumri as well as a song on nature, a Hindi and English translation of a Marathi abhang by sant Tukaram. I have continued classical training and not given it up. I want to perform more classical than before. Over the years, my growth as an artiste has been phenomenal,” she reveals.
Talking about the experience of the reality show Bhelande shares that being on a reality show helped her foray into playback singing. She says, “It was the very first season so the reach wasn’t so wide. It was just 13 episodes. When I was singing, it felt like a college competition. It felt great to have legendary composers like Khayyam saab who gave me the prize. I was already singing a lot on stage when I participated in Sa Re Ga Ma. Unlike today, when winners get a song with a popular music composer, back then producer Vir Chopra heard me on the show and offered me to sing in Kareeb. I never asked anyone for work as I was happy doing my classical and retro shows. Especially my Madan Mohan show went viral on whatsapp as I spoke about the aesthetic appreciation of the song which people loved to hear.”
She feels the reach of reality shows today is much wider. “They have become cut-throat as well and well defined. There is an economics to reality shows. Today, contestants have stylish, make up department to help them. Back then there was no glamour. We didn’t know how to dress or style ourselves. It was simple.”