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Bollywood calling Kashmiri singing sensation Mehmeet

Aug 22, 2013

Mehmeet Syed, 27, has become the first Kashmiri woman to carve her place as a playback singer in Hindi film industry, writes Sana Altaf.

Mehmeet Syed

Srinagar: After giving a new flavour to traditional Kashmiri songs through her music albums, Mehmeet Syed, 27, has taken her career as a singer to the next level. The youngster has set foot in the glamorous yet fiercely competitive world of the Hindi film industry, popularly known as Bollywood, as a playback singer for the film, ‘Chinar’. Thus, she becomes the first Kashmiri woman to break this barrier. “I am happy to be introduced to Bollywood through the film ‘Chinar’, which is a simple love story, set in Kashmir. I am singing one solo and one duet number for the soundtrack,” says Syed excitedly.

Although this was not the first offer she had received from filmmakers in Bollywood, she hadn’t been able to convert those earlier opportunities owing to her educational commitments. She says, “The crew of ‘Chinar’ was here for shooting and someone had told them about me. They approached me and made me an offer to sing for their film.”

In Kashmir, Syed is already an established and immensely popular singer, whose music has given a new lease of life to old local numbers. Even her music videos have a huge fan following among the youngsters in the Valley.

Singing comes naturally to Syed. She started performing right from her school days in 1990s, participating in the annual day celebrations. At every step of the way, her parents and younger brother stood by her. Her mother, particularly, played a significant part in honing her talent. “My mother was a music graduate and it is from her that I received my basic lessons in singing,” she reveals. Syed’s father is a doctor-turned-politician while her younger brother is also associated with music industry.

After she completed her schooling, Syed joined college but she did not let her music take a back seat. ‘Riyaz’ (musical practice) was an integral part of her daily routine. In order to gain a formal training in classical music, she went all the way to Mumbai, a city known for its prestigious music schools as well as accomplished teachers. She pursued the training for two years.

It was in 2002 that Syed made her first official appearance as a singer in Srinagar. She recalls, “I performed in a programme organised by the Sports and Youth Services, which was attended by many dignitaries. Immediately after that performance I started getting offers.”

Within no time, she had a lot of work and very little time on hand. After all, her studies were always going on simultaneously – she has done her masters in journalism and mass communication and is currently pursuing a post-graduate degree in public administration.

In 2004, she released her first Kashmiri video album, ‘Chulhama Roshay Roshay’. It was a big hit with 50,000 VCDs and 75,000 audio cassettes being sold in the first year. Today, there are over 100 music albums to her credit, as her primary interest has always been in singing Kashmiri songs.

Elaborates Syed, “Traditional Kashmiri songs are losing their relevance. I wanted to bring them back into the mainstream culture in the state and attract our youth to it. This is why I have consciously opted to sing Kashmiri songs.” The unconditional backing of her family only fuelled her rise to stardom – she has been feted with several awards, including Most Promising Singer of the state and Naseem Akhtar Memorial Award named after the great Kashmiri singer.

But Syed’s dream run came to a screeching halt when her mother fell ill. Besides having to take a temporary break from her studies, she also decided to stay away from music at that point. She recalls that period with a voice ridden with pain, “My mother was bedridden for four years. I spent all my time with her. I did my master’s degree in mass communication through distance learning and did not sing for a long while.”

After a difficult battle with her illness, Syed’s mother passed away in 2011. As she was very close to her mother, the young singer was heartbroken. She lost interest in doing everything that earlier gave her happiness. For months she remained confined to her home, she stopped meeting people and even gave up music, a gift her mother had given her. Remembering those dark days Syed says, “I had lost myself. Nothing mattered to me then. I only missed my mother.”

Once again, it was with the help of her family and friends that Syed managed to pull herself together and come to terms with her grief. As a tribute to her mother she went back to singing. It was the offer from the makers of ‘Chinar’ that ushered in an exciting phase of life for her. “I am thrilled with getting the chance to make it to the big league and I will give it my best shot,” she says with a smile.

As a Kashmiri youth icon, Syed is conscious of her influence on many young minds. She says, “I want the Kashmiri youth to pursue a career in music if they so want to. They must not wait for opportunities but stand up for themselves.” Of course, she does not believe in limiting her professional horizons to music alone. In an interview to a leading national daily, she talked of her ambition to prepare for the civil service exams “because music is not the end of the world for me”.

Amid all the fame and excitement that is coming her way now, Syed deeply misses her mother and wishes she could have shared her success with her, “The absence of my mother still hurts me a lot. Had she been alive, she would have been the happiest person right now.”

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