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Raat Akeli Thi singer Antara Mitra: ‘Arijit Singh and I decode Pritamda’s brief in a similar way’

Apart from the Merry Christmas song, Maslandapur girl Antara has sung Gerua and Janam Janam from Dilwale with Arijit Singh

Wriddhaayan Bhattacharyya Calcutta Published 09.02.24, 02:04 PM
Antara Mitra performing live.

Antara Mitra performing live. Instagram

Back in 2005 when the music reality show Indian Idol was having its moment under the sun, she was competing with two contestants who subsequently made it big – Monali Thakur and Neha Kakkar. About a decade later, this girl from Maslandapur, a small town in West Bengal, burst onto the Bollywood music scene with two hit duets with Arijit Singh — Gerua and Janam Janam — for the Shah Rukh Khan- Kajol-starrer Dilwale.

Antara’s latest offering with Arijit is the hauntingly beautiful number Raat Akeli Thi from Sriram Raghavan's Merry Christmas starring Vijay Sethupathi and Katrina Kaif. We chatted with Antara about her experience of working with Arijit and composer Pritam, and the influence of growing up in Bengal on her music.

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Raat Akeli Thi from Merry Christmas has an evergreen Bollywood ring to it. How did you approach the song?

Antara Mitra: When Pritam-da briefed me about the song, I didn’t know how they would fit a love song in a thriller. But the excellence of Sriram Raghavan and Pritam-da made it work. The song has a mystic feel. It definitely breaks the clutter.

How has been your experience of working with Arijit Singh?

Antara Mitra: I haven’t seen too many people from our country being so widely loved. Unfortunately, we don’t stand next to each other and record songs these days. We don't discuss how to emote in a particular song. Arijit lives in Jiaganj in Murshidabad, and I am in Mumbai. We are singing one song from different parts of the country. People are mixing the voices. One thing we both have in common is we decode Pritam-da’s brief in a similar way. It makes it easy, even if we are not in the same studio. Any song involving Arijit, I and Pritam-da sounds married to each other.

Arijit and I were neighbours in Mumbai. We have jammed on other kinds of music.

What’s the secret to the magical partnership with Pritam? There are so many hits like Saree Ke Fall Sa, the songs from Dilwale and now this one.

Antara Mitra: Pritam-da is my mentor. I have worked with him in the studio as an associate. I have been in and around the studio. I sang scratches and dummy tracks. He gave me ample chances to redo and learn the same compositions over and over again. It generally doesn’t happen when I work with other composers. I am a little privileged that way. The songs became popular because I got to sing them from scratch.

How far has West Bengal contributed to your growth?

Antara Mitra: I grew up in Maslandapur, which is two hours from Kolkata. My small town life impacted me and my childhood. I am glad I lived in a quieter place where people knew and loved each other. I did not live an isolated life in a flat like I am doing now. I don’t know what my personality would have been if I had not grown up that way. I come from a simple Bengali household that had a harmonium and tabla. I also had dance classes on Sundays. My parents still live in Maslandapur.

What are some of your fondest memories around music in Bengal?

Antara Mitra: My father is a music teacher. There used to be a big class on weekends. My mother would wake me up and ask me to go and sit as well. Subconsciously, it has contributed a lot to my core taste in music. I heard a lot of Bengali songs on FM radio when I was growing up. Even now, I listen to old songs by Bhoomi, Fossils and Chandrabindoo, plus there are stalwarts like Raghab Chatterjee, Subhamita Banerjee and Lopamudra Mitra.

Last year, you were in Kolkata to finish your MA papers in Bengali literature. Do you want to pursue further education?

Antara Mitra: I did my MA because I wanted to do a PhD in modern art and history. There is a course that I have in mind but I don’t know whether I will be able to devote time. Today, I am doing music. Maybe I will teach modern history after some years, who knows? I don’t feel anything you are doing right now is the final thing in life.

How challenging is it to not feel complacent? Do you set new goals?

Antara Mitra: If you are making music to achieve something, you are doing it wrong. There are so many musicians who win awards on their first project but that doesn’t stop them. I want to make good music. I am not chasing 15,000 songs. I am happy with 15 songs that will play even 50 years from now.

People like you and Arijit came into the spotlight through reality shows. Do you think it was a blessing back then?

Antara Mitra: Many people would not have come to the music industry if not for reality shows. It opened up a spectrum of talent. I feel these shows had a positive impact on people who wanted to do something with music but never had the courage to go for it.

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