Alka Yagnik is an Indian singer who is ranked among the best-known Hindi playback singers of all time. She is a seven-time winner of the Filmfare Best Female Playback Award and has done playback singing for over 550 Indian films.
Early life and background
Alka Yagnik was born in Kolkata on March 20, 1966 to a Gujarati family. Her mother Shubha Yagnik was a singer of Indian classical music. At the age of 6, she started singing for Calcutta Radio. At age 10, her mother brought her to Bombay as a child singer. She was advised to wait till her voice matured but her mother remained determined and on a subsequent visit, Alka got a letter of introduction to Raj Kapoor from his Kolkata distributor. Raj heard the girl and sent her with a letter to noted music director Laxmikant. Impressed, Laxmikant gave her two alternatives – an immediate start as a dubbing artist, or a later break as a singer; they settled for the latter.
Alka Yagnik is classically trained and has been one of the leading playback singers in Bollywood since the late 1980’s. She began singing bhajans for Calcutta Radio at the age of six. Her first song was for the film Payal Ki Jhankaar in (1979), followed by Laawaris (1981) with the hit song “Mere Angene Mein”, followed by the film Hamari Bahu Alka (1982). She got her big break with the song “Ek Do Teen” from the film Tezaab (1988). The song turned her into a star overnight and went on to become a pop hit, also winning her a Filmfare Best Female Playback Award. Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak was also a career maker for her, as she along with Udit Narayan became household names.
She has sung in many languages other than Hindi, including Gujarati, Oriya, Assamese, Manipuri, Nepali, Rajasthani, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Punjabi, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, and Malayalam. In addition, she has been the number one choice for film songs due to the versatility of her voice, in which more film heroines have requested her voice be dubbed over their performance. She has worked with many other Indian composers, such as Kalyanji-Anandji, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Anu Malik, A. R. Rahman, Anand-Milind, Himesh Reshammiya and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. She has sung in many notable albums such as “Tum Yaad Aaye”, as well as “Tum Aaye” and “Shairana” in which she worked in close collaboration with award-winning lyricist Javed Akhtar and noted singer Hariharan. Additionally, she has also rendered the supreme and powerful mantra, the Hanuman Chalisa and various devotional songs.
Alka shares the title with Asha Bhosle for the greatest number of Filmfare Awards won (7) by a single female playback singer. Alka has also been the judge of various Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge shows, and Star Voice of India, both singing competition shows, in which children or adults of various age groups compete with one another to win the award for best vocals. In addition to this, her song “Chamma Chamma” from China Gate was featured in the song “Hindi Sad Diamonds” from the soundtrack of the film Moulin Rouge!.