By P.Shukl

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Talk of another Miss India who is well on her way to becoming a Miss World. From the release of her debut album 'Miss India' in 1996, Mehnaz has come a long, long way. Undoubtedly, 'Miss India' and the 'Main Hoon' track from the album won her instant recognition as a singer with great promise. Then followed The Channel [V] Award for the 'Best Female Vocalist' in the Indian pop category that year and the same title at the Screen Awards, and Mehnaz was well and truly launched.

Since then she has been considered one of the leading Indian pop singers and a live performer par excellence. Her live shows are electrifying, and once she is on stage, the audiences go ecstatic. Mehnaz has, over the last three years, clocked over 200 shows in India and abroad. Her busy schedule, though, had kept her away, leaving her little time to work on her follow-up solo album.

"But I have always been there in the recording studios, doing numbers for various compilation albums," says Mehnaz, in New Delhi for a live performance organized by Channel [V]. She explains: "Some of these include tracks on the 'Jogi' album wherein I was featured in the 'Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram' track and a solo track-'Damadum Mast Kalandar'. I also performed in a couple of tracks on 'Sambhal Ke', which was a concept album that also featured Anaida and Tunisha. Then I also did the 'Paisa Paisa Paisa' number in the film 'Bombay Boys'. This track was a smash hit. The song was picturised to an all-male cabaret scene. The music was composed and arranged by Ashutosh Pathak and Dhruv Ghanekar.

This was instrumental in getting her the deal of a lifetime with superstar singer Iwan. How did this happen? "After I did the 'Paisa Paisa Paisa' number, people in Malaysia went crazy about the song. Some officials in BMG Malaysia also heard it and were impressed. They sent BMG Crescendo (India) a proposal to feature me in a duet with one of their superstar singers, Iwan. The deal concluded and I was in a studio with Iwan, who specially flew down to India with the tracks to dub the vocals. The song was recorded in Malay as well as in Hindi and both versions were a smashing success in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, where Iwan is a household name. This album made me also very popular in these countries. It was after this that I was invited to Malaysia for the launch of the record and to feature in a national television show."

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This move proved to be very fruitful and after this she never looked back. She went from Malaysia to Los Angeles. "This time I got an opportunity for a duet with 'Air Supply'. The song titled 'You Are', penned and composed by Graham Russel is now a part of the soundtrack of the English film 'Split Wide Open', an Adlab, BMG Crescendo and Tropic film co-production directed by none other than the promising director Dev Benegal of 'English, August' fame. 'You Are' (also with a Hindi version) is a beautiful ballad, for the recording of which I had to fly down to Los Angeles. A video, also shot in the Mojave Desert, California, is truly international class, and has also won accolades. After this, I also did a song for the recently-released 'Snip', directed by the young director Sunhil Sippy. I liked the video shot for the song, which is currently on air on almost all the channels."

Despite her numerous collaborations, albums and television appearances, her role as a live performer has never taken a backseat. Shuttling from city to city, she even performed last month at a concert at the Pavarotti Music Center in Mosta, Bosnia, in aid of the children of war. How does Mehnaz manage this sort of a hectic itinerary? She replies calmly: "You see, when you have want to make it big, you have to work to a very exhausting schedule. Nowadays, if you sit tight even for a few days to relax, someone else steals the show. So to remain present at every place where I am needed is the only option left for me."

The ringing of the telephone bell intrudes on our conversation. She has to report to the Green Room for the make-up of the show that is to start in a few minutes. I hurriedly ask her a last question: "How do you feel when you are mobbed by your fans?" "Oh! I just enjoy it. Fans in India have been very nice to me. I must admit that all the credit for my success goes to my fans."


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