The first song of the recently dominating movie Guru has got huge hit among the people. Do you know that who gave the voice in the song? Yes, it is a little surprise that the person behind the song is not an
Locally, Tollar is known to a loyal but limited audience for her evocative renditions of classical Egyptian songs.
Internationally, she was being discussed for her lead vocals on "Mayya Mayya," a hot opening dance number to the Bollywood blockbuster Guru. The film celebrated its world premiere in
this month, but in Toronto the soundtrack has been out for weeks. India
"I checked," Tollar said at her midtown home a few days ago in her cheerful way. "I typed in `Maryem' and `Mayya,' and saw hundreds of blogs.
"I would say the majority seems to love it, but there are a lot of people who say the accent bugs them."
In the Bollywood film world, it is possible to be famous and anonymous at the same time, Tollar says.
She would know. Her brush with the industry began two years ago when a friend introduced her to A.R. Rahman, one of the Indian film industry's top composers.
He was in town from
to help with the stage production of The Lord of the Rings and needed extra backup vocals for a film soundtrack he was also working on. Madras
Tollar took the job for a set fee and the film Rang De Basanti (Print it Yellow) duly appeared last year. She heard little more about it.
"The next time (Rahman) came to
, he got me to improvise some melodies for another song," Tollar says. "He didn't have lyrics but the shape of the song was coming together." Toronto
By their third meeting, Rahman had lyrics. He had also recorded the music and backup vocals – everything except the main melodic line, which he wanted Tollar to sing over top of everything.
A native Hindi singer wouldn't do, he said. The scene was to be set in
. Curvaceous Bollywood beauty Malika Sherawat was to be scantily dressed in what might pass as belly dance attire and he wanted a foreign flavour to the song – in Hindi but Middle Eastern sounding. Istanbul
However, it was very difficult for this Canadian singer to materialize the offer due to the linguistic difference and variations. She had to try many times to pronounce some of the words. The report said:
Tollar speaks several languages but not Hindi. Rahman speaks Tamil. As a voice coach, he hired Devika Mathur, a local radio host who arrived three years ago from Mumbai and became a contender on Canadian Idol.
"In terms of pronunciation, I was surprised by the number of different `r's they have," Tollar says, "and some of their consonants have aspirations at the end, a little `ah' sound.
"For the `p' they have a shorter stop. It finishes differently. Really subtle things but people notice them because they can make a difference to the meaning.
"So they would get me to do things over and over again – `tah, tah, tah,' to the point where after a while I didn't know whether I heard a difference or not."
Mathur would teach Tollar a phrase. She would practise it. Then Rahman would record it and they would move on to the next. They finished the number in a single session, again paid at a flat rate.
"I didn't memorize the song and I wouldn't be able to sing it to you now," Tollar says.
But large numbers of Bollywood fans would be. "Mayya Mayya" is a huge hit.
The video promoting the movie features the song, easily found on the Internet. Bloggers consistently name it and "Barso re" as the film's two best.
"Rahman is like a demi-god in
and people memorize his songs even before the movie comes out," Tollar says. India
Knowing she had become a household name to Bollywood fans, the singer decided to attend the premiere. The romantic leads Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan were to be there, along with Rahman and director Mani Ratnam.
When Tollar called and identified herself, she was told she could buy a $350 ticket for $250. Instead, she waited until Rahman arrived. He called at on the night of the gala and said he could get her in. Just come to the hotel, he said.
Tollar's 5-year-old daughter Omneya wanted to come, too. At the hotel, they met the director and cinematographer, and rode with VIPs in a limousine to the Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre.
"We got there," Tollar says. "There were crowds of people and everybody screaming and the red carpet and all the cameras and everything, and Omneya looked at me and said, `I feel like I'm going to throw up.'
It sounds good that a singer has voiced in a song of such a high profile movie even though she can not understand that language. However, the song has created a boom in the industry and has been critically acclaimed. I hope Tollar will continue working in Bollywood.