Palak Muchhal's voice touches hearts

Palak Muchhals voice touches hearts

By Michael Gomes

Published: Thu 25 Jan 2018, 6:58 PM

Last updated: Sun 28 Jan 2018, 1:38 PM

Very few artistes in Bollywood would have perhaps achieved what Palak  Muchhal has at such a young age. The 20-something Ek Tha Tiger singer is a true humanitarian and has been scaling higher notes with her charity efforts than her playback singing. Supported by her younger brother and composer Palash, she has performed across India and abroad to raise funds for needy children who could not afford heart surgery. So far, she has provided financial aid to treat 1,735 kids and there are about 400 youngsters on her waiting list needing treatment.
Her achievements haven't gone unnoticed. School books in India have  included a story on her immense efforts.  Even the Government of India has lauded her  efforts and  her achievements have made it to the Guinness World Records and Limca Book of World Records. The noble-hearted singer, who was in Dubai last weekend to take a break from her hectic schedule, spoke to City Times about her humanitarian efforts, Bollywood, her dreams, and why she loves Dubai.

What are plans for Dubai?
Well, Dubai happens to be one of my most favourite places for a visit. However, this time, I am not here to perform, I have come here to unwind and relax. And I'm truly loving it!

Tell us more about your charity work?
I got into charity when I was about four years old, and that's when I also got into singing. The feeling of helping others is there for everybody, but I was fortunate enough to do something about it.

What sparked your interest in humanitarian work?
There were many incidents. Once, I remember traveling on a train in India when I saw a poor child using her clothes to clean the train compartment to make some money. Then during winter, I remember seeing kids sleeping on the footpath, shivering in the cold, while I had so many sweaters and shawls to keep me warm. I felt sad for them. I used to wonder why some of us have to suffer like this. Then, I prayed to God to give me a medium through which I could help them. So, I guess, God gave me this talent of singing through which I am able to save lives, bring a smile on people's faces and offer hope to the needy.  So far, I have been able to help 1,735 kids with heart ailments get operated and there are about 400 kids on my waiting list awaiting treatment.

Does this (doing charity work) make you happy?
Yes, it does, immensely! No matter how much I earn, what I achieve or how many awards I win, the happiness I get when I see someone smiling, and knowing that I am the reason behind the smile is unmatchable. It's a blessing!  

Do you get any support for your charity work ?
No, I don't. I run my own trust (Palak Muchhal Heart Foundation). All proceeds from my concerts are donated to charity. However, I would like to point out that my audience has been indirectly supporting me - by attending my concerts. For me, charity is a personal mission and I want to do it on my own. I only seek everyone's blessings. I also tell youngsters that you don't necessarily have to show your support (for charity) by making financial contributions, even if you can make someone smile, it's good enough.

Is it tough organising charity shows? How did it start?
It all started with me collecting funds for Kargil War soldiers (in 1999). My mum saw a story in the newspaper about people donating money to soldiers.  So I told her that I too wanted to do something for them. She was happy for me and supported me. So, I went to shops near my home and sang Lata Mangeshkar's famous patriotic song Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo. And guess what? To my surprise, I managed to collect Rs25,000. At that time, it was a huge amount. That's how it started. After that, I started my mission to help children who could not afford heart surgery. I did my first show for a child called Lokesh. He was suffering from a congenital heart ailment. Palash and I used a street vendor's handcart (as a stage) and went on the road doing shows to raise funds for the boy's surgery.  I managed to collect Rs55,000, which was the exact amount we needed for the surgery. Following that, I was flooded with phone calls from India and abroad. Everyone wanted me to do shows for them and collect funds for my cause. At that time, I wasn't even singing in Bollywood.  I still remember singing non-stop for 3 hours at a concert to collect enough funds for a single patient. Now, after scoring hit songs in Bollywood, every concert helps me collect funds to support at least 17-18 heart patients.

Your story been included in school textbooks in Maharashtra we hear. Tell us about that.
This is really interesting one. Once, when I was doing a concert in India, I noticed a girl in the audience frantically waving out to me and showing a school text book. I had no idea what she was trying to tell me. Then, she came up on stage and showed me the text book. It had my picture and something written about my social work, and it happened to be one of the books prescribed by the Maharashtra State Board for the school curriculum. I was pleasantly surprised. Later, I heard that it was included in the CBSE curriculum. I was truly overwhelmed after knowing this.

People have nicknamed you the 'Good Samaritan of Indore', how does it feel being in that position at such a young age?
I really don't know how this title came about. Though I feel privileged, I must say that there are many other people who work much more harder than me. There are singers who are much better than me. I am truly blessed to receive this kind of adulation. I consider myself fortunate to be getting an opportunity to sing so many songs in Bollywood even though I don't belong to a family with a musical background or connections. I think it's the blessing.

Do you plan to involve Bollywood in your charity efforts?
My mission is surely connected to Bollywood. My songs help me raise funds for charity. I 'll be more than happy to have Bollywood contributing to my mission, but there's no compulsion.

How did you get into singing?
It happened when I was about two or two-and-a-half years old. It was during a family function. Everyone was doing something and I told my mum that I too wanted to go on stage and do something. She thought I would recite a poem since  I had just joined pre-school. However, much to everyone's surprise, I broke into Lata Mangeshkar's  Chal Re Sajni. After that, my mum enrolled me in a school to learn classical music. That's how my journey began.

Did being part of composers Kalyanji-Anandji's Little Star group help you?
Being a member of Kalyanji-Anandji's Little Star group was an exciting time in my life. I was selected for the group at a very young age. I think I was about 4 when I started touring with the group. I travelled across the world with them. That's how I developed my vocal talent at such a young age. Anandji was a mentor to me, he taught me how to sing on stage, and also in the movies.
We heard Salman is like a godfather to you?
Yes he is. Salman is my godfather and guardian angel. He has supported me a lot in my charity work. He gave me my first break in Bollywood after recommending me to filmmaker Aditya Chopra for Ek Tha Tiger. Even now, whenever I have to take a decision on anything, after my parents, I consider Salman's advice as the most valuable one. Up until now, he has contributed towards 100 heart surgeries from my list. So yes, he's been a big supporter, and his blessings are always with me.
Tell us a bit about your journey?
It's been like a dream for me. I am from Indore, but I moved to Mumbai years ago to pursue playback singing. I was prepared to go through the struggle, but I am fortunate to have met Salman Khan who supported me and put me on the right (career) path. All I had to do was follow his advice. He taught me the dos and don'ts of the industry - who I should be with, work with, and who to avoid.  He recommended my name to many music directors and producers. That's how I bagged my first movie (Ek Tha Tiger). Then, Aashiqui 2 happened, and after that, there was a deluge of calls from producers who wanted me to sing for their movies.

Which is your best movie song so far? Why?
Every song is special to me. Each one has a particular emotion attached to it. It's impossible to single out a song as my best.

Besides singing what are your other interests?
I like studying. In fact, I just completed my Ph.D. in International Business. Apart from that, I like to play the piano, do cooking and I also dabble a bit in painting and sketching.

What new songs are you doing?
Oh, quite a few! I have 218 songs lined up for this year and next year. I hope people will continue to love my songs and support me.

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