“Ilayaraja sir is the toughest to work with, because he is very specific with his wants and it was exciting to work with a genius like him.” – Caralisa Monteiro
A playback singer, recording artist, a music composer and a cancer awareness campaigner. Fondly called as “The Queen of Advertising”, she has put her soul in over 5000 memorable ad jingles and some of the most hummed Bollywood chartbusters.
This week IAD got a chance to talk with Caralisa Monteiro about her success wave in the ad world for over a decade and half, her favorite music genre, her first music album ‘Illusion’, her NGO ‘Angel in Disguise’ and more in this special exclusive.
Thousands of advertisements to your credit… What has been your biggest milestone so far in your career? One particular favorite?
I think every jingle, was equally important. The first jingle is special, because you have to start somewhere. Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonsa called me for a coffee Jingle (Nescafe), so yes that holds a special place in my heart. The Limca jingle with Sushma Reddy got really famous and had a nice melody. But there have been many, the entire FasTrack campaigns with Genelia Dsouza, the Idea campaign with Balki and Ilayaraja… So yeah, there have been quite a few memorable ones!
Music to you is…
Music is an integral part of who I am, though I have never really thought of it that way. It’s all I know, it’s all I have ever done. I got out of college and music is all I have ever done. I have never had another job. So yes, in a nutshell, music is Caralisa.
How difficult is it to become a singer in today’s times as compared to when you started out?
When I started out, it was not the norm. So there were fewer people, but in my personal opinion there was more quality. Promoting oneself was very difficult. There was no social media or YouTube. If your job on air stood out, someone would enquire and that’s how you got your next job. So every job became really important as it got you your next one. Today there is some huge amount of talent but a lot of average voices as well. Technology has evolved to an extent where singing in pitch is not really an issue. Similarly, old school composers put out music that had a hook and you would remember the melody, now barring a few, they are just loops from different software.
What kind of training does it take for a singer to move effortlessly between different kinds of voices as per the demand? How do you do it?
Honestly, I have had no formal training at all. My parents would sing and I grew up in a musical household. I was a great mimic. I just practiced on the job; there was a good 6-7 year period when I was in studio, hopping all day, and every job was different. You grow in confidence I suppose with a large body of work.
How has your parents’ background in music influenced your style?
My parents’ music list was certainly classical and they were very selective about what we listened to, by exposing my sister and me to just good ol’ music, and that helped me grow a certain musical taste of my own. I guess I have a huge range, like my father, and I think I picked a clear neutral diction because of my mother’s insistence on elocution and enunciation.
Who is the toughest to work with from this lot: A. R. Rahman, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Vishal-Shekhar, Ram Sampath, Clinton Cerejo or others?
Everyone is unique in their own way. But, personally Ilayaraja sir is the toughest to work with, because he is very specific with his wants, down to the smallest nuances and it was exciting to work with a genius like him. The title song of Shamitabh, Sha Sha Sha Mi Mi Mi, was like singing a western classical song because it hadn’t much room to breathe.
Tell us about your debut album ‘Illusion’?
‘Illusion’ is a collection of 6 songs that I decided to put out finally. I have always been writing, but with Bollywood and advertising I never actually got the time to put my music out. The title track of Illusion is a duet with Vishal Dadlani. The song Angel in Disguise I wrote as the anthem to my NGO with the same name “Angel in Disguise”.
Your voice has a beautiful face, did you ever feel like coming on the celluloid?
(Laughs) I made a choice to do what I chose to. Quality always gets you recognized. I have sung on over 100 Bollywood films. So I am happy and have no complaints. Like I have said many times before, I have been around 18 years and I always wanted to be the best at what I do, not the most famous. I have personally got my share of fame, so I have no complaints.
Favorite local and foreign singers?
I have always loved Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston growing up. Closer to home, I like Shafqat Amanat Ali and Vishal Dadlani, both whom I have worked with and are now friends.
The music genre you like the most? Latest addiction on your iPad?
Soul! Because that’s what music is about… I listen to all sorts of music. Music that interests me doesn’t have to be trending or sound fabulously produced. I dig it if they have good songwriting and speak to my heart and soul.
You recently ran long distance from Mumbai to Pune to raise awareness about breast cancer in women, how much more one has to do?
A lot can be done… I am trying my best educating women to change their lifestyle and to have themselves checked regularly. Prevention and early detection of the disease is the key.
An actress you would love to mimic; lend voice to or sing for?
In advertising I have rendered my voice to almost everyone… On a film, I would like to sing playback for Kareena.
Some videos recorded by Caralisa:
Limca (Sushma Reddy):
Mango Slice TVC (Katrina Kaif):
Another Limca campaign:
Nescafe Reachout TVC:
Set Wet Zatak – Parking Lot:
NESCAFÉ Cold Coffee (Deepika Padukone, Karan Johar, Purab Kohli):
Liril Family commercial:
Ponds Age Miracle:
Idea Cellular – Musician: Ilaiyaraja, Director: R. Balki:
Phir Dekhiye from Rock On:
Sha Sha Sha Mi Mi Mi song from Shamitabh (Amitabh Bachchan, Dhanush, Akshara):
You can support Caralisa Monteiro on her mission to raise awareness about breast cancer. Follow Cara on Facebook / Twitter and support her NGO Angel in Disguise. More videos on YouTube. 🙂