Updated: Jul 8, 2019
Jasleen Royal is renowned as a new age composer, songwriter and singer for Hindi films and Indie music..
The year is 2009. Indian crowds are watching the first season on India’s Got Talent (a variant of the international talent show franchise). A young, somewhat-shy looking girl walks in one of the auditions. She approaches the mic with a harmonica balanced around her neck. ‘Hello’, comes a gentle voice from the 18-year-old, as she introduces herself to the judges.
‘What is your name?’ Shekhar Kapur, one of the judges asks.
‘Jasleen Royal’. The girl answers.
‘Okay, so let’s hear your song.’
Jasleen sits strumming a guitar and playing the harmonica. She’s performing an acoustic rendition of the song Aankhon mei jiski’ (from Rock On).
As she started drawing cheers from the crowds, Shekhar Kapur suddenly stopped Jasleen. ‘I loved your song so much that somewhere in the middle, you were about to go off tune. That’s why I stopped you before the other judges could figure that out. I simply loved your way of singing, and emotion.’ To this, Jasleen gave a humble ‘Thank You’.
Fast forward a few years later, and Jasleen lends the same humble voice, to recording studios instead of reality shows. In India’s Got Talent, her journey ended as a semi-finalist but since then she started walking a road of her own. She has composed, written and performed songs for several films like Dear Zindagi and Baar Baar Dekho, along with her independent singles.
But in the beginning, she was a small town girl who moved to the city for better opportunities. Ludhiana’s Jasleen became a student pursuing B. Com (Hons) from Delhi University’s prestigious Hindu College. For many Indian students, getting into a North Campus college in Delhi is the equivalent of an ‘Ivy League level dream’, because of the career avenues that are opened.
Yet for Jasleen, the career prospects hardly mattered. Visiting Hindu College, you can see a certain ‘Wall of Fame’ near the college auditorium. This wall frames the faces of all alumni that have represented the college. Oddly, one side of the wall shows the academically inclined - a host of lawyers, diplomats and IAS officers. While on the other side, one can find writers, filmmakers and singers. Jasleen was to be a part of this side.
‘I was a bad student’, she confesses. But getting admitted to one of India’s highest ranked college was a blessing as it brought her closer to Delhi, where she could find bigger opportunities for her music. When asked on how Delhi shaped her, she points out how she got introduced to studios, the band culture, and jam pads.
‘There was more access in the city and I felt closer to the things I wanted to do. And I was studying too so there was no interference from anyone. It all worked out so well. It’s not that I got any education in music here but the other things helped.’
By other things, Jasleen means college fests, more venues for gigs, and music societies.
Then the Delhi auditions of India’s Got Talent happened; you know how the rest of the story goes.
Children are also moulded in some way or the other by their parents. It’s their rejection or support which drives them to their art. Jasleen was blessed with a helpful family. She recounts how her family treated her and her brother as equals, and supported her when she picked up the keyboard.
Jasleen Royal’s rise to fame at a young age brings up certain issues in retrospect. Often, kids might drop out or not pursue studies to give their all to their artsy dreams. Some might succeed; some might not.
When we messaged Jasleen, she says that DU was never a backup option. ‘As naïve as it might sound, music was a career option for me right from the start. In India, we don’t have that many music schools. The Rahman school back then was unheard of. My parents couldn’t afford to send me abroad. So I took commerce and I came to Delhi. Music was my only option and that’s why I never sat for placements. Delhi University still had its own charm.’
Jasleen was determined enough to use her college years to hone her craft and live for what she was meant for. Ten years since her audition, she continues strumming along this road.
Amongst her recent works, she sang a song called Jahaan Tu Chala for Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy. She herself features in the movie when the song plays. In what seems like a fitting conclusion, she is present in that scene, singing in a college campus.
Shaurya Singh Thapa