In Conversation with Shweta Pandit

Great grand daughter of Pandit Motiram. Grand niece of Pandit Jasraj. It comes as little surprise then that Shweta Pandit became a playback singer at the time she did, recording for Ilayaraja as early as at the age of 4, Currently a regular fixture in AR Rahman’s World tours, the lady has recorded songs in a handful languages apart from Hindi – Telugu,Tamil, Sanskrit to name a few. We present to you our interview with the prolific singer.

Tell us about your musical beginnings. Given the kind of musical lineage you have, music must have been by default for you?

Yes, blessed with music and I do believe God had already planned my destiny to be a vocalist even before i did. There’s no other way I can explain how I recorded with veteran composer, Ilaiyaraja at the age of 4 in Mani Ratnam’s national award winning classic film Anjali. But music was not a default profession.. My father was always particular that if I wanted to be a singer when I grew up, I should do atleast 8 hours of practice everyday! Which I even did.. So wouldn’t say it was easy.. Sweat, tears and hours of patience went into it. But I do feel blessed as I learnt Hindustani classical music from my own grandfather Pandit Pratap Narayan ji (elder brother of Padma Vibhushan – Pandit Jasraj ji)

So what was your contribution in the Hindi dub of Anjali? Was it as a dubbing artist or as a singer?

I sang in all the songs.. And I also dubbed for the little girl in the Hindi version of the film.. Basically both.

You have been part of ARR’s Jai Ho tour and his other concerts. How did that opportunity come about?

The tour was one of the best experiences of my life.. Working with AR Rahman is something you’d always cherish.. Standing on the same stage as him and performing his songs to an audience of almost 80 thousand people screaming at you.. That’s something that will always stay with me forever..

I did a TV show with him on the channel 9x called Mission Ustaad.. Quite a unique show and ahead of its time. It had Bollywood singers composing music and those songs were being judged by AR Rahman and Javed Akhtar.. Rahman sir spotted me on that show and asked to join him on his world tour.. It’s been a beautiful 4 years now and I have travelled with him to every corner of the world.

Though you have been part of his concerts you are yet to sing a song for ARR. Any movie projects coming up?

Now that’s a secret I cannot reveal.. Only time will tell 🙂

But in terms of work, I’ve had some good releases in Bollywood in 2011 with Yamla Pagla Deewana, Tell Me O Khuda, Angel, Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl and Mere Brother Ki Dulhan.. All the songs which I sang were hits so i can only thank God and my audience for all the love.. Even in Telugu I’ve had some amazing songs out with Panjaa, Bodyguard, Badrinath which has also just got me a nomination for best singer.. And yes I’d love to sing more tamil songs too.. Vettai has just released.

You are one of the few Bollywood singers to have made fair inroads into South Indian music scene. How did that start off? And how has the experience been? Did the languages present a major challenge?

Singing in languages comes naturally to me.. I started recording Sanskrit albums with Pandit Jasraj ji when I was only 14 years old.. And I was the lead singer in all those albums.. They are Mahalakshmi, Dashavatar, Sukh Samriddhi Suraksha & Ganesha (all released by Times Music). In fact, Mahalakshmi is one of the biggest albums in terms of sales and sells over 20 lac copies every year during Diwali, even today.

I won my first Filmfare award for a Telugu song – Nenani Neevani from Kotha Bangaru Lokam.. That’s a bigger reward for me than anything else as a singer coz it’s been given to me for a language I cant even speak.. My grand uncle Pandit Jasraj ji, told me that it is the biggest compliment for a vocalist to be acknowledged in a language not known to him/her.. And now i truly believe so.. Coz everytime I meet someone from South India they come up and tell me that they hear the song atleast 20 times a day.. Now that’s my biggest award. This adulation means the world to me. I am also nominated this year for my song for MM Kreem (a composer I regard as one of the greatest in our country) for a song Vasudhaara from Badrinath which is a duet with him as well.

Tell us about your sister and her role in your musical life.

My sister is my greatest inspiration. She taught me everything about film music that I know today. we both have the same training, but our sensibilities have a wide variation and our styles are very different. Our approaches to life and work are different too. She’s quieter than I am, but I am equally an introvert. we come from a very protected home and it wasn’t easy to break into an industry which is all about glamour and constantly talking about yourself.. I’ve technically been working here for 11 years (Mohabbatein was my first film, at age 12) but even today, I feel like I dont know anything. So it’s not a very simple industry to work in.. Trends and times change very soon here. But I believe if you work hard, people do acknowledge it sooner or later.

My sister has been my biggest strengths at all times and all phases of my career.. She has faced more detractors than I have, but she’s a power house of talent and I believe when you are blessed by God and have worked hard, you will surely make a mark with your work. She’s truly a woman of substance.

You also tried your hand at lyrics recently. Any more plans on those lines?

I write sometimes and that’s something I usually don’t share with anyone. Haha.

But yes, I did write my songs in HISS. I would love to write my own songs for my albums.

Though I believe my sister Shraddha is a better writer & composer than me. She’s incredibly talented and even AR Rahman sir said this in one the episodes of Mission Ustaad, where she won the competition for Best Composer. She’s now even writing lyrics for films and composing as well.

Any plans to start off composing yourself?

Not really for me.. My focus is more towards vocals.. But I do so, everytime I get a chance as composing music is a very fulfilling experience.

Tell us about your production company. What plans with that?

We do events, albums and studio work.. So new talents are always welcome to share their work.

Gagan Deep Mittal says:

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