Shweta Pandit sang in various films as a child, including Mani Ratnam’s ‘Anjali’ (1991), ‘Saaz’ (1996), ‘Dil Kya Kare’ (1999), ‘Raju Chacha’ (1999) before becoming a full-fledged playback singer in Bollywood for movies such as ‘Mohabbatein’ (2000), ‘Naach’ (2004), ‘Neal ‘n’ Nikki’ (2005), ‘Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna’ (2006), ‘Partner’ (2007), ‘Welcome’ (2007), ‘Sarkar Raj’ (2008), ‘Mere Brother Ki Dulhan’ (2011), ‘Ladies vs Ricky Bahl’ (2011), ‘Yamla Pagla Deewana’ (2011), ‘Joker’ (2012), ‘Highway'(2014) and ‘Lekar Hum Deewana Dil’ (2014). She recently tied the knot with her Italian boyfriend Ivano Fucci and is now getting ready after the Indian wedding rituals in August, for her Italian wedding next week. In this candid interview, she shares about her wedding, her future plans and the current state of Bollywood music.
Long distance relationships have rarely worked. How did yours happen?
Yes, it is true that long distance relationships are very difficult and most them don’t work out for various reasons. I am really fortunate to have met a person who is willing to take that extra step. Because for us, it is between Europe and India. I will give him all the credit as he was very adamant to work it out. From the moment, we met each other, we knew that we wanted to get married. It was just about figuring out when, how and where. Every little thing from the wedding has been tailor-made and decided by me and him only. We did not even hire a wedding planner!
To be really honest, your wedding pictures display an amazing chemistry and love. Can you say that your meeting with Ivano can be turned into a movie-script, where you can play the lead role?
(Laughs) You know how many people have asked me this! I don’t know if it can be a movie but I think, definitely I see that it is a beautiful love story. If someone wants to make the movie, it is going to be interesting as I am going to give them a lot of insights on how it worked out.
Will you still be based in India?
My work and the industry is based in Mumbai (India). I would like to be around my friends, my colleagues and my family. For me, it is very important as a person, even though I am married, that I have to physically see my mom and dad regularly. I try to be in Tuscany (Italy) at least 3-4 months in a year and spend time with his family. It helps me to keep an amazing balance in my life.
People are unpredictable. Any weird reactions of some people when they got to know that you are marrying a Non-Indian?
(Laughs) It is funny you are asking this. A lot of people would usually end up not getting married to a Non-Indian – it is just in the mind of people. I remember when I told this to one of my friends that my husband is not from India, and she was like, ‘Oh, so he is an Indian, who lives abroad?!’ and then I said, ‘No, he is not Indian!’ and she was like, ‘What? He is not Indian???’. That is a first reaction which makes me laugh a lot. A second reaction which I got was, she asked me what is his name and I said that his name is Ivano. She went, ‘That does not sound like an Indian name’. I replied, ‘Well he is not Indian!!!’. She went, ‘You have a lot of guts to marry a Non-Indian.’
A singer is trained to sing or to perform. Your thoughts on that?
I think a singer is not really trained to perform because performing is something which you learn along with your audience and you cannot learn suddenly. Basically in India, the main training which you actually receive is only for learning music.
What is happening to your acting stints?
I am in the middle of writing a short film and we would like to shoot it this year or early next year. That is something we want to start working on to make shorts and some interesting music videos. I will be writing and composing music as well. As far as the acting career goes, right now, we are looking at September and till December, I will travelling for my concerts, around Dubai, Singapore and India.
What have you learned from working and performing with A.R. Rahman?
As a kid I was a nervous wreck to sing in front of a large audience but with Rahman Sir, he gave me confidence to face the world audience and I also performed with him at ‘The Nobel Peace Prize Concert’, which has been a huge experience and honour for me that he chose me to sing with him. Also I have been part of his life concerts for the last 8 years. He is so humble and down to earth.
The songs you sang for him recently in ‘Highway’ and ‘Lekar Hum Deewana Dil’, were appreciated by music connoisseurs but did not really make it to the charts. Is it sometimes about hits or creative satisfaction?
I wouldn’t lie, in such a commercial industry, you are constantly judged by what people do, what is your next hit song, how much money did this movie make. In such a competitive zone that we are living, it is very important to have commercial success because once you achieve this, you automatically get satisfaction. (Laughs) It is difficult to just choose satisfaction because in fact, you feel worst when you are satisfied with the product, but it has not reached people. That is a very sad feeling for an artiste. But at the same time, like for the song in ‘Highway’, people come up to me in the strangest of places where I would not even expect anyone to hear Bollywood songs, they praise my song and that really completely takes me aback.
How much have you matured as a singer since your debut in ‘Mohabbatein’?
In a lot of ways, I put it dramatically, it is a world of difference – as I am more grown-up now, I understand the technicalities much better than I understood back then. I miss that innocence which existed before. Earlier, I was unaware of what people would think, Because I was so young, it didn’t matter that the song will be a hit or a flop, or people will like it or not. These things did not even occur to my mind. But today when I record a song, I instantly ask how many people are going to listen to it, when do we put it out in the social media and I hope people will go and watch it on YouTube. These are the calculations which start coming in your head instantly.
What is missing in today’s film music, compared to some 10-15 years ago?
The soul is missing. Creatively, everyone associated with the movie. today, knows the formula. They know the technicalities, like backwards, but there is no soul in the film. They have forgotten how to add the soul. This is one of the reasons why films are not doing as well today. People are only using their mind and not their heart. And they are also forcing others around them to do like that. So today when we reach the studio, they do not tell us to sing well but they tell us to sound like another singer. So I feel like when we are expected to sound like somebody else and we apply all the voice enhancers, I feel that we remove the soul from it. This is probably why people love Arijit Singh is because his songs are the only ones they retain because he is singing the softer songs. And because you cannot sing a soft song in a hard way, you have to put your heart into it, and that’s why people like it. The soul is just lacking and this is how the whole industry is functioning.
Jatin-Lalit and Anu Malik put a lot of emphasis on melody and you had the chance to work with them. With the new wave of music directors, do you think melody is back?
Like I have said, the movies are very fixed, with what is needed. So it is fixed that there will be one dance and melody song, one item number and probably one sad song. So when we have to work on the melody, they will end up getting a good melody because that is the only melody in that full film. Earlier, even a fast or item song had to be melodious. Today you only need the hook line for people to sing. I have seen Jatin-Lalit worked very closely, so I also know that when they worked on a item song, it has a nice tune to it. They would never make a song which is horribly tuned. For example, the last item song, which I have really liked is “Beedi” from ‘Omkara’ because of its amazing tune. I might not remember more than two lines from today’s item songs because it is not really creating any impact on me. Today we are being forced to remember only the hook line.
What are your thoughts on your contemporaries?
Some of them are extremely talented and they have a very good way into blending into today’s songs. They are some promising voices. And they are some, which of course, are not at all trained but are getting songs and work, because they are popular on social media, which is a reason why a lot of singers get work today. It does not matter if they are really talented. I just feel that earlier on, people were called for more concrete reasons, at least on the basis of talent, it shows professionalism and value of good artistes. But if music directors are just using someone, just because they are popular for some other reasons, it just takes away from the reason you work hard.
“Tere Honke Rahenge Unplugged Cover” from Raja Natwarlal is a YouTube Hit. How do you ooze so much warmth in those kind of songs?
When I heard “Tere Honke Rahenge”, I just fell in love with the song. And I wanted to do justice to it when I shot it. I wanted to make sure that people will be happy and the credit for making the Unplugged goes to the audience. This is because when Arijit’s version was released, I got a lot of tweets from the fans, telling me to make a video and come up with my own version. Initially I ignored it but when I played it to my close friends in Europe, that is when it made me think about it. This is when I decided to shoot it in Switzerland. That is something which I did for my fans as they asked for it. I am happy that it is well received and I did justice to it.
Are you happy how your musical career is moving?
I am actually extremely happy because I believe that, in a singer’s life, being on the number slot is just not the only criteria. They are a lot of criterion in a singer’s career and experiencing ups and downs, lesser known songs – all of these phases should be in a singer’s life. I personally feel that. Because the beauty of being a playback singer is that you don’t have to really see how old you are. Like today, Lata Ji or Asha Ji can properly sing for Anushka Sharma. It does not matter when your song was last released. I feel that there are singers who do very less work but really good work, like Sukhwinder Singh. Quantity is always a great thing but sometimes some voices are meant to be a little under-used, used when you really need to use them. I think I am such a case and it is just the way it is done and that is also not in my hands. That is completely in the composer’s hands. Many times they have their own reasons, which is fine.
Any exciting news for your fans?
I am really excited because I will be sharing with them my first short film and I will also be sharing with them my new songs which I have been writing and composing. So I will be coming up with a concept very soon which I will be launching online. I would love it if people appreciate the efforts behind it because it is a long planning that I have done before it gets released.