'I don’t live in the past,’ says Shweta Shetty as she makes a comeback after 20 years with new pop song

Away from the limelight for more than two decades, Indi Pop phenomena Shweta Shetty is back! And how! In the 1990s when girl power was throbbing in full force in the Indi Pop domain, Shweta Shetty’s ‘throaty’ voice was the talk of the town. Known for her chartbuster pop hits including the eclectic ‘Johnny Johnny Joker’ and the foot-tapping ‘Deewane to Deewane Hain’, Shweta was a hugely popular in Bollywood too with popular hits including Poster Lagwa Do, Dilli Ki Sardi, Rukmini and many others.

And, now the lady with the sensuous voice after a hiatus of 20 years is back with the disco version of her ballad ‘Jalne Mein Hain Mazaa’. Shweta avers, “The song is actually an old one and has been recreated by the producer Adi F who lives in Delhi. It is one of the finest ballets that I have ever sung. During the Covid days when I was going through my old work, I talked to him and said what if we bring the 1990s back to the present music scene. Sony had the rights of the song.”

Adding, “I wanted to bring out a song that would make people happy, that would make them want to dance. The 1990s were the most carefree, wonderful years for a lot of us. I wanted to do a retro disco mix with a bit of house. The styling and costumes are contemporary though the music is very ‘90s.”

But why did it take 20 years for her to make a comeback? Shweta explains that it was her marriage and corresponding divorce that kept her away from the music scene in India, though she kept pining to be back in the thick of things. So, how did she cope with personal demons especially after her divorce; yoga, she said, gave her a lot of solace. Adding, “I suffered a lot because I couldn’t make music and had to tear myself away from it. I don’t live in the past anymore and I don’t even think of the future. Today, I live for the present. I’ve got a song out and I’m going to make sure that I reach out to as many people as possible. I want to do what I do best — and that is make jaw-dropping music!”

But there was one solid wall she had to get past before she could dig her nails into music again — and that was the internet. Shweta says, “There is also a flipside to the internet you know. Though there is a wider reach, we see so many untalented people gaining prominence. Followers are bought, likes and shares are bought at random. We didn’t have all that 20 years back. It was pure love for music that sold our albums. But I also acknowledge that we must keep up with the times. I think when the live music world opens up at some point that will bring true gratification for me as an artiste. Direct contact with the listeners is something the internet will never be able to take away from us musicians. Though the internet is a good way to stay in touch with fans, there are so many people who have zero talent and are all hype. Unfortunately, they also get that stage which they don’t deserve. The real talent are the ones that actually don’t believe in all that. Let’s not forget that we are a country where 60-70 per cent don’t have a mobile or a computer. For them, it is only radio and television. No Spotify can ever replace the feeling of owning a cassette or CD!”

I think when the live music world opens up at some point that will bring true gratification for me as an artiste. Direct contact with the listeners is something the internet will never be able to take away from us musicians. Though the internet is a good way to stay in touch with fans, there are so many people who have zero talent and are all hype.

So how does she feel making her comeback again—though Shweta did make an appearance in a travelband Soul2Soul with Louis Banks in 2019? Shweta says, “I always knew that Jalne Mai Hain Mazaa would be my comeback song and that it would have a '90s disco/retro/house sound to it. That is because it was an original tune composed during the first few weeks of the pandemic. It was just music for fun, that was shot and recorded at home just for fun. I had no clue we would have 100K views, but it was just an idea we had while staying cooped up at home for so long. I then started putting my energy into music, instead of worrying about the virus affecting me.

But the singer is disheartened that a few naysayers have been dissing her for looking ‘too bold’ in the music video. “People came to me with reactions like ‘What is wrong with you? Why do you need to dress like this? Even when I did ‘Deewane’ they told me things like ‘What are you doing with four men in one room?’ I told them what do you know? We could be making music together, just chatting or playing chess,” she quipped.

Adding, “Don’t jump to conclusions just because you can. At least look for some logic! I as a person have never been bothered about what people said about me. In the 1990s we had to be very conservative about costumes in music videos. But now hot pants and tights are a normal thing. Even then I went ahead and wore short skirts or whatever I felt like wearing. These things need to stop, women should not be made into scapegoats!”

She also feels the audience has changed immensely in the last 20 years. “The audience is so educated today, especially the younger generation that you can never underestimate them. A lot of rubbish is doled out in the market, hoping that people are going to swallow it. But the audience has always managed to prove them wrong. Unless it is good quality stuff, people will just spit it out!” she exclaimed.

When asked if there was anything she would want to do differently now, she said, “We haven’t had a pop scene at all for a very, long time. That era was left behind for a long time. I want to bring pop music back into focus. Bollywood has a strong hold on the music scene still. You absolutely have no idea how difficult it is as a pop singer to get a foot on that door. Everywhere you go, people want to listen to Hindi film songs. Sometimes I feel like screaming at them and saying, ‘Hey guys, we’re also there. We’re standing right here.’ I want to reach out to all the fans of Indie Pop and tell them, we may have been out of sight but we’re not out of their minds. It is going to be very difficult because our kind of songs are not picturised on any actress.”

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