RMIM Archive Article "270".
From the RMIM Article Archive maintained by Satish Subramanian
# RMIM Archives..
# Subject: Hema Sardesai
# Source: Screen magazine (http://www.expressindia.com/screen)
# Author: ??
From the RMIM Article Archive maintained by Satish Subramanian
"I'm the most versatile Indian singer ever"
from Screen (May 97)
Hema Sardesai is in a celebratory mood. She has reason to be.
Her fourth song for a Hindi film, Awara Bhawre is a huge hit and
the lady is getting recognition from all quarters. In an hour-
long interview, a happy Hema hummed to her hearts content and
spoke about the past, present and a possibly bright future.
Did you ever think that Awara bhawre would make it to the top of
the countdown charts?
Well, I knew it would make it to the top 10, but I never thought
it would be No. 1. But I guess Rahmanji must have had a premoni-
tion. After the recording, while everyone around was telling me,
"Great, you were just great!", Rahmanji who's a man of few words,
just nodded and said, "Good, God is great". That was enough for
me because even I have this habit of saying "God is great". But
when he added, "I want to see what this song does for this girl,"
I knew that he was really satisfied with my performance. That was
a real compliment! But honestly, I didn't really think the song
would take me places. I'd had three other numbers Halle
halle (Aar Ya Paar), Tere mere sapne (Tere Mere Sapne) and Mere
saiyan (Shastra) in the charts earlier and they hadn't
taken me anywhere. Hey, even the Grand Prix I won in Germany when
I was adjudged the best singer amongst top crooners from 20 coun-
tries, hadn't done anything for me. So I didn't expect much from
And was Rahman right?
Well, I haven't been flooded with offers but yes, now that I have
a No. 1 song to my credit which is the ultimate for any singer
here, my special gift is finally being recognised. A top media
entertainment company wants to handle my work. Three-fourths of
the pop music industry want to record an album with me. Now, all
I have to do is choose.
But what about the film industry?
They're more wary. But I'm in no hurry. I've just recorded a song
with Jatin-Lalit. I did this naughty, sexy number with Anu Malik
which has just been added to Miss 420. In Khhote Sikke I've done
this red-hot passionate song for Rajesh Roshan. There's another
great number with Anand Raaj Anand and, of course, First day in
America for Subhash Ghai's Pardes. It's an English song scored by
Nadeem-Sharavan. I've even recorded a song with Rahmanji for Sap-
nay which has just been added to the film.
Really? When you skipped the premiere of Sapnay despite being in
Mumbai, there was talk of trouble brewing between you and Rahman.
What nonsense! I didn't go for the premiere because I was to
record a song with Rahmanji for Govind Nihalani's Takshakt that
same evening. The recording was at 10 pm. And though I knew Rah-
manji would stop at the premiere first, I didn't want to do the
same in case I got held up in the traffic on my way to the studio
and reached after him. I'd hate to keep my music director wait-
ing. So I decided I'd skip the function instead and managed to
reach the studio at 10 pm sharp. Rahmanji walked in half an hour
later and told me that everyone at the theatre had been asking
him why he chose Hema Sardesai. I'm thrilled he did.
Okay, why did Rahman chose you for Aawara bhawre?
I guess I have Ranjit Barot to thank for that. I'd done some jin-
gles and Oh Darling! Yeh Hai India with Ranjit and he sent one of
my tapes to Rahmanji. When he and Rajiv (Menon), with whom I'd
also done some jingles, were discussing Sapnay and Rahmanji
insisted he wanted a `different' voice for Sapnay, Rajiv sug-
gested my name. Rahmanji remembered he had one of my tapes and
dug it out. The next thing I knew, I got a call from Rahmanji in
Chennai. Was I free to record a song? Wow! I thought it was a
joke but I still dashed there. When I picked up the mike, Rah-
manji told me he didn't want me to sound filmi. "I want you to
sound like Mariah Carey.... Whitney Houston. Mad and bubbly," he
instructed. I gave it my best shot and after one stanza Rajiv
exclaimed, "Hey she's really Mariah now!" to which Rahmanji
replied, "No, she's Hemariah. Even when she's doing Mariah, she
manages to be herself, gives the song an original touch." That's
a compliment I took to heart.
Everyone is amazed at how closely your voice resembles Kajol's.
I'm thrilled when I hear that because Kajol's very talented and
she's done a great job on the song. I guess I must have uncons-
ciously had her in mind when recording the song. Though I've
never met Kajol, I've seen Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. You know,
when I tell friends I've sung Aawara bhawre they exclaim,
"Really, no wonder she behaved like you." I'm an excellent imita-
tor. I'm also very fun-loving, mischievous and seldom sad. I
guess we have very similar personalities. However, I'd like to
clarify that I never said that I don't sing for stars, they enact
my mood. I was misquoted, I'm not so pompous.
So will you be happy to be known as Kajol's voice?
After Sapnay I haven't received any offers to sing for Kajol.
Even the other number I sang in the film was not for Kajol. I may
suit Kajol, but I can never be just her `voice'. It'll be hard to
slot me. People tried that once when after Halle halle they put
me in the Alisha-Poornima bracket. I messed up their calculations
with Aawara bhawre. Recently, when I sang for Dilip Sen-Sameer
Sen, they told me I had the playful feel of Geeta Dutt. I was
thrilled but I can't be another Geeta. I'm much too versatile for
that. In fact I'd say I am the most versatile Indian singer,
ever. A Jack of all trades and I'd like to believe, a master of
How can you say that?
Recently, when I was discussing scores and lyrics with Muzaffar
Ali for his forthcoming film, I sang a thumri for him followed by
a Mariah Carey number and wound up with Awara bhawre. Even he was
impressed with my versatility. I have a degree in classical music
and yet I sang an English song in Germany and won top honours.
I've performed a lavni at the Marathi Natya Parishad and in the
same costume sang my Grand Prix winning number and made headlines
the next day. I can do a passionate Halle halle and also a Tere
mere sapne with desi adaptations of western pieces. How many
singers can boast of that? In fact, when I went to study rhythm
and blues music from Michael O' Hara, the great black singer
said, "Hema, you don't need to study further. You're an original.
Be yourself. You're wonderful!" You know, the only reason I may
not be able to make it in America is because I can't be slotted.
I can't be white and at the same time, though my skin is dusky, I
don't sound like any black singer. So where does that leave me in
If you know that, why did you suddenly take off on a six months
tour to the USA a couple of years ago?
In Germany, I was on the front cover of every magazine. In Yugos-
lavia, I was a crowd-puller at the UNICEF concert. In the West
Indies, after I wrote the English lyrics and lip synched to the
Maine Pyar Kiya songs, people were thronging the airport to catch
a glipse of me. But in India I was a nobody even though the
industry knew that I'd won the Grand Prix. PTI had sent the
reports. Yet, except for the one song in Goonj, I didn't get any
offers. I turned down the few music directors who approached me,
including one of the top guys, because I didn't like their atti-
tudes. I knew God had given me a special gift and I wasn't going
to cheapen or misuse it. Smarting from the pain of rejection I
decided to go to America. I always had a passion for Western
music and I decided now was the time to see what I could do
there. I had a six months' visa and after travelling for three
months I decided to make New York my base and strike out. And I
was a success. I have letters from all the top entertainment
houses in New York telling me I was extraordinary.
So why did you came back?
I couldn't stand the pain of longing. I'm an emotional Cancerian.
I missed my family... my husband, and came back. My excuse was
that my visa had run out but basically I just wanted to be back
in Mumbai with all its stink and pollution. It's still the best
place in the world for me even though earlier I used to feel so
lonely here. Everyone was so busy, they had no time for me, I
felt unloved and unwanted. And being new to the work culture, I
didn't approach anyone. Thank God, Rajeshji, Viju, Sooraj Barja-
tya and Rajkumar Barjatya took me on and made me realise there
were beautiful people here too.
On a day when you're not recording, what do you do?
Play with my dog Hunter. He's like my child. If my husband is in
town -- he's usually in Goa where he's distributing auto spares
-- I give him my undivided attention. Or else I pray to God, ask-
ing him if he loves me as much as I love him.
Well, I think India is the most beautiful, spiritual country in
the world and it's time we put an end to all strife. I wear a
cross in one ear and an Om in the other and a symbol of Allah
round my neck. People may think I'm mad but I think I'm very
sane. You know, when the Pope came to Goa, I was the only Hindu
among the 40 singers who sang at the papal mass. Father Peter who
had composed 3-4 songs, wanted me to be the main soprano singer.
Art and creativity have no religious barriers.
Have you been getting any acting offers?
Well, I've done a video with Ranjit Barot, Chute na tera saath
where I'm singing in the rain without a trace of make-up on. It
was very beautiful and sensuous, almost mystical, and I was
noticed. I haven't been offered any films yet, but I'd love to
act in lead roles. I was pretty good on screen but I don't think
I'd want to get into Hindi films. I went through so much trauma
when I was trying to make a break as a singer. I wonder what I'd
have to go through if I wanted to get into acting.