Hema Sardesai is without a doubt one of India’s finest singers. The lady from Goa with a mellifluous voice has been singing since the tender age of 8 and has already lent her voice to over 50 films including Sapnay, Garam Masala, Josh, Chak De! India, Biwi No. 1, Takshak, Asoka, Khushi, and Asambav. Hema not only has a beautiful voice but a beautiful heart—she refuses to compromise her values for success and devotes a lot of her time to social work. Enjoy this PlanetBollywood.com interview with Hema Sardesai and learn more about how she decides to take on an assignment, what her favorite songs are, what her take on talent searches is, and much more…
You've worked with some of Bollywood's finest music directors, including A. R. Rahman, Anu Malik, Nadeem-Sharvan, Himesh Reshammiya, Vishal-Shekhar, Aadesh Shrivastava, and Viju Shah. Which of these music directors do you feel has been able to bring out the best of your talent and has used your voice to its fullest potential?
You've delivered a number of hit songs such as Awaara Bhavaren (Sapnay), Hai Re (Khushi), Apun Bola (Josh), Ishq Chandi Hai (Biwi No. 1), Main Kudi Anjaani (Zor), Jaan Meri (Takshak), and recently recorded a song for Chak De! India. Yet, you've also been very selective with the amount of songs you've recorded. How do you decide to lend your voice to a particular song? For example, do you take a look at the lyrics first?
I am very selective about the songs I sing. Double meaning or sleazy songs are a strict no no for me. Yes, with certain music directors I do check the lyrics before singing. But I am very proud to say that it is more and mostly my strong stance against ''compromising,'' or starkly speaking my firm stand against the famous ''casting couch'' scenario is why I sing much lesser songs than most singers. Of course, I have been blessed to have worked with decent music directors. I walk tall because of the way I lead my life and am able to strongly stand for social causes such as ''save the girl child'', ''drug abuse'' etc. I am very happy this way.
Out of the many wonderful and varied songs you've lent your voice to, which one is your favorite song?
Lots of them including ''Badal Pe Paon Hai'', ''Awaara Bhavaren'', ''Apun Bola'', ''Hai re Hai re'', and my Hindustani Gudiya album songs and latest album Jhoom songs are all favorites.
Who are some of your favorite, current singers?
They are all my friends and I think they all have something or the other that is special.
Who are some of the new music directors you see a lot of potential in?
Salim Sulieman and Monty Sharma.
You've done a number of concerts in addition to charity shows for organizations such as UNICEF. Which country is your favorite place to perform in—is there a particular city/country where the audience really responds well?
Everywhere I have gone I have been showered with overwhelming love by the audience. Honestly I cannot say any one place. You must be there with me to actually see it. It is always so wonderful!
What's the best compliment you've received from a fan?
A TV anchor who said she was my fan said, ''You are the perfect blend between modernity and tradition.” Also at one of my shows in New Delhi, a little girl's father, told me that he would want his daughter to be like me when she grows up.
How did you decide to take on music as a career choice? If you had to choose an alternative career, what would it be?
Music just happened to me when extraordinary compliments whenever someone heard me hum or sing reached my parents ears since I was 6 years old. Social work and filmmaking would also be great as careers. Social work I am doing simultaneously, anyway.
Which actress do you think is best suited for your voice?
Kajol and Karisma and Sushmita and Aishwarya and Preity Zinta and Kareena.
What is your take on the current situation in the Bollywood music scene?
I am disappointed that talent that shells out hit after hit continuously and certainly, does not get the deserving accolades. I don't think it's the singer that counts in most circumstances; it is what the singer can give other than the voice that counts. 'Tis a shame!!!
What is the number one mistake you see aspiring singers make?
They ''compromise'' with the lure of fame and money and then are very very remorseful and disrespect themselves because of that, when not in the public eye.
You began singing when you were about 8 years old—do you think your entry into the Bollywood music scene would have been easier if you had a platform like Little Champs when you were a child or Indian Idol in your teen years to showcase your talent?
Even if I had won such a talent contest I would be still walking out of studios rejecting demeaning offers. But, nevertheless I have been looked after by God and got my first big hit with one of the most decent music directors, A. R. Rahman. About talent shows, I am disappointed when the singers are not given classy promotion to take them higher.
You won the Grand Prix at the 16th International Pop Song Festival '89 in Germany—how important do you think international recognition is for an artist?
For me it is very important to contribute to making my country greater internationally more and more with the talent I have been bestowed with.
What are some of the songs we'll hear you sing in 2008?
'I love you'' a film by Ramesh Meer has a good song of mine. And whichever other song and album will release I know as always God kindly will make sure it is a hit!
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