By: Subhash K. Jha, IndiaFM
Monday, September 11, 2006
You've had an eventful phase, including a biography.
Yes, it does seem a little too much. But the book was planned as a bio-sketch of how I became the first Indian Idol. Usually success stories are visible to the public. Not me. Main achaanak limelight mein aa gaya. Somewhere we felt, why not let people know who Abhijeet Sawant is, what his life and success has been like? The book is largely about my childhood and my experience on the Indian Idol contest. Even if two youngsters are inspired by this Hindi-Marathi-English book I'd be happy. The author Shweta Pradhan had to really pursue me. I had no time to sit down with her. She stole moments with me in the car or hurried moments while I got ready to go home. The book got delayed.
How has Indian Idol changed your life?
Completely! I used to be common normal boy from a middleclass family in Maharashtra. Suddenly....I admit there're lots of external changes. But I don't want my basic nature and values to change. I'm making a conscious effort to remain unspoilt. Yes, outwardly my hair and clothes have changed. But the entire experience of 'stardom' was a culture shock to me. It was quite an eye-opener. I know one thing... you shouldn't allow success or failure to go your head. You should just continue doing what you are meant to in life and leave the rest to destiny. I've adopted that formula.
Do you feel you've a responsibility as a role model for middleclass dreamers?
Ek terah se bahut badi responsibility hai. Earlier I had people supporting me in my ambitions. Now there's a new group of people wondering how long I'm going to be where I am today. All I can say to these speculations is...stardom fame and all the other trappings are not taken seriously by me. My aim is to make a name for myself as a playback singer in the next five years.
People say you've become arrogant.
It's better to ignore such negative talk. I don't allow such talk to hurt me. No one in my family has seen stardom. Suddenly we're under public scrutiny. It's a bit daunting. I'd rather do what I've come to do. I've already sung in Aashiq Banaya Aapne and Jawani Diwani. I'm a little busier with my live concerts. I admit it's becoming slightly repetitive. After a while I'd do less stage shows.
Is the money the incentive to do stage shows?
I can't deny it's a big incentive. But also, the thrill of interacting with audiences is also there. Meeting and performing for people in various cities is my way of repaying them for the success they've given me. It's also good publicity. But in India playback singing is the biggest platform for any aspiring singer.
How do you deal with gossip about you?
Kabhi kabhi bahut bura lagta hai when misinformation is published. No matter how much I protest against 'news' like the one about my girlfriend, engagement and marriage, people will believe what they want. If you protest too loudly it seems insincere. The journalists are doing their jobs, I'll do mine.
How do you deal with fans?
I'm lucky to not let the popularity go to my head. When I encounter the more insistent fans I try to give them time, shake their hands, get a picture snapped. I've fans who tell me to change back my hairstyle to the way it used to be...I take their advice seriously. It makes me happy to see them so involved with my career.
What do you think of contestants who came after you on Indian Idol 2?
They're very good and confident. When we were on Indian Idol we knew nothing about how to conduct ourselves. We hadn't seen American Idol. We were encouraged by the judges and by the public which voted for our singing. On Indian Idol 2 the public supported everything except the quality of the singing. This is truly unfortunate. Votes were given for clothes and hairstyle. And for contestants belonging to the voter's village. In our times the voting pattern was more sincere and voluminous. Nowadays the number of sincere voters has decreased. People vote for kicks not for merit. Good singers are being voted out. And these singers are to some extent responsible for their plight.
Do music contestants seek your advice?
Yes, they all came to my book launch. I advised all of them. I told them they don't seem to be rising to their required potential, though they are capable of excelling. I'm disappointed by their performance. They are focusing on things other than singing. The sincerity and purity is missing in their performances. Sometimes in life when you know the way your eyes shut too quickly. The fact that we on Indian Idol 1 showed them the way has made the subsequent contestants over-confident. They're behaving more like stage performers than singers. I remember I had very long hair during Indian Idol. Someone suggested a conditioner. I didn't even know what that was! We were briefed to focus on our singing rather than clothes and hairstyle. Whatever clothes I was given I'd blindly wear and face the camera. When the undeserving get selected, there's naturally a question mark against the names of candidates from earlier on, like me.