She was a child artiste at 12. Before making the nation groove to tracks such as Baby Doll (Ragini MMS 2; 2014) and Chittiyan Kalaiyan (Roy; 2015), singer Kanika Kapoor used to sing for All India Radio. Later, she joined veteran singer Anup Jalota’s troupe. “I sang with him for almost three-four years. He was my father’s childhood friend, and a mentor to me,” says Kanika, who would also sing bhajans and thumris.
As she turned a year older on August 21, we spoke to her about getting out of a bad marriage, and why she initially gave up on B-Town.
Are you happy with your career right now?
I never complain. I just work harder in every possible way – as a mother, a daughter, a friend and a boss.
After Baby Doll, you haven’t looked back…
Last year, we must have worked 18 hours a day on an average, including back-to-back concerts. From being an artist who had never been on stage to singing live with the greatest people from the industry is quite overwhelming and intimidating. I can perform well today, and I am proud of it.
Was it difficult to become a Bollywood singer?
Although I am quite a dreamer, I’m also a realistic person. I like to go with the flow. Maybe I have been lucky in my career, but I am also a trained classical singer. I tried to achieve success as a singer when I was 16-17, and did whatever I could to achieve that goal in Mumbai, but nothing happened. So, I moved to London, UK, (she married NRI Raj Chandok at the age of 18), and started a family. I never dreamt that I would come back to Mumbai and start singing again. So, I believe it has been God’s will, and also a result of my hard-work and perseverance. I am a go-getter.
What made you leave Mumbai back then?
In the mid-90s, I came to this city with my dad, and signed a three-year contract with a music label. But when nothing worked out, I went back to London. It was quite a struggle in Mumbai. My mother was also scared. She had heard that Bollywood wasn’t a good place to work in. She didn’t want me to be part of the industry. At that time, I was thinking of acting too. But my mother was happy that I got married instead. Then, as I settled down, and started a family, they didn’t allow me to sing anymore.
Do you get acting offers?
I get many acting offers, but all for B-grade movies (laughs). If I get a DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge; 1995), I will do it. If I get a good opportunity, I can play a role.
You haven’t had an easy life. How did you put up a fight?
I didn’t fight. I just moved away. I’m not confrontational. If something isn’t going right, I ignore it and concentrate on the positives. That is what I did even when I was going through hell. It was difficult. But, today, when I see other people going through so much, I feel my life is much easier. Going through a bad marriage was difficult, but most women are in bad marriages. They just don’t talk about it, and they can’t get out of it.
The experience must have toughened you up for everything, including B-Town...
I am thankful that God gave me the strength to get up, be a single mother, and restart my life when people were throwing stones at me. I believe that you should just work hard, and things will happen. Time is never wasted.
It was reported that you had suicidal thoughts at one point.
It happens when you have no money, are going through a bad divorce, and the lawyers are squeezing you to the limit. Plus, you have three kids, who have been thrown out of school because you haven’t paid the fees. Then, you fall sick. You hit a low and feel that there is nothing left. But, at the time, I got a lot of support from my mother, my brother and a few friends.
How difficult is it to be a single mother in a country like ours?
It is very bad. A few weeks back, a prominent newspaper wrote some rubbish about me without naming me. I feel we live in a country of hypocrites who just can’t see a single girl working hard. But I like to live by my morals, and my thoughts are old school.
Are you at peace with that phase of your life now?
It has been forgotten. Maybe 10% of it will always be with me, and that’s to ground me further. But the negativity is gone. I think if I didn’t go through that period, I would not be the person I am today.
Given an option, would you try your hand at acting?
I won’t mind it, but for me, less is more. I am unable to handle the amount of work I am getting in music, let alone getting into acting or anything else. I don’t want to run after anything. I want to enjoy my life and my time with my family. I love being in a studio and I love what I do. So, I will do it only if I get an acting offer that interests me and seems enjoyable.