#WhereAreThey Series: Had I got the right guidance I would have reached greater heights: Abhijeet Sawant
The winner of the first season of the singing reality show Indian Idol, an adaptation of the Pop Idol format, in 2004. Abhijeet Sawant is thankful for all the love back then and even now. Looking back, the singer shares that while today, everyone knows what reality shows are and adds, “but back then, I lacked guidance and had no idea how to go about it. It was overwhelming. It was a complete new experience for me which was scary as well.”
For Sawant, being on the show and winning it also meant that everyone who met him, saw his journey through their eyes. “They saw things their way and perhaps that’s why they felt more negative. If I look at my journey, I feel I got thousand times more love, fame and respect. I feel like a legend because I am the first winner of Indian Idol. You can’t take that lightly. It has been written down in history. When my first album released, I was so excited but a musician told me, that ‘your song is quite regular. It should have been rock or distortion’. Even today, I am asked why don’t singers get more playback songs. I don’t know if it is asked because it is a controversial question or maybe they don’t have the answer. I think somewhere there is illiteracy in our audience regarding music which is why we haven’t been able to push the music industry to greater heights. But if I look at my career, I feel I have achieved a lot. To be relevant in this industry for 15 years is a big deal.” He recently released a song on Ganesh Chaturthi and even shot a music video in Uzbekistan.
The 40-year-old singer’s first solo album, Aap Kaa Abhijeet Sawant, released in 2005 followed by other albums Junoon in 2007, Farida in 2013 and Fakira in 2018. He also did playback singing for films such as Aashiq Banaya Aapne (2005), Chittagong (2012) and Dishoom (2016).
Looking back, he admits that releasing his first album was bigger high, “even more than winning Indian Idol”. He always dreamt to be a pop singer and says every musician wants to sing and share their creation. He shares, “Had I got the right guidance I would have reached greater heights in my career. What happened back then was that in the 2008, the pop industry had sort of diminished. Indie songs ka daur khatam ho gaya tha. Many playback singers are known by their voice than their face. In fact, I was popular as a name and a brand and people would never ask me how many songs have I sung. If the pop industry was thriving back then, which it is these days, maybe it would have possible to do more in my career.”
Talking about the experience of Indian Idol season 1, he reminisces, “the idea of reality shows was so new in 2004 that even the ones making it didn’t know what was what. We would watch the UK version with the crew to understand how things would be and what was needed of us. Everyone was new. Abroad, reality show contestants get established as singers get opportunity as artists but in India, we are a part of the film body. Even today, music has not been able to make its own place and is too integrated into Bollywood. There wasn’t much positivity in the industry for new artists back then though the audience was cheering for you. There was no welcoming attitude for new kids, which one sees today.”
Does he think he utilised the opportunities well post winning the show? Sawant exclaims that though he has worked with many popular music directors yet even today, he feels like a newbie in the industry. “Kehte hain, kabhi unchai itni badh jaati hai ke ghar ke andar jaane ke liye, sar jhukana padta hai. What I feel is that despite reaching a certain stature in life, there were many factors that were not in my control. Things could have worked out in a another way. There was a different kind of struggle post winning the show. Somewhere, my work wasn’t taken seriously. Music composers thought that I’d already achieved stardom and I didn’t need any more songs. Often we love underdogs and support them. But when they reach the top, then we feel insecure that he got everything. To understand these two contrary thoughts was difficult for me. How to handle people? Today not just the contestants but the audiences too are well trained to appreciate reality shows. In fact, I met many contestants from Indian Idol 1 recently and I realised that even today the struggle is to create something new.
Sawant’s advice to reality show aspirants is that every individual has their own journey. After a competition, there are many highs and lows, “irrespective of your win or not but you have to keep moving on and doing more. Learn from the bad experiences and cherish the good ones. Today’s kids can shape up their journey their way due to social media and channels like Youtube. They can create their own identity and pursue their passion.”