#WhereAreThey series: When Neeraj Shridhar was told that his music is bad
Pop group, Bombay Vikings, was formed in Sweden in 1994. Along with Neeraj Shridhar, the band comprised of other members like Oscar Söderberg and Mats Nordenborg, and over time, it became popular for belting out remixes of old Bollywood hits such as Kya Soorat Hai, Woh Chali and Chod Do Anchal.
Quiz him about his band days and he fondly shares, “My band members learnt Hindi and supported me on many Hindi songs. The girl who has sang Chhod Do Aanchal is Swedish. Our group was disbanded long before I came to India. When I came here, I was alone but I kept the name Bombay Vikings. I’ve travelled to Trinidad & Tobago, Port Of Spain and South Africa singing our songs. Once in Florida, a huge crowd of Americans sang Woh Chali along with me. It was wonderful that the song went so far.”
Shridhar, who grew up in Stockholm, was exposed to pop rock and jazz rock from an early age. Nevertheless, he was fascinated with yesteryear classics. He recalls, “My mother used to sing Hawa Mein Udta Jaaye. I wasn’t into Indian music much and we would play Hindi films songs and ghazals only when we used to have a gathering of Indian and Pakistani friends.”
His musical career in India started with the music video of Mona Re. However, he wasn’t too happy with the final product. “The music video had cool and sexy girls in the swimming pool. It made fun of old people. I, somehow, didn’t like it. The label heard me out and wanted me to make a video for the song Kya Soorat Hai. I didn’t want to risk my career and gave it up,” says the musician.
In the early days of his career, he received a lot of backlash for crooning songs penned in Hinglish, a blend of Hindi and English, but it was his audience that helped him stand up against all the criticism. “I was told that my music is so bad that a sober person will never appreciate it. Some prominent singers in the industry, who had also done songs in Hinglish, started pointing fingers at me. I used to consider them my gurus. A media person had once told me that I’m ruining the Hindi language with Hinglish,” Shridhar elaborates.
Having lent his voice to film songs like Chor Bazaari (Love Aaj Kal; 2009) and Tumhi Ho Bandhu (Cocktail; 2012), the musician has been concentrating on music production and that’s also the reason why the audience hasn’t heard him much in the past few years. “When I wanted to get into music production, I knew that I had to start from the scratch. To focus on that, when people offered me playback offers, I declined. I was scared that if I start composing, other music directors will stop calling me because I’ll become a competitor. Compose songs and learning the Indian way of making songs took some time. And with the pandemic hitting us, it took longer than four years,” Shridhar ends.