Look who is back! The Mangta hai kya girl Shweta Shetty
What, when, why... intimate details of the Indipop singer’s whirlwind romance, jet-set marriage, divorce, depression and rediscoveryUpdated: Jun 01, 2019 23:42 IST
If you are a ’90s kid or from the Superhit Muqabla generation, chances are that the very mention of the name Shweta Shetty will make you ask Mangta Hai Kya? The crackling Rangeela song enjoys a cult following to this day and so does its singer, the inimitable Shweta Shetty. Her Bollywood career includes chartbusting dance numbers like Poster Lagwa Do (Aflatoon), Dilli Ki Sardi (Zameen), Rukmini (Roja), Kaale Kaale Baal (Ziddi), Pichhu Pade (Salaakhen). But more than a Bollywood playback singer, Shweta is known as one of the most prominent and robust voices of the Indian pop music scene of the ’90s. When Shweta sang Johnny Johnny Joker in 1993, dressed in a black men’s suit complete with a red tie and red lips to match, she made sure that her debut didn’t go unnoticed, and she followed it up with the hugely popular Deewane Toh Deewane and then Tote Tote Ho Gaya. Unlike movies of that time, the Indipop scene was throbbing with girl power with Shweta, Alisha Chinai and Sunita Rao paving the way.
But suddenly she disappeared. And equally suddenly, 20 years later, she’s back.
At the heart of it
“I know! When I decided to give it all up and move to Germany, my friends cautioned me that I was committing professional hara-kiri. But I was in love and at that point nothing else mattered to me,” Shweta says.
“If anyone who’s been a celebrity tells you s/he didn’t miss the attention, they are probably lying”
“Although I had the image of a fiercely ambitious girl, a go-getter of sorts, I’m the complete antithesis of that in real life,” she adds. “I was always outspoken and rebellious. I came from a very conservative family and it was my rebellious streak that got me to do all the things I did, from wearing those risqué outfits to having a career in singing. I always followed my heart. Then I fell in love and followed my heart and my man. He lived in Hamburg. If he had lived in Timbuktu I’d have moved there!”
Shweta met the love of her life at a party in Cannes in 1996 and 10 months later she became Mrs Clemens Brandt and moved to Hamburg, leaving behind her country and her career.
Home and hearth
Just after moving, Shweta had a car accident and was bedridden. It was a huge blow. “Back in India I was at the top of my game and suddenly I found myself stuck in the bed in a foreign country where no one knew me and I knew no one. I didn’t know the language, Germans are not known to be very friendly, and I didn’t have my music, which was my life till that point. I plunged into a serious depression and it lasted for almost a year,” she reveals.
But she knew she had to get out of it. “Depression is a disease that’s very common in the entertainment business, it always has been,” she says. “It is only now that people are talking about it. I was very clear in my head that I’ll not let this eat me up. So instead of drinking myself silly or getting into drugs, things that really seem tempting when you are going through such lows in life, I got into yoga and meditation.”
Once she emerged from the bleakness, Shweta’s life was smooth. “If anyone who’s been a celebrity tells you s/he didn’t miss the attention, they are probably lying,” she says wryly. “I definitely did but I didn’t like being under the microscope.”
So it didn’t take her long to begin to enjoy the anonymity of her life in Germany. “I loved being a homemaker and travelling with my husband,” she says. “We had three houses, which I turned into homes. I’d been working since the age of 17, so I started loving this life where I could spend time with myself.”
Body and soul
Shweta started a yoga studio called Shwetasana and says, “That’s what kept me occupied for so long.” She adds: “My marriage ended in a divorce after five years but I stayed back because of my yoga studio. There was no doubt in my mind that I’d eventually get back to music, as that’s my first love, but I was scared to come back and start afresh.”
She eventually came back to India in 2015, to spend quality time with her ailing father and mend bridges with him. “Even then, I was mostly busy healing people with yoga. If someone reaches out to me for help, I can’t turn them away,” she says. However, now Shweta wants to revive her singing career and is part of a travelling band, Soul2Soul, with composer and jazz pianist Louiz Banks, which had its first show at the Royal Opera House, Mumbai recently.
She loves the interactions that happen while performing in front of a live audience but she’s equally excited about Bollywood. “Bollywood is open to unconventional voices like never before. It is really an exciting time to be back!”
A new song
Why did she give up on her music and switch to yoga in the first place, we wonder, given that Germany is the third largest music market in the world after the US and Britain?
“I did get a chance to record and tour with Sarah Brightman, the soprano who was also the muse for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. And I also worked with the techno band Jam & Spoon. But truth be told, the opportunities were and still are very limited for Indians in the entertainment world. I was told in no uncertain terms that I can’t make it as a singer singing in English. Although my English and my accent are far better than that of the Germans, there are preconceived notions you can’t fight” she says.
She feels that although things are looking better for brown girls, it’s still a long way to the top. “Even a Priyanka (Chopra) or an Aishwarya (Rai) couldn’t have that big mainstream Hollywood break. I’m hoping that some day they will. And I’ll be the happiest.”
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From HT Brunch, June2, 2019
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First Published: Jun 01, 2019 23:41 IST