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Where have the once popular singers from the music video industry gone?

A whole generation of singers and performers vanished from the public eye once the music video industry saw a dip in popularity. As a sense of revival slowly builds into the independent music scene, hitlist speaks to a few artistes to know about their trials and tribulations

With its peppy numbers, stylised videos and loads of oomph, the Indian music video culture added a lot of zing to our TV sets in the late ’90s and early 2000s. It also gave rise to a new breed of musicians who commanded a fan following equal to that of a popular Bollywood star. However, lack of support from music channels spelt doom for many of these artistes who could not even manage to come up with a second album. While some explored new avenues, others just sank into oblivion. We chatted with a few to get an insight about creativity, stardom and being away from the public eye.

Band of Boys
Band of Boys, featuring Karan Oberoi (centre), (L-R) Sangeet Haldipur, Chaitanya Bhonsle and Sherrin Varghese, was India’s first boy band. It was formed in 2001

Heady start
Many singers in music videos were youngsters who became overnight stars. While boys swooned over Meghna Naidu in UMI10’s remix version of Kaliyon ka chaman, Shefali Zariwala gained notoriety as the ‘thong girl’ among college-goers. Meghna is currently doing a period drama on TV while the latter has settled down with actor, Parag Tyagi. The most meteoric rise was, perhaps that of Abhijeet Sawant, India’s first common man superstar. He tells us, “I never expected to be a star and that too through a reality show. In fact, I was worried after the finals as neither did I  understand contracts nor did I have much clarity on what I would be expected to do as a ‘singing superstar’.

Sanober Kabir’s video Meri Beri Ke Baer was a hit
Sanober Kabir’s video Meri Beri Ke Baer was a hit

I did not spend much time thinking or introspecting after winning Indian Idol. An average singer has a struggle period that makes him feel ‘sorted’. I did not have that kind of journey.” Today, he does playback, shows and also dabbles in television. Karan Oberoi, a part of Band of Boys, the group behind Meri neend ud gayi hai, reflects, “Initially, we did not know what had hit us. It was like living in a bubble. Sudhanshu (Pandey) and I had a stint with modelling and would hold ‘grounding’ sessions for the other boys (Sherrin Varghese, Sangeet Haldipur and Chaitanya Bhonsle).”

One of the bands that survived the lull and is still going strong is Euphoria
One of the bands that survived the lull and is still going strong is Euphoria

Dealing with the downturn
Once the music video trend faded away, a lot of artistes and technicians lost their job. Lovel Arora of Colossus, who directed a number of videos, tells us, “The music video culture died because music channels did not support independent musicians. Even recording companies who had earlier promoted them did not step forward to help them. Sadly, it was only Hindi artistes who suffered. This did not happen in Punjab where channels supported the musicians. I was out of business for nearly three years. In the heydays, I remember shooting a video every second or third day. One video used to give employment to 100 people. The death of the industry was traumatic for everyone, right from the singers to the cameramen. However, I feel the trend is returning. I shot six videos in the last four months, which is a heartening number. I have seen the pain and sense of helplessness amongst the musicians. For some, the music died. It was sad because they were good singers and composers. I have seen artistes sit jobless at home and go into depression.”

Lesle Lewis is one of the pioneers of independent music in India
Lesle Lewis is one of the pioneers of independent music in India

In this period, many singers just vanished from the industry altogether.  Karan opines, “The toughest part is to deal with those around you. People start seeing you differently after you attain success and later when you slow down. When the euphoria dies down, the same people who chased you refuse to take your calls. If you have a defeatist attitude, you’re finished. Thankfully, we never took fame seriously. If Amitabh Bachchan could go through a bad phase, who were we? (laughs).”

Bali Brambhatt’s Amma Dekh was a hit
Bali Brambhatt’s Amma Dekh was a hit

The lack of recognition or the absence of a platform can be extremely damaging for an artiste’s psyche. Sustaining oneself in such a scenario is quite a task.

Anaida’s Oova Oova had the youngsters grooving
Anaida’s Oova Oova had the youngsters grooving

Abhijeet says, “As a person, I am quite laidback. I never wanted a terribly hectic life. I did not have depression after my life slowed down, two years after the win. I can adjust to situations quickly, which is why I never fell prey to negativity. I kept on working hard and set small goals for myself. The idea was to do something every day and do it well. I feel this is why I have sustained so far.”

After his Indian Idol win, Abhijeet Sawant explored other avenues
After his Indian Idol win, Abhijeet Sawant explored other avenues

Talent shines through?
There are some artistes such as Lesle Lewis and Palash Sen, who are active on the music scene till date. Lesle says, “I believe a true artiste can be frustrated but never defeated. The boys and girls who vanished from the scene were not necessarily talented. Some of the truly talented ones are doing well till date. A lot of people had entered into the Indi-pop industry because it was booming with a high glamour quotient and was an avenue to make quick money. I have been busy throughout with independent music. One of the shining examples is Mika Singh. His video Saawan mein lag gayee aag was a chartbuster. With his unconventional voice, he had to wait for a while before making it big in Bollywood, but nowhere did he switch his style or clone someone. It shows that true talent shines through. Honey Singh is a trend-setter because he attained success with his independent songs/videos much before he was known in Bollywood.”

Getting work after a video
Lesle’s views find support from Sanober Kabir. The Meri beri ke baer girl tells us, “For me, it was important to get work after the video, which I did. I have done 600 shows so far. I love the idea of performing live, travelling and getting paid for it. I had a background in classical music and that helped me. I never felt frustrated as my life never slowed down. However, I know of artistes who went through a very frustrating stage. As far as fame is concerned, this is the era of short-lived stardom. Every year, we get a new crop of celebs from TV soaps and reality shows; they are in the limelight for a specific period and make the most of it. You have to accept reality.”

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