Returning to the judges’ panel with Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, Neeti Mohan says social media, OTT boom have created ample opportunities for the influx of talented singers
When Neeti Mohan entered the world of music as part of the quartet, Aasma, she became an identifiable figure for more reasons than one. Her mellifluous voice was, of course, her trump card, but her distinguishably curly hair, and her prowess as a dancer made her instantly identifiable.
This was in 2003. In 2023, however, Mohan asserts that aspiring singers need to develop two essentials to enjoy a long-lasting career. “Innovation and consistency.” In this interview, Mohan, set to judge the upcoming edition of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, draws parallels between the two eras , in terms of challenges and opportunities.
Edited excerpts from the interview.
From the initial glimpses that we are getting to see on social media, this edition presents a diverse range of singers. What made you agree to be part of it when this offer came your way?
When I am called to judge, I am always willing to do it because I know what it feels like to stand in a line and [hope to] get selected so that I can have the opportunity to build a career. I don’t like to use the word judge; I prefer to call it mentorship. With whatever experience I have, if I can mentor someone, I feel that’s my way of giving back. This show has been going on for over 22 years. When I was a kid, I used to watch it. And now, I have a kid. So, the love that it receives is immense.
I have faith in our country’s talent. From folk to regional singers, our musicians are exposed to different languages, and genres. Earlier, people only consumed Bollywood music. But now they’re also exposed to K-pop and world music. And we know that because we are hearing incredible stuff on this show.
You’ve also been in the public eye ever since you entered the industry, given that you were part of the successful pop band, Aasma. How do you think the challenges that you had were different from the ones that the participants of reality shows have today?
Aspiring singers are definitely more prepared, informed, and exposed to different kinds of music today. They also understand the consequences of social media and the fame that it can bring. When I started, back in 2003, I was too naïve. I just ended up winning that show, [and coming] to Bombay from Delhi with the promise that I would not go back. I had that confidence in myself.
Earlier, we struggled with reaching out to people. Now, thanks to social media, one can go on anybody’s Instagram account and see what genre they follow, and understand their style. Today, if your voice goes viral overnight, you could [work with] the top composers of the country, regardless of where you come from. At the same time, it comes with a downside—to sustain in this industry, you have to be very innovative and consistent.
This time, on the show, we have a unique concept—Any singer who becomes the star performer of the week will get the chance to release an independent song that [will] be composed by HR [Himesh Reshammiya] or Anu ji [Anu Malik]. That is a remarkable opportunity because everyone needs an identity.
Can you take us behind the scenes and tell us about the opportunities that these young singers entering the industry via reality shows are getting?
Thousands of contestants apply for the show. A few hundred make it to the short-list. And then, about 70-odd singers come for the auditions to Mumbai where we listen to them. But, once they are here, we have an internal team that mentors them and deciphers what’s best suited for their voice. As we speak, they are undergoing that training. And during this intense 45-day prep, they can learn as much as people do in two years. They teach you about the flamboyance that you need in your performance, and help you master other things as well. That is a big [opportunity] in itself. So, if you don’t see the singers seeming busy, that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing anything. They are busy composing, making scratches and pitching for film, web shows or their own labels.