As a playback singer, it is important to give voice to causes too, says Hema Sardesai
Hema Sardesai sang her way into national consciousness with “Awaara bhanware” in “Sapnay” (1997). Having garnered appreciation for her singing in over 60 films since then, Hema Sardesai has now turned into a shrill campaigner for a variety of causes.
In town to promote “In the Name of Tai”, Hema makes it clear that she is not the archetypal aloof singer. “Somewhere we singers, in the midst of our money, fame, and fortune, forget that we need to give back to society as well,” she says, and proceeds to enumerate the causes she has endorsed.
A Goan, Hema has taken up issues specific to Goa in her three albums in Konkani and famously declared to give up her life for Goa in 2008. “I also stood up for the girl child before anyone took notice, right from my first video Hindustani Gudiya. I have also contributed a lot towards women’s empowerment,” she says.
It is this commitment that linked her up with the “In the Name of Tai”. A female oriented film, it deals with the life of Adv. Navleen Kumar, a social activist who worked for over a decade to protect and restore the lands of adivasis. During the course of her work, Navleen received numerous threats and was stabbed to death in 2002. Director Ujjwal Thengdi studied with Navleen in Mumbai’s Ruparel college and has made the film to bring attention to the issues raised by his late friend.
The film contains three songs which have been written and composed by the director. Hema has lent her voice to one of them. Describing the context of the song, Hema says, “the heroine is reminiscing about her romance and that is what I have tried to portray through my voice.”
Hema has also been continually crusading against psychiatric treatment of depressed persons. It is what is driving them towards suicide, she believes. Hema also went through a bout of depression after she lost her father. “I couldn’t accept that one of the people I loved so dearly could be taken away from me. But I am totally strong now and fighting for the cause,” she says.
She recommends yoga, meditation and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Sudarshan Kriya as alternative medication. She also credits her outlook towards causes to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the Art of Living Foundation.
“He prompted me to be content in life. After my massive hit in ‘Chak de India’ I said it is time to give back to society.” She is in the process of releasing two albums inspired by and dedicated to the Art of Living Foundation. Also in the pipeline are two films with Bappi Lahiri.
This proves a suitable point of return to the vocation that is first nature to her. “For a long time people said I sound like Kajol, then it was Karisma Kapoor and Sushmita Sen. So before I sing for a film, I ask who the heroine is and try to imitate her attitude, and not her voice.”
“I have never been in the rat-race and I pride myself for that. I am proof that the industry is also a decent place to be,” she signs off.