The 1990’s indipop was a revolution in the Indian music industry. Suddenly the television screens were full of young guys and girls decked in western clothes started catering to the language of the youth. The advent of MTV and Channel V took these 90’s indipop songs to the masses who were, till then, fed only Bollywood music. The era gave rise to new superstars who would etch their name in public memory.
One such diva is Shweta Shetty. The dusky, long legged lass with a husky voice, broke the conventional prototype of an Indian female. In an era when Bollywood did not qualify as pop music, Shweta dressed in a black man’s suit, sang Johnny Joker in her trademark voice. The song was an instant hit with the youth.
The 90’s indipop era
India was still quite conservative at that time. The 90’s indipop stars gave the audience a culture shock in a way, with Alisha Chinai’s ‘Made in India’ or Shweta’s ‘Deewane toh deewane hai’.
“When we came in, wearing western clothes, it was never sleazy. The whole package became the attraction. The youth saw a new age woman who was not preposterous. We were what we were,”
Bollywood stars remained unreachable, largely because of their huge and maniacal fan following. The 90’s indipop stars were more approachable and friendly. They loved the adoration and would give the same back to the fans. They had a different attitude which the fans could connect to.
“The best part was that no one knew what a pop star is,”
The record labels were not as professional as now. They had very few, but good, talent scouts or the A&R machinery, as they are now called. These managers were basically the wardrobe specialists, the PR guys, ideators and even personal guides. The labels, to an extent, gave the artist the freedom to choose their music composers and lyricists.
“After Johnny Joker, I wanted to make some different kind of music. So I chose ‘Deewane’ over ‘Made in India’. The record labels and the video directors did give us the freedom but we never went over the top,”
“We would adhere to the record company’s instructions but if it did not suit our image we would say no. We did not cut many albums but most were hits. Of course we had our flops too, but everybody has that.”
Surviving and making a comeback
There is an unwritten rule in the entertainment industry, ‘Without talent you won’t survive’. There will be a period when an artist does nothing, might try to make a comeback but falter and fail. The 90’s indipop stars ruled the music scene for nearly a decade. They worked on a minuscule budget and could not fathom the storm that was Bollywood. Backed by mega budgets for every song, with silver screen superstars featuring in the videos, Bollywood took over indipop. The high level productions, coupled with emerging new age music composers, it took over the reins again. This led the stardom of the 90’s indipop stars into decline.
“Stardom engulfs you, it takes over every cell of your body. I did go through a low phase and slipped into depression too. A lot of people let themselves go. I know a lot of artists who are still battling depression. This is the time when one has to learn to deal with it. I always tell people if they want the stardom they should be strong enough to face the failures too,”
The diva took a sabbatical at her musical peak, got married and moved to Germany. Though she did dabble into music, she was far away from the limelight. The lack of the shutterbugs was something she missed initially.
“Luckily the break worked for me. I took up meditation which helped me recover. Infact, I started loving the freedom and hating the attention,”
The indipop craze is over but Shweta’s other love jazz, is still around. She has always had an affinity towards western classical, RnB and jazz. Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houstan, Beyonce are the divas, Shweta is fond of. On the 11th of May, she will perform classics by these legends in her own style. Helping her give it a unique touch will be jazz legend Louis Banks and the versatile Dalip Tahil. This concert, at the Royal Opera House in Mumbai, is where Shweta marks her comeback with this very interesting combination of musicians.