FROM being a 12-year-old singing in YRF's Mohabbatein, to the recent packed house during AR Rahman's Indian tour, Shweta Pandit has shown that singing isn't her job, it's her passion. The girl's been there, done that.
We decide to meet at Costa in Versova. Pandit is on time, and that goes to prove that she is passionate in what she does, be it singing or giving an interview. There's an unnerving moment when hearing Shweta. She sounds melodious and operatic in scale, even while she answers and laughs at every question or comment she thinks is funny.
So while most of you must be thinking that it's all in her voice, I sit back, sip my cooler and get smitten by her precious smile.
She's got a voice that could bend steel and looks that can bend your neck, but if you meet Shweta Pandit you need to have one thing clear in your mind: you need to be obsessed with AR Rahman. And as far as Shweta can remember, at the tender age of just seven her obsession with the Oscar-winning music director began.
In this exclusive first part of a two-part special, India's pride and one of AR Rahman's favourite singers and fellow performer in his concerts, Shweta Pandit, takes centre-stage and talks about when she first heard of Rahman Sir, how she first met him, and why she thinks that the most respected man in the music industry is child-like.
DEVANSH PATEL: You are in your twenties and you have been singing for a decade. That's awesome! SHWETA PANDIT: I've grown a lot in these 12 years. My Mohabbatein launch was a huge one, where I sang all the songs in the film for Shamita Shetty.
For any singer it's a dream debut. I was working with legends. There was Lataji, Yashji, Anand Bakshiji, etc. My voice is my recognition. If my voice or my songs are famous, I am famous. It's the greatest compliment a singer can ever receive.
DP: And what about AR Rahman? SP: AR Rahman is a legend too. I'm happy that so many years down the line I am continuing to learn from these legends.
All the names I've mentioned have one quality in common - they have a beloved child in all of them somewhere hidden deep inside. They are very innocent when it comes to working.
All these people have achieved so much, and yet work as if it's their first work when they compose a song or write lyrics.
DP: How did your obsession with AR Rahman start?
SP: I told this same story to AR at Vancouver airport, when I was travelling with him for the Jai Ho concert. I think I was seven years old when I first heard of AR Rahman.
The music of Bombay was out and that's when I first registered the name. My sister, who is also a singer, Shraddha Pandit, used to listen to a lot of music and practise. At that point in time names never used to register with me but songs did.
I had fallen sick around that time and wasn't able to recover. So my mother gave me a Walkman and she told me to listen to good music. Finally my hands caught on the audio cassette of Bombay, and I started reading the inlay on the back of the label, where 'music by AR Rahman' was written. I got well in a few days.
I guess Sir's music did the trick. From that day on I became the follower of AR Rahman.
DP: AR Rahman has also got an unconventional voice, hasn't he?
SP: Rahman Sir is a master, and he knows how to use a voice in what way in a song and nobody knows that better than him, not even I.
His take on things is completely different from what we think. Sir doesn't take the conventional route to make the singer sing. We have a herd mentality when it comes to many things in our film industry.
So if some singer has won an award, music directors want that particular award-winning singer to sing in their next film. What Rahman Sir will do is that he will bring a new singer and make that singer sound like he or she has never sounded before in their life.
Only AR Rahman can do that. Sir has got amazing secrets to recording that even I don't know. The result is that the song sounds like heaven.
DP: How does he motivate you as a singer?
SP: During every rehearsal he tells me that I sound the best, and that is a bit of a cliché (laughs). But that's how he is. He is honest. He motivates you a lot and is a very quick teacher.
He doesn't sit and teach you bit by bit. He will make you do your job over and over again till you've perfected it, which is a very strong way of training somebody.
For that, you have to be a very fast learner. If I'm singing something and I have to touch some note and I don't, he shows it to me on his piano. He will do it again till I get the note right. I think it's a great way of teaching.
NEXT WEEK: MORE OF 'SIR'S' SECRETS AS DEV CHATS FURTHER WITH SHWETA PANDIT