Jonita Gandhi sets all hearts aflutter with two back-to-back chart busters

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Toronto crooner Jonita Gandhi has been creating a buzz of sorts in Bollywood with her back-to-back hits for Dangal and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

It took me weeks to de-addict myself from The Breakup Song (Ae Dil Hai Mushkil).

Just as I managed to wean myself, the Gilehriyaan track from Dangal has now ear wormed into my psyche.

Not a coincidence then that both these chart busters are from Jonita Gandhi, Toronto’s own nightingale.

A couple of years ago, I penned a blog about Jonita. This was around the time she was dipping her toes in the music industry in Bollywood. Jonita has since toured with the likes of Sonu Nigam and A.R. Rahman; worked with several top-notch composers to deliver multiple hits.

Often when journalists sit across from famous folks with our pens poised, we’re mostly unimpressed with titles or awards, what warms us is the individual’s passion for their craft and humility.

With Jonita, you can check off all those boxes.

 Here’s Jonita getting candid about success, her struggle and the smash hit : The Breakup Song

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Toronto crooner Jonita Gandhi. Supplied photo.

TDD: It seems the entire nation and desis around the world are humming your recent chartbuster – Breakup song. Tell us how did the chance to collaborate with Pritam Chakraborthy come about?

JG: Working with Pritam Da is an opportunity I always wanted. Though the Breakup Song isn’t my first release with him, I’m very thankful to have worked on this song with him. Quite a while back, I was called into the studio to record the beginning. At that time, it was just a scratch. I was called back to record the rest of the song some time later and several times after for lyrical changes, but I didn’t know until the song was released that my voice was kept in the final track.

TDD: The song’s upbeat, liberating and free, whereas breakup tunes are weepy. Your reaction when you heard the lyrics?

JG: I had so much fun recording the song because of the quirky lyrics. The dialogue at the beginning of the song is my favourite part. It gave me the opportunity to be over dramatic and playful. When I first heard it I thought, “wow this is definitely not how I would react to a breakup!” Ha!ha!ha! but I’m glad this song is what it is and I hope it helps people through their breakups.

TDD: How long have you been in Bollywood? What is it like tasting success?

JG: My debut in Bollywood happened in 2013 with the title track of Chennai Express, so it’s been three years now. I am extremely grateful for all of the opportunities since then, to work with people that I had only dreamed of working with. No matter how much I grow in my career, I try to keep myself grounded and remind myself that there’s always room to improve and that I have a long way to go.

TDD: Did you have to go through a bit of struggle too in your musical journey? What was that like?

JG: Nothing good comes easy. When I first came to India, I came in as a blank slate. I had no contacts and knew nothing about how things work here. It took a lot of perseverance, patience and an open mind to keep working towards my goals. There were times where it got overwhelming for sure. But it’s all worth it. 

TDD: From Brampton to Mumbai – the highs and lows?

JG: Life in Brampton is extremely different than life in Mumbai. We take the weather for granted in Canada and complain about the cold, but we don’t have to worry about moldy closets in rain season and food spoiling so quickly because of heat like in India.

Traffic! You have to be good at planning your commute when you have to be somewhere on time because traffic in India is nothing compared to Toronto.

• Customer service is something we take for granted in Canada because we are so used to getting things resolved after putting in a complaint. It’s quite a struggle here in India to get to the bottom of a problem.

But I have to admit I love the fact that you can order almost anything for delivery in India.

TDD: Is there any incident in Bollywood (with a celebrity/actor) that you recall that still makes you chuckle?

JG: When I was called in to record Kahaan Hoon Main, both Rahman sir and Imtiaz Ali were present at the time. That day I had food poisoning and was throwing up non-stop throughout the day. When I received the call to come in to the studio, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so I was a trooper and went in. It took some time for the studio to be setup, so I asked the engineer to let me know when I was needed and went to lie down in another room.

Shortly after being called in to start recording I had to step out for a “bathroom break,” which was really for me to puke my guts out. That memory still makes me smile from time to time because only the engineer and I know how sick I was feeling that day. Rahman sir and Imtiaz had no idea. 

TDD: Bet you miss home…

JG: Over and above anything else, I miss my family. Whatsapp comes in really handy. I wish they could be here with me all the time, but I am glad to be able to go home every once in a while, and have them visit me from time to time as well. 

 **Amir Khan starrer Dangal hit the theatres in North America, Dec. 21.**

 

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Toronto artist with Down Syndrome thumbs her nose at naysayers

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Gurvir Singh, 24, an artist/songwriter/fashionista founded Power of One, an initiative that through art teaches participants the impact of words when it comes to discrimination.

Sassy, artistic, brave, and a total diva.

Gurvir Singh, 24, is unlike any woman I have met.

She hasn’t let her disability (Down Syndrome) become her identity rather, with the support of her family this amazing artist is carving quite a niche for herself as a fashionista, songwriter and an advocate.

When I met her, Gurvir sported a black top and jacket, paired with a sapphire blue scarf and trendy accessories. She exuded confidence I wish I could borrow.

Each of the pieces of art she brought along, turns out was the result of a powerful creative stirring she experienced when she watched: Harry Potter series, the azure blue ocean she glimpsed when she visited her sister Sara in Halifax, the music of One Direction and so on.

Without art, Gurvir would have probably carried the hurt of the words her bullies hurled at her all through her school years. Even though she was bullied, she didn’t let the bullies win.

“Words can hurt,” said Gurvir. “I was called names all through my school and one day, during a hip-hop class, one of the boys called me fat.”

I have to interject here. Sahil Prashar, whom I wrote about earlier, too was bullied.

I can’t understand the mindset of families that nurture these bullies. Children learn aggression and behaviour from their parents and then expel their cruelty outside. If I had my way, I would parade the parents and shame them like the media does with impaired drivers during the annual RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) program.

So, back to Gurvir.

gurvir2One day, after she went through yet another volley of taunts at school, Gurvir and her sisters Sara and Navprit, launched Power of One, an arts initiative that offers series of workshops to help participants understand the impact of words in bullying and discrimination. At the end of each session, folks create a tangible piece of art to take home.

I am amazed at Gurvir’s spunk. Even though it would have hurt horribly to go to school every day and be at the receiving end of her bullies’ cruelty, she did not give up her learning. She graduated and hoped to pursue a university degree in fashion, except there are none for students with disabilities.

The Singh Sisters, as I like to call them, have taken it upon themselves to advocate for educational opportunities for those with disabilities.

“Watching Gurvir and all the barriers she faces made my family want to become advocates of change,” said Sara Singh, Gurvir’s older sister explained adding her non-profit Broadening Horizons’ mandate is to help, educate, inspire and mobilze youth to use creative expression as a tool to address social issues. “We urge people to promote inclusion in their workings whether it’s through employment or artistic endeavours. Through inclusion we can educate not just ourselves but other people as well on what inclusion and exclusion is.”

Gurvir has no time to dwell in the past. She keeps busy creating t-shirts with personalized art, writing songs and painting. Her advise to those getting bullied?

“They should stand up for themselves and maybe talk to a teacher, principal or someone they trust,” said Gurvir. “As you grow up, things change and you become stronger and that helps too.”

Amen, sister, Amen.

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Gurvir flanked by the “rocks” in her life, sisters Sara (right) and Navprit. The Singh Sisters are advocates for those with disabilities and run Broadening Horizons, a non-profit group. Photo by Bryon Johnson/Metroland Media Inc.