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

Jonita Gandhi 2016.jpg

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


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.**


Toronto’s nightingale Jonita Gandhi wows the Bollywood off its socks

Toronto crooner Jonita Gandhi reads out the contents of a journal she had started when she was seven. Jonita has sung half-a-dozen tracks for Bollywood films, including the title song of Chennai Express, which she sung along with S.P. Balasubramanium, the South Indian icon. (supplied photo).

Toronto crooner Jonita Gandhi reads out the contents of a journal she had started when she was seven. Jonita has sung half-a-dozen tracks for Bollywood films, including the title song of Chennai Express, which she sung along with S.P. Balasubramanium, the South Indian icon. (supplied photo).

We all know, breaking into the ironclad bastion of Bollywood, as an artist requires part luck, plenty of perseverance and oodles of talent.

Toronto crooner Jonita Gandhi, 24, it seems has what it takes. Little wonder then that her name appears as a playback singer in half-a-dozen Bollywood songs already.

On a recent spring-like day, I sat with Jonita and chatted with her on her musical odyssey, the glamour of Bollywood (hardly, it’s all work), homesickness (it’s real) and the life of a rising playback singer (apparently, it’s a waiting game).

Not many people are privy to the fact that way back when she was 7; Jonita had scrawled her dreams and flung it into the universe via her diary. This journal— which would go missing only to be found again every couple of years—had sporadic entries.

So, few weeks ago, when the Toronto native came home from Mumbai, her parents suggested she take an inventory of her room and toss out the stuff she no longer needed. The spring-cleaning unearthed the cherished journal.

“I want to be a singer,” the affirmative words, it appears, were written when Jonita was seven. Dozens of pages later as the childish penmanship became more assured, as did her single-mindedness.

“I am 16 and still not famous,” she rued during her teens. “When will I be famous?”

She and I chuckled over the desperation of those heart-felt pleas.

As Jonita connected with her younger self, I couldn’t help marvel at how her dreams had indeed translated. Not too many can revisit their childhood musings and realize—gleefully—that they are indeed living it.

So far, the Western University alumni, has proved her mettle with hits such as the title song of the blockbuster hit Chennai Express, Kahaan hoon main (Highway), Implosive Silence (Highway), Eai Ki Prem (Bangali Babu English Mem), Aabhi Jaa and others.

As a singer, Jonita’s versatility can be credited to her training in western classical singing and other musical influences she imbibed growing up in Canada.

Her talent was nurtured and encouraged at home because Jonita’s father, Deepak’s passion for music refused to be silenced as he pursued engineering in Russia and later during his struggles as a new immigrant in Canada. Also, Mandeep, her brother plays the dhol and mom Sneh is the glue that holds the family together.

“Once I graduated, I decided I would try singing full-time for a year and then see what happens,” Jonita told Toronto Desi Diaries. “My debut (in Bollywood) happened on the spot. I was visiting the studios of music director Vishal Shekhar who was at that time working on the title song of Chennai Express. Vishal Shekhar had heard my online work and knew what I sounded like. He took a chance and asked to me try a scratch.”

So, Jonita lent her voice to the song—which included the dulcet pipes of South Indian icon S.P. Balasubramanium. After her recording, she was told the final decision on whether the track would make it into the big screen rested with the film’s leading man Shah Rukh Khan, director Rohit Shetty and the producers. The song did make it and Jonita’s singing prowess found a springboard.

There’s this interesting story of how Jonita’s music struck the right chord with Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan.

Here’s how it all happened. Even before she set-off for Mumbai, Jonita had build an impressive online portfolio. Her collaboration with pianist Aakash Gandhi (no relative) and flutist Sahil Khan was groundbreaking. The talented trio basically stripped popular Hindi/Punjabi music of all its layers and created melodies that were uncluttered, organic and simplistic.

Couple of their YouTube videos went viral and one landed in the hands of the CEO of Balaji Films who tweeted the link with note on how impressed he was. Turns out, Amitabh Bachchan (who was following the CEO) heard, agreed and re-tweeted, “I completely agree.”

So, for a Toronto gal to get nods from not one, but two Bollywood heavyweights—Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan— means Jonita Gandhi is going to croon her way into the hearts of millions, soon.