Jonita Gandhi is unstoppable and ready to take on the world with her soulful renditions
Jonita Gandhi is sauve, stylish and sassy at the same time. She croons like a dream and looks like a doll. But her identity as a singer takes precedence over everything else. Raised in Canada, this Indian songstress has recorded songs in every language you can think of – be it Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Kannada and Malayalam and continues to add melody and music to the world around us. If her song in Chennai Express and Chellamma brought her to top the charts, her latest hit song for the film Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani has been talked about by everyone and is already going viral even before the movie releases end of July. Jonita Gandhi opens up about her life changing career that is breaking all records and how.
1. Please tell us about your growing up days in Canada. Where did you study? Your time spent later at your college. What was your dream career in your childhood days?
I grew up in a town called Malton, in Ontario Canada. I went to elementary and middle school there and then moved to Brampton for high school and that’s where my family still lives. When I went to university I studied both Health Sciences and Business (I completed two undergraduate degrees concurrently). Growing up I wanted to be an actress because I was in love with Madhuri Dixit! When I later realised she wasn’t the one singing her own songs, I started to become fascinated with music and singing. My dad recognised that I was musically inclined and pushed me to explore it. I’m so glad he did because look where I am now!
2. When and how did the journey towards being a singer happen? How did it turn from a passion to a profession?
When most kids my age were getting retail jobs in high school and university, I used to perform at events around the greater Toronto area on weekends, which turned out to be sort of my equivalent to a part time job. I didn’t see it that way at the time, but I guess that’s how it really started. It wasn’t until I graduated from university and went on tour with Sonu Nigam that I thought about pursuing music as a profession. With my degrees in my back pocket, I gave myself a deadline of a year in Mumbai to see if I could pursue a career in music and thankfully it all worked out!
3. What are your other passions and hobbies? If not a singer what else would you have considered being?
I did my internship in corporate banking, so I think the natural progression for me would have been to pursue that path if I didn’t pursue music. I don’t think I would have loved it very much though, and I’m extremely grateful that I’m now doing what I love for living.
4. How challenging is it to carve out a niche for yourself?
It’s difficult to stand out especially these days, when there is an information overload on social media platforms everywhere. Carving a niche is very difficult but also very important. People need a reason to go to you for entertainment over the multitude of other options that exist. I think the key is staying true to who you authentically are, and not trying to be someone you’re not. People see through the fake stuff now.
5. What have been some of the biggest highpoints of your journey so far?
I think one of my earliest high points was getting the call to fly to Chennai and work with AR Rahman sir. It was a dream come true to have the opportunity to record with him, and I couldn’t believe it was happening! More recently, one of the highest points I can think of is selling out my first ticketed concert in India which was held in Chennai earlier this year.
6. What does family mean to you? How do you like to unwind or spend time when you’re not working?
Family means everything to me. Living across the world from them is hard and I try my best to spend as much time with them when I can. I love unwinding by watching movies and shows on Netflix. I think one thing I always watch with my parents when I’m home in Brampton is the Kapil Sharma Show!
7. Were there any kind of apprehensions entering the field or was it a cakewalk? How was your experience working with Sonu Nigam at the beginning of your career? How did the Chennai Express work come by and any experience you can recall from those days?
It took me a while to build the confidence to take the leap and move to India to pursue music. It was definitely not a cakewalk! I was very insecure about my abilities as a singer and I thought it was probably going to be too hard to make the mark that I wanted to make. I had very small dreams then compared to the ones I have now, and it’s all because I learned along the way what I’m capable of. I started out by performing live with Sonu Nigam and that was an incredible place for me to learn and improve my live performance skills. He’s one of the best performers out there. Chennai Express was a great kickstart for me in the Bollywood playback world and I’ll always be grateful to Vishal and Shekhar for that.
8. What is your vision and dream in this field that you’re in now?
I would love to crossover into the global music space, where listeners from all around the world can sing along to my original music! I’ve accumulated a great arsenal of experience in different styles and along the way I feel I’ve started to learn more about what my unique voice and sound is. My dream is to have people fall in love with that as much as they’ve loved me for the playback work I’ve done so far.
9. How different do you feel you are from the others around and what are the changes you want to bring about?
I think my upbringing and approach to music sets me apart from the rest. I have a unique relationship with music and performance and I try my best to play to my strengths and work on my weaknesses. I pay attention to the way people respond to what I do and I try my best to balance what I want to do and what the audiences what me to do. This is often difficult but it’s a fulfilling challenge.
10. What kind of bond did you share with your parents and with the extended family in your growing up years and how did the bond grow over the years?
I have always had a strong bond with my parents and family. It is very important to me that they are aligned with what I do and want to do career wise, and so I feel very blessed that I can count on them as pillars of support. When I moved to India, it became harder to stay connected because of the time difference and sheer distance, but we’ve adapted and still manage to stay very close.
11. Are you a home bird or a party goer?
I think a mix of both. There are some days I’m totally down to go out and have a good time with my friends, but most days I love being at home. Even when I’m in the mood to “party”, I prefer more intimate and casual settings like house parties than loud clubs and bars.
12. How often do you take holidays with family or friends? What are your preferred holiday destinations? Do you like adventure travel or leisure travel? Some adventure activities you have done on your travels?
There was a time I was hustling so hard I felt guilty taking time off for holidays, but I’m grateful to be in a position now where I can choose to take time off to spend with my friends and family and enjoy it guilt free. I enjoy a combination of chill vacays with a bit of sightseeing and activities thrown in there. I don’t think I could do an excursion that doesn’t involve at least a little bit of relaxation though, given how hectic life is on the regular, haha. Oftentimes when we travel for shows to places I’ve never been before, I try to extend my stay for a couple days to explore the city with friends, or plan getaways with my friends to celebrate events or just to unwind. With family, we sometimes go to cottages or resorts to spend family time at home together.
13. What is your take on love and relationships in today’s times?
I think love and relationships are very fulfilling but they require a lot of hard work. Relationships only really ever work out if all parties involved are committed to dedicating time and effort to cultivating the relationship. And when they do, it’s a beautiful thing!
14. Are you a romantic at heart in real life? What is the most romantic thing anyone has done for you?
I think I used to be more of a romantic but now I think I get a little awkward haha. I prefer simple things over grand gestures so the “most romantic” things that have been done for me may come across as not that romantic to the average person.
15. Any crazy fan message or incident you’d like to share?
One thing that comes to mind is at my very recent concert in Colombo, I kissed a Jontourage branded T-shirt into the audience and ended up witnessing people fight for it for a few minutes in the front section of the concert. I couldn’t believe how badly they each wanted it and that was definitely a crazy experience for me!
16. Any memorable incidents you’d like to share with us from your song recordings?
When I recorded the song “Kahan Hoon Main” from Highway, I was suffering from food poisoning. So at the recording I kept having to take breaks to go to the bathroom. No one knew that I was going to throw up in between takes of the song except one of the engineers, who kept making sure I had plenty of fluids to sip on during the session. I didn’t want to tell anyone else because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone or cause the recording to get delayed. This was back when I was brand new and could not afford to miss an opportunity to sing for a project like that!
17. What is your fitness routine like?
I’ve adopted the gym regime over the last few years and I try to make sure I stick to it as much as I can. Thank goodness hotels have gyms so I don’t have to break my routine too often when I travel. I have a trainer who helps me set fitness goals and maintain a healthy amount of activity throughout all the madness.
18. What’s your style mantra? And your beauty regime?
I like to keep it simple and wear things that make me feel like me. I do like experimenting, but never at the expense of comfort! I don’t follow a strict beauty regime, I do the bare minimum skin and hair care. I’m lucky I have a great style team that does the rest for me!
19. Please recall some incidents/anecdotes from your time working with AR Rahman and some others.
I think my first call to go record for AR sir will always be close to my heart. I still think about it and it gives me goosebumps. When he first tweeted about me, that was a moment I’ll never forget. And then, when I got a text message from his studio to come and record, I was in disbelief. I think a lot of singers wait for that day or dream of that day. And for it to happen with me so early in my career I think was incredible. That is definitely like one of like the milestones for me. Going to Chennai, and recording with Rahman sir. And from then, a beautiful journey began, which again I never thought would happen. I never knew that I would get to perform with him now during shows and record with him.
20. Tell us about your acting project Tamil film – Walking/Talking Strawberry Icecream? What are your other projects you’re planning to work on or looking at considering?
So, we shot that project a few years back. From then till now, I haven’t seen anything like that. I’m just being honest. I’m also waiting to see what happens next. My experience working in it was really cool. Especially because it was my first acting gig. So, I’m hoping to get to do more things like that because I found it to be very fulfilling as a project. It was really cool to explore different side of expression and artistry, because as a singer and a performer, I’ve done a lot of dance and screen performance, but, not in the context of dialogue delivery. So, I thought that this was a very nice learning experience.
I’m juggling a few different things right now, including concerts, film song recordings, and independent collaborations. Also, I’ve been writing music for the last couple of years that I think I’m finally almost ready to release! I’m looking forward to sharing that music with everyone. It’s all very close to my heart because it’s been invigorating for me to express myself, my thoughts, experiences and emotions in the music I’ve been writing. The songs are very personal to me, which is a very new feeling. So I can’t wait (and I’m nervous at the same time!) to share it and see everyone’s reaction.
21. What are your future plans?
To conquer the world 🙂 hahaha.
1. Your dream role?
To play me in my biopic hahaha
2. Favourite singer
3. Your pet peeve?
4. Some essentials that are always in your bag?
Lip balm, phone charger, eyelash curler.
5. Yoga or gym?
6. Indian food or global cuisine?
7. Closest friends from the industry or outside?
They know who they are
8. Beaches or hills?
Mood dependent, but right now hills because the monsoons are making me want to get away from water
9. Veg or non veg?
10. Fame or money?
Love and respect
11. Indian wear or Western wear?
12. Straight hair or curls?
13. The last good film you watched?
The new Mission Impossible.
14. A book you’d recommend?
I don’t read
15. First thing you notice about a man?
16. One thing that makes you feel beautiful?
The dot on my nose
17. Politics, religion, business, sports or entertainment?
18. Your inspiration?
Hard workers because I am lazy
19. Your dream man?
Uncle Jessie from Full House
20. Your take on relationships?
Beautiful and a lot of hard work
21. Your take on social media?