having won the Grand Prix Award at Germany at a tender age is also the only Indian to have won another international award, the UNICEF International Contest of Music in Yugoslavia. She is also the only female singer other than Lata Mangeshkar to perform at the celebrations for the 50th year of India’s Independence day,
She is the very first celebrity to work towards the grave cause of SAVE THE GIRL CHILD from 1998 for various other causes including women empowerment, The Save Goa Campaign, against SEZs (special economic zone) in Goa, against drug addiction in children etc with no remuneration of any kind.
Hema Sardesai, best known for her Hindi songs has sung playback songs for over 60 Bollywood films, is versatile because she not only sings for films and Indipop, but also renders Indian Classical and Western Pop songs beautifully, besides folk and fusion. During her career, Hema Sardesai has released several successful Indipop albums, and has performed numerous live stage shows in almost all the states of India and world tours in different countries around the globe. Here’s Hema talking to matters close to her heart…
1- Tell us about your earliest memories of Goa.
Prettiest gardens, lushest fields, happily swaying trees, real white-sanded beaches, carefree dancing and singing, susegaad afternoon siestas…love,love, and love…
2- Did you always want to be a singer?
Loved singing always like crazy. But my career just happened naturally.
3-When did you realize that singing is very important to you?
When I had to decide on a career in life.
4-How did your family react. Were they apprehensive?
My family, my Late father Dr. Kashinath Sardesai, mymother, Mrs Kumud Sardesai and my sister Sunila, encouraged me throughout since the time my talent was discovered by my late teacher, Mrs.Sequeira, at the age of 6.
Very much. It was at the age of 9 at a navratri dandiya festival held outside my house in Panjim . But my first real public performance was at the age of 11, at Campal, when I performed at the concert of the then famous magician, D Satish, wherein the newspapers acclaimed me as ‘The youngest and best singer of Goa’. I got eons of love and blessings from my Goans then and later too, when I took to singing professionally.
6-You have been born in Mumbai and brought up in Goa. Which place do you feel totally at home?
Obviously and warmly, Goa of course, but the gratitude I have for Mumbai is immense too. This place helped many a seeker fulfill their dreams.
7- Mumbai offers more opportunities than Goa. Comment.
Maybe, career-wise it could have been easier, though God did not let me loose out on anything. And being brought up in my own ancestral land Goa, was the nicest thing to happen to me, mostly because not only does Goa suit my dreamer self who loves to dream, dance and sing, it is also the place where love is at its purest…
8-Did you drift into Bollywood or was that a dream of yours.
I was always focused on how to reach out to the maximum of people. I had been given a gift (my voice) by God to make people happy.I wondered how to use this precious gift extensively and be known enough? The film industry seemed the apt place. It was a very tough journey, but I am grateful to God, I finally made it there and could spread joy and am spreading happiness through my songs far and wide. So if it were a dream… Glad it came true…
9-Was it difficult getting a break in the film industry?
Of course it was.
10-How did you find the people of the film industry
There are good and bad people in every industry. Thankfully I got to work with the good as well.
11- Casting couch is considered a common phenomena in the industry. How did you handle it?
Initially, for a long while I came across only the bad people. Indecent offers ( casting couch) one after the other and resulting in me walking out of studios every time used to really make me sad and dejected. I used to be called to the sitting rooms. Here they would play to me the song I was supposed to sing, which I could sense could be a great hit…then the sick offers would be put forth. I had to hold my womanhood dignity real high, and put aside the need for easy money and fame and walk out again and again. Everyday, I would implore to God …’You gave me this gift..then why are you not helping me use it to give happiness to the world?’
12-Were there times when you felt like giving it all up and returning back to Goa?
Oh yes! tooooooo many times. At every opportunity, I did run back to Goa. My happy-go- lucky attitude and need for Goa was impeding my focus to make it big, constantly. Whoa, it was tough hanging on.
13-Who are you closest to in the film industry.
Initially to the non- film people and much later when I made it, to the film industry people. My gratitude to all these people who gave me the opportunity to use the precious gift of my voice, was intense and I am hence close to all those who gave me what I have only on my merit, with the highest respect. These people are many, including Father Peter and Joseph St Ann and Joy Augustine of Goa, later, A R Rahman,Subhash Ghai, Adesh Shrivastava, Nadeem Shravan, Anu Malik etc. I respect Champak Jain and Kumar Taurani too. They treated me respectfully and I am deeply grateful.
14-Did any Bollywood singer guide or encourage you?
No, no one did anything for me, but I had absolutely no expectations that they should and there are no ill feeling that they did not. Although I was younger to them, I have introduced singers like Vinod Rathod, Shankar Mahadevan and also stood by Shaan and many others. It does not matter if they are grateful or not, they are nice to me when we meet and that’s good enough.
15-Have you ever let go off a song only to regret later?
O many, many songs I let go off, sure hits, and it hurt, but my devotion and respect to what God has given me as a gift, my music, was anytime greater than getting songs in any low or cheap manner. I am proud of myself for keeping the greatness of womanhood and the name of my State,Goa, at the highest level.
16-Tell us something about your marriage
It was a love marriage and an inter-religious one. My husband, Xavier D’Souza,is a Goan catholic. My great parents believe in Gandhian principles ‘Sarv dharm Samnathva’, so got me married with great pomp.
17-Is your husband more of a friend or a guide?
Both, my friend and my guide. We have lots of arguments and quarrels too.
18- Is he involved with your career. Do you discuss your work with him?
Everything. He is part of everything. He is dignified and far from being one who would be remotely threatened by his wife’s fame. Guess he does not feel separate from me, so the question of insecurity of any sort never arises. He deeply respects womanhood.
19-How are you as a wife?
Hmm, you should ask him that! I must be quite a handful for him to handle, no? Ha ha…well on the other hand, he does seem so focused on me, surely I must be a good girl (wink). Both of us look up to our beloved Guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
20-What do you think of the Goan youth
They rock!!! They are great!!! I believe in them totally.
21- Any advice you would want to offer to them?
Although I know they are great, to some who may not have much belief in themselves, let me say, along with your close ones and God, I too am there for you . Don’t let yourself and your parents down in any way because of any emotional upheaval regarding studies or career. If you are depressed on any issue, professional or personal, talk to me either on my Facebook account HEMA SARDESAI, or my Like page HEMA SARDESAAI. Be strong in any situation. Make us all proud of you and I know you will. love you all.
22-Are you happy with the state of affairs in Goa?
Right now, a big yes!
23-Any changes you would love to see in Goa?
They are happening and am expecting more good changes for the betterment of Goans and Goa.
24-Who is your favorite Goan.
All. Each and every Goan. As a leader, everyone knows Hema’s favorite is our Hon CM, Shri Manohar Parrikar.
25-Any last words?
I Wish my beloved Goans, the very best. Lets not fall to false prejudices and no matter what, lets stand by each other irrespective of caste or religion. I love you very much and am there always…