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Mixing It Up With Smita
Vasu Reddy from Chicago
Interview at Sheraton O’Hare Lobby November 20, 2004 8:00 PM
Smita Naidu is from Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh in India. In the recent years she has been making waves in the pop music industry. She sings in Telugu and Hindi, while expanding into Tamil, and obviously she can sing in English. Her Masaka Masaka Cheekatilo a very popular Telugu song, a remix of the husky L.R.Eswari's song, is very popular. Smita has already scored four successful albums -- two in Hindi - `Hai rabba' and `Hai ramma' and `Koilamma' and `Hai rabba' in Telugu.
Smita has over fifty playback songs to her credit and she sings pop and also playback for movie music. Smita is very popular for her tremendous stage presence. She can sing and dance and perform will great ease.
Telugu Association invited Smita to perform for their annual Diwali function. She had arrived a few hours ago in to town when I met her, and sat down to ask her a few questions. Smita is very petite, and very attractive. She is instantly likable, very engaging and responds quickly. She smiles and laughs effortlessly and easy to ask questions, as she has the responses. I had asked her to wear n Indian outfit for our sit down and she was gracious in accommodating. In the discussion we had she is very specific and firm on what she would like to do. I wish her all the best to achieve every aspiration.
We both chatted for a few minutes on each of our background and what we do and agreed that we will present the interview in English.
Question: What is the inspiration behind your music and dance?
Smita: First of all I started singing unprofessional and armature way of singing when I was really young. But as I grew up and watched all these pop stars and watching them on the music channels and receiving awards for their performances and receive best song of the year, best artist of the year and best album of the year, I started thinking that one day I will also like to go on the stage and receive an award like that. I think that is what inspired, and I think that media is inspired me to do what I do. I really like live performance and especially with good quality programs.
Question: Unlike all the other singers we have in Telugu and other languages, you seem to be very different with not just singing but dance and stage performance. Is it a different type of training you underwent?
Smita: I have never gotten trained in music. I started getting trained only after I got into it professionally. Even dance I never got trained by anybody for a particular kind of dance. But I think in South India there is no competition in such a field, as in my field I am the only one from South. But when you go to North you have lots of competition and lot of people who are pop singers who perform, who dance, who sing as well. SO, I think the market hasn’t been explored yet in the South. And, that I think you need an encouraging background as a family that is very encouraging to push you to do things like that. Generally our people are a bit narrow-minded, they are Ok with singing and singing in the background, but they frown up on dance and other things. And then all heroines can’t sing. And, you know it is a combination of few things and family support.
Question: Does your family support you with your career?
Smita: Yea. I am only here because of my family. Sure, because there are a lot of times they help me. They have always given me what I wanted. There was never a day I though I never had something that someone else has. You Know. They kept me happy. Yeah. So, that kind of a life I was leading and I have to even go through lot of ups and downs in my career, and nothing comes easy for anybody and it was as hard as that for me also in this field. And at some point of time I also thought why I should go through these difficulties, I am happy and I have a happy family, let me just study, let me be like any of my other friends, let me go to college and let me keep doing my education and let me keep doing something with the family business. But my mom was always there and my dad was always there, they told me that “everyone does what you say, like education and work, but we want you to do this (music career) and don’t give up.” Whenever I gave up on something they used to come up and say we are doing this next.
Question: The type of music you have chosen, why not more classical or semi-classical?
Smita: I am not a very classical singer. I haven’t really learnt classical, classical like learn for five or six years. I did not learn expertise in classical music as a child. If I wanted I could, but somehow I thought this was a more modern way of doing it. For a classical singer, I cannot be a performer. I can just sit and do a concert. Whereas what I am doing, I think what I do gives me lot of satisfaction. I like to be a stage performer. I like acting.
Question: Are you trained for dancing or classical dancing?
Smita: No. I love to learn classical dance and classical music. I haven’t been staying in one place all the time and I have been traveling so much so, I haven’t really got the opportunity to. But, if I had an opportunity and someone said, six months we are giving you and do whatever you want, I will learn Kathak, I will learn Bhartnatyam, I will learn Kuchipudi, and I will learn everything possible. Hindustani classical even. I have a lot of desire to learn a lot of things, but time doesn’t permit.
Comment: I hope you do.
Question: What about your current projects in Music?
Smita: My latest one in Tamil, until now I just sang in Hindi and Telugu. My Telugu album “Masaka Masaka” did a lot of good for me. I think that I will remember that always. Even I get bigger projects and something that is even better, that’s the first album that gave me such a big recognition. An upcoming project I am doing a project in Tamil. I can’t speak Tamil. Now I am learning to speak Tamil. I kind of understand a little bit. I wanted to even explore that market and see how it goes. I am doing the project in Tamil and as well as in Telugu, so the same theme in Telugu as well as Tamil. This album will release around December 17th this year.
Question: How about movies. I saw one of your movies preparing for the interview. How are you doing with your movie career?
Smita: I have never been interested in doing the films. Even the film you saw was the only film I did and it was a very short decision. Like I did not have time to even think about it. I was shooting for my album and I got a call from fix six different people who are close to my family and said why don’t you do this? It is a small role, and I mean it is not a glamorous role, but you know.
Comment: You looked fine in it.
Smita: Yeah. It is a negative role but, I though it is OK, why don’t I try it since it is a good banner, and it’s a god director and his movies are very decent, his movies are really decent. So, that’s the reason I thought I will do it. But then I don’t think I will do any other films. And, in fact that lot of my fans were upset that I did that film. May be they didn’t want to see me in a negative role and they didn’t want me in that kind of a role. There were occasions I got a lot of opportunity to do a few lead roles, but I never wanted to do it because I really can’t do commercial films. I can’t really wear what they ask me to, or do things that I may not be able to do. So, my album is my choice. So, that’s the reason I may not do a film again, unless it is an art film, or a film that has lot of importance to the character that will need to carry.
Question: Would you sing for movies of just focus on Pop?
Smita: I never go myself to sing for movies, but if something comes to me and a music director calls me to sing if I am available at that time I will definitely take the opportunity.
Question: Is there a lot of difference between singing for pop albums and singing for movies?
Smita: Not much. The only thing could be I decide what songs to sing for my albums, and the film song I just go sing what they give me. That’s the only difference.
Question: Do you write your own songs?
Smita: No. I don’t. I am just singing.
Question: Do you just do remix?
Smita: I don’t do the remixing part. I have people to do it. I just sing and then the video.
Question: Who handles the production of your videos and DVD?
Smita: My people do it. For example for the last project we sold the rights to Aditya music and we work with them on a royalty basis. For the upcoming project in Telugu we haven’t yet decided who is going to take it up, but the Tamil version is by Sony music.
Question: Why not sing something in English?
Smita: That’s my dream and I think if someone asked me what my dream is I will say get into the billboard charts.
Question: Your inspiration in music?
Smita: The singers I like? I love Asha Bhonsleji for her versatility. I think at her age, she sings for young, old and she makes albums for dance. She is not fixed to like her age of music. She has always done multiple things.
Question: You know there was a lady named L.R. Eshwari?
Smita: Yeah. Masaka Masaka is her song.
Question: You have a very glamorous image on stage and with your videos and your performances. How is it? You are from Vijayawada, which is not a glamour town.
Smita: Laughs. I don’t know if it is about Vijayawada, but at least from the background I come from none of my family is into this. They are all doctors, or they are engineers or they are into business. No one is into films. No one is into anything related to glamour. I was a typical Vijayawada girl, if you see my pictures or if you see my TV with performing and singing you would not even recognize me. That my husband was like is that you? When he saw me at my old stuff at home. So, I was a typical Vijayawada girl at one point of time.
Question: His name is Shashank?
Smita: Yeah, with a smile.
Comment: I did my research with help of friends over the few days. Your Mom has a travel agency, you dad with Ambassador car dealership and your brother. I had a week to work on the material. She smiles and laughs.
Question: The thing is when I asked to wear an Indian costume; outside of myself a lot of my readers were also interested as we only see your album covers. That’s why I made that request.
Smita: I am very fond of salwars and saris. You would have hardly seen me in pants may be until a year ago. But I started doing this because everyone says; you don’t act like a pop artist. You are the first person to say wear an Indian dress for me, and thank you for asking me to do it. Everyone call up and say why don’t you wear some smart clothes.
Comment: You look beautiful in the outfit.
Smita: Smiles. You like it and I like it. But you know people who watch me and people around me think I just dress like any of them, and they want me to dress like a star. But I started wearing pants only recently and I used to wear them a couple of times, once in a while but constantly only from a year or so. Yeah.
Question: Lastly message to your fans?
Smita: What I can think of right now since you said dreams and achieving them, I think everyone has a dream and nothing comes easy and if you are prepared to dream and you are prepared to achieve never give up in whatever you plan to do. There are hurdles in everything and that’s it. Enjoy yourselves.
Vasu: Thank you.
Smita: Thanks a lot. Smiles.
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