Neeti Mohan proudly wears the crown of versatility when it comes to setting the mood of a song with her vocals. Her voice flows quickly through the high notes of a song like Tune Maari Entriyaan by gunday (2013), while simultaneously being able to evoke layers of emotions through Nainowaale Ne de Padmaavat (2018). The lady who made magic this year with At Gangubai Kathiawadi The most talked about song Meri Jaan was recently in the city. We spent an afternoon talking about navigating Bollywood, the genres she wants to explore more, and her undying love for Churmur and Mishti Doi. The eldest of the Mohan sisters hummed two tracks from Ranbir Kapoor’s upcoming film Shamshera.
Was it difficult for you to navigate through Bollywood without a sponsor?
It’s true that Bollywood is seen from afar as a scary place, and that’s the exact reason why I never voiced my long-held wish to become an artist growing up. There were inhibitions about people making fun of my dreams and seeing them as an impossible thing to achieve. However, my parents saw the passion and discipline I have towards music and not only encouraged me, but also my sisters Shakti, Mukti and Kriti to pursue what we really want to do. People gave our parents dubious looks when they urged us to pursue our dreams on our own, but it was the faith they gave us that made us confident. It’s not just Bollywood that has a mix of good and bad, every field is made up of all kinds of people. It is important to know where you are focusing.
What helps you stay versatile with your vocal feel and texture? Is there a genre you would like to explore further?
It is important to recognize what the musical director has in mind. I try to get a clear picture of the type of character I’m lending my voice to, take notes from film and music directors, and then prepare them in my head. I take my voice as a creative tool, and try to use it differently each time for each project. Putting the same vocal texture and psyche for each character doesn’t work because each of them has a different personality. I love the process.
I used to sing a lot of folk songs when I was a kid, but I haven’t explored folk music yet when it comes to being a professional musician.
You sang two songs for Shamshera. Can you share any previews of the film’s soundscape?
One is a love song titled Fitoor which was released just a few days ago, while the unreleased is a dance number. These were recorded a long time ago but were delayed due to the pandemic. Shamshera will see me working with Mithoon for the first time, and I have always been amazed by his melodies. I can assure you that the kind of soundtracks Mithoon has put together for Shamshera will surprise many, because he outdid himself in this movie. It all adds up because my sister Shakti choreographed the dance sequences.
What brings you back to Kolkata?
It must be Churmur, Jhaal Muri, Mishti Doi and my maternal roots in the city. My mother’s family still resides in Bhowanipore and we used to frequent the city of joy when we were children. I also really like Lyangra mangoes. Kriti and I love Kolkata street food so much that we also found a guy who cooks Jhaal Muri in Mumbai. We also sometimes get dry Pani Puris and make Churmur out of it.
I have a few devotional and romantic singles coming up but I can’t talk about them until they’re ready to be released.
Which star of yesteryear would you like to lend your voice to?
It must be Madhubala
An international star with whom you would like to collaborate?
If you weren’t a singer, what would you be?
I would definitely pursue a career in the Indian Army.