New voice in Bollywood
With many hit numbers under her belt, the talented India-born Canadian playback singer Jonita Gandhi has achieved much despite the fact she entered the film industry just a year ago
Surekha Kadapa-Bose

From singing in Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Chennai Express to Rajnikantís Kochadaiiyaan, Jonita Gandhi had an impressive debut
From singing in Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Chennai Express to Rajnikantís Kochadaiiyaan, Jonita Gandhi had an impressive debut

She is on a roll. And she is just a-year-old in the Hindi film industry. Four songs in a year for the legendary composer A. R. Rahman ó even veteran singers dare not dream of getting it. But this young India-born Canadian girl, Jonita Gandhi has achieved it.

"It was really a dream cum true when Rahman sir called me to sing for the film Highway. I just couldn't believe it,'' says an ecstatic Jonita, yet to come down to earth from that moment.

That song, "Kaha hoon mein" went on to become a chartbuster. It was resulted in another one "Implosive silence" from the same film. This was followed by album Raunaq and the song "Aa bhi jaa" penned by the then law minister Kapil Sibal. The 3-D computer animated film Kochadaiiyaan starring Rajnikant had her crooning "Dil chaspiyan" and the latest is "Maaloom" for Lekar Hum Deewana Dil, starring Armaan Jain, the second grandson of late Raj Kapoor. All the songs are composed by the maestro.

"I couldn't even believe when I got my first break song for Shah Rukh Khan's film Chennai Express and that too in a duet with S.P. Balasubramaniam. I think I am just lucky to be at the right place at the right time!" says Jonita, with a heavy North American accent. However, her accent vanishes once she starts singing.

Lucky she may be but without talent luck will take a person only to a certain place. And these maestros and stalwarts aren't fools. Whoever has debuted with Shah Rukh Khan has never failed. And Rahman won't repeat a voice unless the singer is par excellence and has something different from others.

Growing up in Canada, Hindi music wasn't alien to her. There was always music in her home. Though an engineer by profession, her father, Deepak Gandhi, is also a good keyboard artist and brother Mandeep a percussionist. With Jonita as the singer since she was four, the family launched a band, Sargam, which is still active and perform with the same group.

"In my own style, I used to sing hit songs of the legends Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosale. This got appreciated at all event performances in Toronto and also in other places," recalls the young singer.

Along with music, her father insisted that she get a strong base of academics, so studied for BHSc and HBA at the Richard Ivey School of Business from the University of Western Ontario. She also continued singing participating and winning many competitions like NATS at York University, Asian Idol at University of Western Ontario, Sonu Nigam's contest for English-language tribute to Michael Jackson and the competition for Kailash Kher's concert in Toronto. The last two paved the way into Bollywood.

Jonita Gandhi is, perhaps, one of the few singers who came from the virtual world to real singing world. She became more popular on YouTube with several cover versions, especially "Paani Da Rang" from Vicky Donor. It has got more than two million hits. Then there are "Yeh hosala khone ko hai"(Dor), "Chaudhvin ka Chand" (Chaudhvin ka Chand), "Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki" (Dulari), etc. She was female singer in Ash King's MTV Unplugged shows in India, and later got featured in Clinton Cerejo's episode of Coke Studio Season 3.

"I had given myself a window period of two years when I moved to India to pursue my dream. If I hadn't got a break, I would gone back to my health science and business administration job!" says Jonita.