'We're 26 and every time we write a song, we try to see how we can relate it to our life's experiences or that of our friends.'
Twins Sukriti and Prakriti Kakar are on a high. Literally.
The singers have made it to a coveted billboard in New York's famed Times Square as part of an initiative that supports equality for women in music on a global canvas.
The twins are the only Indians, featuring alongside big names like Czech singer, lyricist, producer and composer Vladivojna La Chia and the famous Flamenco singer, Marie Jose Llergo.
Their Hindi recreation of Dua Lipa's international hit Levitating is a chart topper as is the more recent Majnu with over 20 million views.
Sukriti and Prakriti have reason to describe 2021 as an "amazing year" and look forward to many more songs and singles in the new year.
"I love that, as the face of India, we could take our music all the way to our favourite city, New York," the sisters tell Rediff.com Senior Contributor Roshmila Bhattacharya.
How does it feel to look down at the world from a Times Square digital billboard?
Sukriti: It's a huge honour! Such a privilege, more so because Spotify's Equal campaign involving different women across different countries is so empowering in itself.
I love that, as the face of India, we could take our music all the way to our favourite city, New York.
Prakriti: We've been to Times Square a few times and it was such a thrill to look up at the billboards which tell you all that's new and happening in music, fashion, tech and the like.
Sukriti: One particular billboard showcasing Justin Bieber's then released album really resonated with me. I was also blown away by one of GiGi promoting her make-up brand. At that time, I had never imagined that we would be up there some day.
As young, successful Indians, how do you feel about this growing clamour for a level playing field?
Prakriti: I believe woman empowerment is all about acknowledging what's not there.
I consider us and all budding musicians super lucky because we are making and releasing music at a time when people are recognising this and accepting the need for gender equality.
Sukriti: And not just in music, but across all forms of art. Not just in India, but across the world.
You are a part of an industry which has been patriarchal for a long time. How hard was it finding your place, your voice?
Sukriti: When we started our journey, we were 15 or 16 and the only way to become a singer then was to get into playback because there weren't that many singles and music videos being released.
But even the songs we got were largely male oriented, so we ended up with only a couple of lines.
We were okay with that because that's the way it was back then. But now, women artists are getting more opportunities, more space.
Prakriti: In the last few years, there have been quite a few women-centric movies and when actresses get bigger and better roles, playback singers also get a bigger lane and longer life.
We have had songs about Laila and Rani before, but it took the Kakar girls to give us a Majnu, a word which has taken a completely new connotation. How did this chartbuster happen?
Prakriti: We're 26 and every time we write a song, we try to see how we can relate it to our life's experiences or that of our friends. Majnu came from what we had felt growing up.
Sukriti: As you pointed out, we've had songs like Rani and Laila before from the boy's perspective. We decided to make a song from the point of view of a girl.
You are not just talented and successful singers but very attractive girls too. Surely you must be getting a lot of film offers?
Sukriti: There have been a few offers, for films and Web series. But before we jump into anything new, we want to learn the art.
So far, we've only been involved with music.
Even acting in music videos is fairly recent, just two-three years. A surreal shift and we are still adjusting to it.
Prakriti: We have started training now and are taking dance classes. We sit with our directors when working on a music video.
Whenever anything else happens, we want to get into it with a certain amount of training, not just jump in.
Dua Lipa is a global icon...
Sukriti: Of course, Prakriti and I are her biggest fans in India.
And you dare to come up with a Hindi recreation of her Levitating with Amaal Malik, giving it an Indian spin, pulling it off successfully.
Prakriti: We always wanted to do something international but did not know how to do it for the longest time.
During interviews, when we were asked which international artist we wanted to collaborate with, we never took Dua Lipa's name because back then, we couldn't even dream of having her name and ours on the same soundtrack.
Then, Levitating released and we were inspired.
Sukriti: The day the music video of Levitating released officially on YouTube, we were in the studio recording our version.
It started out as something fun, then after a lot of 'yes' and 'no' we finally recorded it.
It was a huge responsibility and very hush hush.
We didn't tell anyone till we released our version this year. 2021 has been really amazing so far.
What can we expect next?
Sukriti: We start shooting our next single soon. It's very desi and commercial, a side to us you have heard in the movies, but have not seen in a single yet.
During the lockdown we made a lot of music that we will start shooting now.
So the lockdown was creatively satisfying?
Sukriti: Not always, there were many creative blocks because we are basically singers, not composers. So there were days when we did nothing or only covers.
Prakriti: We took it easy for a while, saving our energy for when we would be back in full flow.
In the second phase of the pandemic, our motivation and inspiration returned.
As things started opening up, we began meeting people and writing songs that stemmed from a feeling of not wanting to be caged.
Sukriti: We've done a lot of dance numbers, but very few ballads.
We wanted to explore our romantic sides in singles and have composed some beautiful love songs which we will release at the start of 2022.
What about Hindi playback? Both of you have had quite a few hit songs, from Sukriti's Pehli Baar (Dil Dhadakne Do), <en (Kapoor & Sons) and Lakk Meri Hit (Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety) and Prakriti's Katra Katra (Alone), Hawaa Hawaa(Mubarakan), Subah Subah (Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety) and Dil Ka Darji (Stree)...
Prakriti: There are a few songs, but you don't know what will get finalised till the film is out. Also, because of the lockdowns, shoots have just begun and the songs will come out only in 2022.
It's believed that twins have a special tuning. Would you agree?
Prakriti: I can't speak for others, but in our case, there is a little extra tuning and telepathy. I know exactly what's on her mind and vice versa.
Sukriti: I don't think I can ever make a song without Prakriti because she comes up with half the idea and I follow it through or vice versa. We complete each other.
Your first teacher was your mother. She must be really proud of the two of you today.
Sukriti: (Laughs.) Our mother is the hardest person to please. She's not easily impressed and we work really hard to make her say she is proud of us.
Unlike dad, she won't flatter or do anything that could take away our humility.
She's a tough lady.
Prakriti: But of late, we've been seeing a change in her.
There was a time when she didn't want us to get into the music industry.
We were fairly good in studies and she wanted us to do something else. But now she's happy that we have made music our career and are living out her dreams.