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This article was first published 11 years ago

'Life changed drastically after I won Indian Idol'

Last updated on: April 15, 2013 17:35 IST

Image: Abhijeet Sawant
Patcy N in Mumbai
Indian Idol's first winner Abhijeet Sawant won a lot of hearts with his big win and infectious smile. He followed up his success with his first hit song Mohabbatein Lutaunga from his album Aap Ka Abhijeet Sawant.
The youngster was only 24 then, in 2005, when he won the title. He used to live in Dharavi, where India's biggest slum is also located.
Life truly changed for Sawant, and today, he lives on the 20th floor of a posh high-rise in Goregaon, a Mumbai suburb.
With his new album Farida out in stores now, Abhijeet chats with Patcy N, and tells us what he has been up to.

My father was an office superintendent in the Bombay Municipal Corporation, so we lived in the BMC quarters in Dharavi, Mahim. My mother is a housewife. I have a younger sister. People think that because I lived in Dharavi, it means my life was bad. But that is not the truth. I lived a good, middle-class life.

After the 12th standard, I lost interest in studies. I was interested in singing but I learnt many other things too, like a computer programing course from Aptech, and sound engineering from Mumbai University. I wanted my parents to know that if I don't become a singer, there is something to fall back on.

'My parents knew that if I train as a singer I wouldn't be a dead investment'

Image: Abhijeet Sawant sings Mohabbatein Lutaunga from Aapka Abhijeet Sawant
Video: Hitesh Harisnghani

At a young age when I began to understand, I stopped celebrating my birthdays because I knew my father would have to spend money on them and I did not want to burden him further. I was a very shy person.
I trained in classical singing with Bhavdeep Jaipurwale, which he taught free of cost. I trained with Shiraj Khan in ghazal singing for two years, but there I had to pay.

I knew I would be the sole breadwinner of my family after my father, but still I continued singing because my uncle Sanjay Sawant was a singer and he sang with orchestras. So my parents knew that if I train as a singer I wouldn't be a dead investment. I could sing in orchestras at functions.
Before auditioning for Indian Idol, I had auditioned for other music-based competitions but never got through because you really need connections to get into that.

When I first auditioned for Indian Idol, I did not tell my parents. I only told them once I had passed all the auditions. By the time the auditions got over and I was selected, there were so many Indian Idol promos on television and the show looked so big that it was easier to tell my parents that I would be away for three months for this contest.

'It took time for me to cope with things after winning Indian Idol'

Image: Abhijeet Sawant sings Lafzoon Mein from Junoon
Video: Hitesh Harisnghani

Life changed drastically after I won Indian Idol. 

People say you get an attitude after you see so much money and fame. It is really difficult to avoid such things. My life had completely changed from the earlier life. It took time for me to cope with things. 

I didn't realise that I had changed but people started saying that I have an attitude. Today, when I look back, I think may be I had got a little bit of an attitude. But I know how to control all these things today.
I won Rs 1 crore in a period of one year. First I got Rs 10 lakh, and the first thing I did was to book a house in Vile Parle. But I was cheated so I filed a case against the dealer. I had paid Rs 35 lakh for the house but I did not get back all my money though I got the major chunk after five years. 

Then I booked another house in Vile Parle. It was very funny that even after we had a car my parents were still looking for a house that would be close to the station and market! After staying in Vile Parle for four years, we shifted to Goregaon because all my work is in that area. Rest of the money I invested.

'I did not get much chance to do playback singing'

Image: Abhijeet Sawant sings Mere Dil Main Aaj Kya Hai from Daag
Video: Hitesh Harisnghani

I got married within a year of missing Indian Idol. I had this seven-year-long relationship with Shilpa and after I won the Idol, our families thought that I should get married before I change my mind because of all that fame! Shilpa and I, though, did not think like that.
After Idol, I started doing shows for Sony because that was part of the contract. Plus I did my first album Aap Ka Abhijeet Sawant. So, the next three years I was really tied up. 

I did not get much chance to do playback singing. I think these are two different industries. People think that once you are out of reality shows you get playback, but that is not true.

Sunidhi Chauhan also had to struggle after winning a reality show. The only person who was lucky was Shreya Ghoshal. 

But Indian Idol made me famous and that gave me lots of work. Even today I am doing lots of shows.
I remember seven years ago I was doing a show and Shah Rukh Khan was in it too. I went on stage after Priyanka Chopra's performance, and people went crazy. I remember Priyanka telling me 'You are bigger than us.' 

I had a huge fan following so I didn't feel that I should get into playback. But today, people think a talented singer means a playback singer.

'There is not much money in playback singing'

Image: Abhijeet Sawant sings O Mere Dil Ke Chain from Jeevan Saathi
Video: Hitesh Harisnghani

My album Junoon also did well. But after that, the non-film album market dipped and I was busy doing shows. I also did a film called Lottery, which did not do well. 

I thought I won't do any more films because if, after working for 45 days, a film flops, then I don't want to do that. 
I participated in many other reality shows like Jo Jeeta Wohi Superstar and Nach Baliye Season 4 with my wife Shilpa. I never had a break. I have stopped doing reality shows because I thought I was doing the same thing again and again.
I also sang film songs like Mar Jaavan Mit Jaavan from Aashiq Banaya Aapne, Yaad Teri Yaad from Jawani Diwani - A Youthful Joyride, Happy Ending from Tees Maar Khan with Prajakta Shukre, Debojit Saha, Harshit Saxena, and Bechain Sapne from Chittagong with Mahalaxmi Iyer.
There is not much money in playback singing but it brings you fame and with that fame, you get more stage shows, so it is all connected.

'I am in touch with Indian Idol friends but not on a regular basis'

Image: Abhijeet Sawant sings title track of the album Farida
Video: Hitesh Harisnghani

Now the market is opening up, so we are coming up with another album called Farida with Universal Music India. 

Now I just do stage shows. I have a group of nine people and get around Rs 5-6 lakh and if it is abroad, then we get more than Rs 10 lakh. I go abroad for two months and do around 20 shows. This year I am not going because of the album. In India, I do about 10 shows a month.
My parents are chilled out. In fact, my dad quit his job immediately after I won the Idol. My parents don't take interest in what I am doing; they don't look into how many shows I do.
I am in touch with Indian Idol friends but not on a regular basis. We meet sometimes at some event. They come to my house for the Ganpati festival. But we are not that much in touch because we are all busy with our own lives.