About two decades ago, Neeti Mohan beat thousands of aspiring singers during a music talent show and got a chance to be a pop star. She and fellow winners — Jimmy Felix, Sangeet Haldipur and Vasudha Sharma — formed a band called Aasma and churned out chartbusters including “Chandu Ke Chacha”. At the time, both girls and boys got an equal opportunity to be part of a music band. Now, Neeti has a solo career to be proud of, with a long list of hits like “Ishq Wala Love”, “Jiya Re” and “Sau Aasmaan”. It might all seem like a cakewalk. But she says irrespective of the industry, women have to fight harder to make their presence felt.
When Neeti Mohan isn’t recording songs in Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Telugu, Kannada or Punjabi, she is either performing on stage, working with her equally talented sisters or being a hands-on mom. Telly audience must have also seen her judging the “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa 2023” show.
In this interview with Health Shots, Neeti tells us about judging, music, being a fit mom and more.
Q. You participated in Popstars 20 years ago and now you are a Sa Re Ga Ma Pa judge. How have the experiences affected your mental health?
Neeti Mohan: I feel when you decide to be an artiste, it’s a very strong decision that you make mentally within yourself. You have to promise yourself that you are setting your expectations high and no matter what, you will make it. You will work hard, rise up early, you will do riyaaz and shine at work, and you will be most disciplined and professional artiste ever. So when I decided to be an artiste, I promised myself that I am not in any race, but it’s my own expectation for myself that I want to reach somewhere. That journey is very important for me. There will be days when there will be success, there will be days when there will be failure, but I will own up both. And for me, mental health will be a priority. I will stay focused and be my best version every day.
Q. What are the things you keep in mind while judging?
Neeti Mohan: While I am judging, I make it a point that I am inspiring and encouraging everybody who is coming forward to audition, to sing or even attempt to be part of an audition. I know what it feels like to stand in a line, to wait for your turn and to stand under a spotlight and sing in front of the judges. It is very hard. For me, life has come full circle. In 2003, I was a contestant and in 2023, I am a judge on Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. So for me, it is important that everyone who is dreaming to be an artist, to be something, they are encouraged because if not this season, next season you have no idea what they can do. I just believe in their potential.
Q. Singers generally say that music helps to heal. How does music help you?
Neeti Mohan: Music is the biggest healer. Music is the reason I feel I am here. I feel like music is everywhere. Even the droplets of rain feel like music to me. As soon as I wake up, I need my bhajan and spiritual music. When I am getting ready, I need Punjabi music. When I am driving, I need my drive-time playlist. Music is everything. I am singing to my child all the time, I am singing in studios, I am live on stage. I think I just live for music.
Q. Did you ever face gender discrimination in the music industry?
Neeti Mohan: Women have to fight harder to make their presence felt anywhere. My parents told me be so good that nobody can ignore you. Even today, if I feel that a song has few female lines, I generally raise a concern and ask, ‘Is it something that is absolutely necessary or can you increase some more lines for the female part?’ That’s because I want to feel more connected with the song. I have also suggested to have a female version of a song. As an artiste, I want to express myself. Sometimes, through solo versions, I can express myself better. Let the girl also have her own perspective of a song!
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Q. Apart from singing, you are also known for your dancing skills. Is dancing your way to stay fit?
Neeti Mohan: I used to be a dancer earlier and I love dancing. When I was a kid, it was very difficult to say what I loved more — singing or dancing, because both came together. I would be always singing and dancing together. I am trained in both. Whenever I can, I try to do both. I recently did a reel with Madhuri Dixit-ji. It’s my dream collab with her. I love dancing with my sisters too. I am working on it (dancing again) because it has been very long since I have danced. I was so focused towards music. But now I feel like, ‘No, I wanna dance too!’ I want to to be fit and dancing is one of the most amazing exercises ever.
Q. What are the other things you do to stay in shape?
Neeti Mohan: I love doing my workouts, yoga, I do a lot of weight training, functional training, Pilates and cardio. I do a mix of everything. Sometimes I go for a swim. I just love to stay active. I want my energy levels to be up because I have two-year-old son. We can play, read books, do activities, so it is important my physical energy is up when I am around son or at work.
Q. During your pregnancy, you continued working out. What tips would you like to give to expecting moms?
Neeti Mohan: To all the expecting moms, I want to say, please enjoy your pregnancy. It is such a precious time. I enjoyed good food, but I also worked out. I used to do yoga and do a lot of breathing techniques. I had my baby very late in life. So, I wanted to be fit and try to do a natural birth. I was able to do that because I stayed fit. I also did duck walks. My husband used to hold my hands and I used to walk in the house. It used to be a lot of fun!
Q. What does you beauty regime look like?
Neeti Mohan: Rest is very important. And also, disconnecting from my phone as soon as I am home. Just having a bath twice is also my regime because after a long day at work, there is so much of hair spray and make-up on me. At work, I also meet many people and hug them. I don’t like to meet my child with too much make-up. Also, staying healthy and eating clean are important for me. I am a vegetarian. I eat a lot of fruits. I avoid gluten too. All this has helped me to stay in shape.
Q. You share a strong bond with your sisters (Shakti Mohan, Kriti Mohan and Mukti Mohan),something that not many adults have. What’s the secret?
Neeti Mohan: I was brought up in a family where we are close knit. We are four sisters and they are my lifeline. They are also my 3 a.m. buddies. I enjoy working with them too. We do shows together and music videos together. Sisterhood means a lot to me. I am nothing without my sisters!