Musical Chairs #4 – Anaida: Meeting the IndiPop Diva!

Being a pop culture aficionado, I was thrilled when I landed in Mumbai. After all, Movies, Music and Television, sums up my entire childhood and Mumbai is the entertainment epicenter. I have grown up on everything that played on Television from Star Plus to MTV to Espn, I have watched it all. Over the years though, the content on TV has kinda become jarring and has lost all that spunk it had in the 90s. Being born in the 90s, Indipop is one gem from that era, that makes me super happy. I remember watching Indipop videos all day on MTV and B4U music and still craving for more. The music was very different from the stuff Bollywood was coming up with, in the 90s. Unlike Bollywood Music, Indipop Music was young, peppy, progressive and more relatable. Also, it gave the singers an expression and more importantly a face for the first time in India. The singer here was the star of the project and drove all the sales. The singer was the center of attraction. The Indipop singers were also Multi-Faceted and deserved every bit of fame and money. They sang, they danced, they acted, they wrote their lyrics, they promoted their albums, they did it all and with style. One such artist that blossomed in the 90s was Anaida.

Until the late 80s, Indians primarily consumed Hindi Film Music and produced only playback singers. Although playback singers like Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle were revered, very few knew them by their faces. Also, there was a dearth of a new sound, a new voice.

With the advent of satellite television, MTV and Channel V had made inroads to India and were forced to play International Music Videos as India didn’t make any. And boom enters Indipop! It took the music industry by storm and introduced numerous artists who were nothing like the Bollywood playback singers. They resembled their western counterparts instead, in terms of singing, flamboyance, and style. One such talent was Anaida who broke into the scene in the early 90s with Hotline- the first Indian single. She catapulted to stardom with her album Nazuk Nazuk which had the lead single – Oova Oova. I remember Oova Oova being played all over and becoming a massive hit. Anaida became a star and a household name with the song. She was now a  superstar and a pop culture phenomenon. She followed her success with the song Ho Halla ho, which was India’s first animated video and was way ahead of its time. Anaida’s next release Chori Chori had my favorite song sung by her, Oonchi Neechi as the lead single. I remember her promoting the album on Movers and Shakers and falling in love with the song. The album also produced other hits like Kachhi Kali whose video is still loved on YouTube. Anaida’s next album was the compilation of her biggest hits titled – ” Anaida’s greatest hits” which also had a new song called Piya Bina. A beautiful song with brilliant choreography. Apart from being an accomplished singer Anaida was also a superb dancer. The song brought her dancing skills to the fore and was again a massive hit.

The year was 2001 and Indipop was slowly giving in to piracy and Bollywood remixes. Music Labels stopped investing in singers and most of the pop singers migrated to Bollywood. Like all good things come to an end, Indipop too ceased to exist post-2005. Now, with YouTube becoming the toast of the town, I hope a revival takes place. But for producing new pop artists, the youth needs a reference point which is clearly missing. It is unfortunate that it’s been 20 years but India hasn’t produced its next Anaida. Reality shows that started as a platform to find a pop Idol are now scouting for playback voices. Such has been the shift and as a result, a singer is no more empowered and is easily replaceable. I have always believed that the only way a singer can attain full glory and contribute to the pop culture is through private albums and not playback singing, and thus in this digital age non-film music is where their focus should be.

Meeting the Legend

I happen to work at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) which is also known as the business hub of Mumbai. One fine afternoon, I wanted to have lunch outside and was looking for places. One of the many google suggestions was an Irani restaurant called SodaBottleOpenerWala situated right behind my office. The name was super quirky, so I wanted to know the etymology. Hence I googled it and among may articles I stumbled upon one which featured Anaida. And Nostalgia kicked in. I got to know that Anaida was one of the owners of the restaurant and that made me super thrilled. I visited the SodaBottleOpernerWala BKC one fine afternoon and ordered their brownie platter. It was super delicious. Whilst I relished the delicacy, my eyes were searching for the pop diva turned chef. I asked one of the staff around and they apprised me that Anaida sits at Powai location of the restaurant. I was disappointed but I now knew that I could meet the legend if I visited the Powai outlet.

It was my first month in Mumbai, I was still making adjustments and somehow got busy. But one fine day after I was well settled, I happened to be in Powai for some work. All of a sudden, the name Powai rang a bell. I could now visit the SodaBottleOpenerWala Powai and get to meet the diva. I located the place and went in. I sat along the bar as I was all alone. As I placed my order, I asked the staff whether I could meet Anaida. As luck was on my side, Anaida was sitting right in front of my table. She turned back and greeted me with the most beautiful smile ever. I told her I was a big fan of her music and it was a childhood dream to meet her. I was still in awe as she asked me to sit adjacent to her. Everything about that day was surreal. We chatted on music and her stint with reality TV and about the pop scene in the 90s. She has an aura that is magical. She was so eloquent and sophisticated. She was exactly the way I had pictured her in my head and I was charmed. Meanwhile, my food was served and she got busy with her work. I had ordered my favorite prawn curry with rice and it was delicious. I loved the fact that it was very similar to the Bengali version of the dish that was cooked in my hometown. In fact, the entire restaurant gave me a very positive and homely vibe and as a result, has become one of my most favorite places in Mumbai. I finished my delectable lunch and geared up to check out of the place. While leaving the restaurant, I met Anaida again and took a photograph with her. It was my first photograph with a celebrity and I was thrilled. Before I left, she apprised me about her in-house band that performed on Thursdays. With that information and a smile, I bid the pop queen and her castle a goodbye.

In the meantime, I got back to my work-life, had an intermittent official visit to Delhi and was on my way back to Mumbai. While in a cab, I got this text from SodaBottleOpenerWala reminding me of their Thursday night special. I love listening to music live and so wanted to go but as I was not in the city I decided to defer it by a week or so. Two Thursdays later, I finally made up my mind and visited SodaBottleOpenerWala Powai. I reached a bit early because I went straight from my office and saw the stage being set. I saw Anaida talking to the band and greeted her. I settled myself near the bar and ordered my dinner. Soon ‘Pratibimb’, the band, started their performance. They performed really well and the lead singers sounded great. Everyone including me was having a great time. Anaida too was listening to the music while doing her work. I kind of knew that she won’t be singing but somewhere deep down wanted to see her perform. And my luck did not disappoint. Soon, Anaida informed me that she would be singing with the band next. I brimmed with happiness.

She went on to the stage and brought the house down with her vocals. She sang not one but two (on popular demand) English songs and one could see the 20 plus years of hard work and experience. The way she owned the stage was empowering, she had complete authority while performing, she BELONGED to the stage. I could feel a stark difference between the pop icons of the 90s and the Bollywood singers in the way they approached the stage. Like Anaida’s performance, a performance by most of the 90s Pop artists was always organically sassy, flamboyant and full of verve. The quality, unfortunately, is lost now. Indian singers do not have the reference point and the art has sadly vanished.

After her beautiful performance, I went up to her to thank her for singing that night and told her how magical she was on stage. She being her humble self, said thank you and left the place as it already was 10.30 pm. I, too, packed up my belongings and left the restaurant soon with a big smile on my face. All through my way back home, I kept thinking how amazing the night was. The entire experience was surreal, and I cannot thank Anaida more for performing and being super sweet. I have been to like dozens of cities in India but Mumbai has been the kindest.

Authored By – Abinash Gupta

(Disclaimer – I do not own the rights to the images displayed on the page. The rights remain with their rightful owners. The images are sourced from various public online sources to provide a reference to Anaida.)