Uncut and shameless, singer Sona Mohapatra is not one to mince words while voicing her opinions. Whether calling out misogyny in Bollywood or simply pointing out “blatant sexism” in the music industry, Sona has always made sure to express her raw self.
In an exclusive interview with IndiaToday.in, Sona talked about expressing herself, not just through music, but through her style of dress. Talking about her upcoming movie Shut Up Sona, she went into detail about how it’s about commenting on the industry through a female lens.
Read excerpts from his exclusive interview:
Q: You have mainly focused your attention on creating independent music. Why did you feel the need to separate from Bollywood?
Sona: Absolutely not separate from anyone. That’s the beauty of life, it’s not one or the other, it’s always an “and”. I’ve never been someone who always dreamed of only one type of art, especially singing. A storyteller is what I call myself. I am a live artist. I’m an artist who not only expresses myself musically but also through the way I dress and also through the social issues that I talk about and now I’ve done a movie called Shut Up Sona, which has not only around all the top festivals, won a national award and I think it’s the first of its kind. I truly feel on top of the world! But that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped making my own music.
I think right now I have so much to say and so much to do, a legacy to create and hopefully be someone who makes a difference, especially for artists to come.
Q: Your movie Shut up Sona will soon be available on OTT. Can you tell us how you got the idea or how you came up with the concept?
Sona: Shut Up Sona is a window into that life of a female performing artist, because it’s about the politics of gender and the politics of our music industry. It’s a commentary from a female lens where the opportunities are rare for us to leave any mark. And the irony is that we are from the country of Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. Lata Ji was a dean when it came to the music industry, she influenced an entire country. But now we find ourselves in a place where, for 10 years, the number of female artists has been steadily decreasing. The film is not a rant. It’s a love letter to my country. But when it comes to Mumbai, there seem to be gatekeepers in the way that make sure I have a much harder time finding work, let alone being a woman with a voice. And I won’t stop talking anytime soon! That’s why this title Shut Up Sona is a kind of irony and an ironic term.
Let me clarify something. Unlike all other hagiographies made in Bollywood, this one is not one of them. I didn’t make a film to glorify myself, nor is it an autobiography. I didn’t inspire anyone with Sona Mohapatra’s biography. It is a musical and political film. The reason I thought about doing this is that I really found myself being pushed into a corner. I was in the hospital and a tumor was taken out of my body and I said ‘Oh my God, I have to tell my story!’ I had to take this opportunity and not wait for someone to give me a chance. The vision was simple. I wanted to write a musical love letter to India, cinematically. I never thought of paise kahaan se ayenge.
Q: So you’ve been through a lot after talking about pressing issues in society, including the MeToo movement, exposing misogynistic statements made by stars. You’ve received death threats for that too. Do you think the tumult had an impact on the situation?
Sona: It was an act of courage. I literally had to go out and make some money and give it to the production to make the movie. Also, we ended up doing not only a travelogue, but also a musical. Also, my life had so many things going on at that time. Death threats were coming, criminal defamation threats, a religious organization was suing me for wearing a sleeveless robe while singing a Sufi song.
This movie is also a call for the brotherhood to become better allies, not just the brotherhood to own its own narrative. I feel like we don’t have a lot of brotherhood.
I was able to capture the chaos in the film where I received so many threats. So when the pandemic hit, things actually slowed down. But I would like to say that it was a lucky time because several documentaries exploded because there was a certain audience that was interested in that kind of content. That’s when I felt our film was definitely ahead of its time.
Me, as an artist, I have no political leanings. I’m politically agnostic, I feel. I like talking about problems.
I played in Muzaffarnagar which is in the heart of Uttar Pradesh. Many people warned me that it was collectively unstable and asked me not to do my usual sets. With four bodyguards by my side, I began my journey, but guess what? I was totally amazed by what Muzaffarnagar had to offer.
The film has an interesting chapter where the organizers insisted on bringing Ram Sampath to the event. I used to say he never plays with me because I have my own band. It was humiliating. However, there is a little anecdote I would like to share from the film where there were chants of ‘Sona! Sona!’ among the crowds. Let me tell you, it was at an NH7 gig and I wasn’t even there. So that was the biggest validation for me.
WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE:
Q: What do you think of the Hindi language supremacy debate that made headlines?
Sona: I can say one thing, that I watched RRR and Pushpa and literally jumped and danced and made the “foofa” crowd uncomfortable and had a reaction. Hat ! The effort, the art direction, the casting was brilliant. It was great to see them embrace their culture. Although we have amazing stars in Bollywood, I have to say there are actors who barely speak Hindi and that’s a shame because as a Hindi movie star you have to be fluent in the language. The Indian aesthetic is quite strong in Southern films.
Sona Mohapatra provided vocals for popular Hindi tracks such as Ambarsariya, Bedardi Raja and songs from the Satyameva Jayate series. Shut Up Sona is set to release on Zee5 on July 1st.