Famous for not only her bold voice but her fearless attitude too, singer Sona Mohapatra is on a new journey. The singer, who has “Ambar Sariya”, “Naina”, “Bedardi Raja” and other Bollywood tracks to her credit, has started a project called Lal Pari Mastani, which she terms as an alter ego. While we think the project encapsulates what Sona is all about (Lal as bold, Pari as angelic and Mastani as blunt and fearless), she credits her fans for coining the term for her. In an exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, Sona reveals how the term Lal Pari Mastani came into being.
“For the last 10 years, my fans who have closely followed me, know me by the moniker – Lal Pari Mastani. But where it came from is a very interesting story. I am a travel addict and it was in Delhi, I was living in a guest house. There were these travellers from around the world. So, there was this French woman from Afghanistan who spoke about the area between Afghanistan and Pakistan border, which is a birthplace of Sufiana music. However, once the Taliban had come in and they were wiping out music, making women stay at home covered in burqas. Then she mentioned a woman who wore all red, was a complete rebel and used to sing in Dargah. She did not care about anyone. The picture was imprinted in my brain that there is a sea of black and here’s a force of nature who is standing up against everything, singing, dancing and saying music is not haraam. This episode is from some 15 years ago and since then, I have been carrying the image in my heart and mind. That is how Lal Pari Mastani happened,” revealed Sona.
Sona Mohapatra quipped that this project is a way for her to explore different facets of her own personality. She said, “I felt this year, it was time to launch an alter ego and a different avatar of myself as an artiste and no better way to name it than Lal Pari Mastani because my closest people and fans know what it stands for and my fascination for the colour red. I believe in our culture, the colour red has a deep significance. It stands for power, womanhood, energy and a bunch of other things. And why for me it is critical to put myself out there with this alter ego is because I have always known and people around me know me as someone who is more than just a singer.”
Sona continued, “I think our industry pigeonholes people into one particular bracket. I believe I have many facets to me beyond singer and there are these interests I have in terms of music, arts and social commentary. Yes, I am a singer and that would remain the soul of the project and me, but I want to cherish and explore other things in the avatar of Lal Pari Mastani. So, this (project) is a journey for me.”
The “Daav Laga” singer has made a niche for herself in the industry with her independent music. Her unique voice has always made her stand out in Bollywood. However, she chooses to remain aloof from the film industry. When asked if she is choosy about playback singing for Bollywood films, Sona smirked and said, “The industry does not have work to offer to not only me but any female singer.”
“You know something, I work harder and get most work than the people in the city right now. I am forever travelling with my band, always creating new stuff and reinventing live music experience. So 99% of my life is that. Now, I have stopped speculating why Bollywood is not giving me work. It is simple. I do not think it is personal or they are against me. Nowadays, the more we are progressing, we are regressing. We don’t have work for women,” pointed out the singer.
“Out of 100 songs that we produce as an industry, barely nine of them have female voices and solos are neglectable. It is shocking for a country which was not able to put out an album without Mangeshkar sisters to be celebrating testosterone. Even reality shows have the saddening ratio. Or music festivals, you will not find female headliners in most of the cases. So, somewhere when the opportunities are so low for my gender, forget about me, you will not hear any female voices. Whatever work is there, it is shared by 40-50 amazing artists. I would not even get a chorus. So, I am done with it.”
She believes Lal Pari Mastani would change how music artistes are perceived in our country and on a global platform. Sona said, “I create my own journey and if I get things right with Lal Pari Mastani, this will truly change how Indian artistes are perceived within the country. Even globally, Indian artistes are on one end there are classical singers who celebrate a niche category and then they think rest is playback. It is a craft we have celebrated but we do not have music personalities. It is terrible and scary.”
Stating an example from the West, the singer stated the sad scenario of musicians in India. “In the west, a Beyonce has much more impact than Angelina Jolie but here repeatedly, everything is related to cinema. I cannot think how a country with millions celebrates only one flavour of art and this should be bothering the present generation. It is time we watch over this fact,” quipped Sona.
But does that mean her fans would never hear her voice in films? Well, the answer is no. Sona admitted that while she dislikes the working of Bollywood industry, she would not mind collaborating with thoughtful people in the industry, like Aamir Khan. The singer said, “I believe the monster of Bollywood overwhelmingly wipes out the existence of everything. I myself have no issues with it (Bollywood music industry). I see the value of songs I have sung, I cherish my connection. For example, Satyamev Jayate is another hit. Aamir Khan is one of the people who takes opposite direction when others follow a way. There are admirable people in the industry but overall, it is not a place I look up to.”
Under Lal Pari Mastani project, the singer will be launching a song and a video every month until the end of the year. The project will also encompass photographic essays, filmmaking, music video making and other forms of arts in collaboration with Sona’s fans on Facebook, who is a key partner in the project along with Red FM 93.5.