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‘Enjoy the journey, wherever it takes you’: Nikhita Gandhi on her musical career

Malancha Dasgupta
Malancha Dasgupta
Posted on 17 Dec 2021
16:08 PM

Video edited by Saikat Chakraborty Source: Nikhita Gandhi

The former student of La Martiniere for Girls, Kolkata, did her bachelor’s in Dental Surgery from Sri Ramachandra Dental College and Hospital, Chennai
While doing her BDS, Nikhita trained in music at A.R. Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory
She has sung in Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Kannada and Hindi

Naach meri rani to Qaafirana, Bollywood singer Nikhita Gandhi’s hits are part of our playlists. The Kolkata girl, who studied at La Martiniere for Girls, looks back at her musical career and shares her takeaways with Edugraph.

Edugraph: We are curious to know what kind of a young person you were back then. What do you remember the most about school days?


Nikhita Gandhi: I was very academic and an all-rounder. I was that kid who loved going to school, dancing, music, sports... everything. I have a lot of great memories from school. Be it a rainy day (and if you are from Kolkata, you know how easily the city gets flooded) or a sick day, I would never miss school. Even though I was a science student, I used to love the literature and Shakespeare classes. I was quite the overachiever and a popular kid. The only part of the day in school I would not look forward to was Hindi class. By the time I got to high school, I would have ‘coincidental’ band practice during all the Hindi periods.

Have you been interested in music since those times? Did you take part in other co-curricular activities?

Nikhita: I was in both the Indian and western bands. I was also a sprinter and played other sports like basketball and football. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme has been an enriching experience of my school life. It involved all the aforementioned stuff as well as gave me a chance to be a part of an exchange programme to the UK and some amazing treks in the Himalayas. My longest co-curricular was dance though. I learnt Odissi for almost 13 years.

Since your parents are also medical professionals, did that influence your decision to study science and choose dentistry as a potential career?

Nikhita: Subconsciously I suppose, but it was never a compulsion. I was always academic and naturally drawn to biology and the medical sciences. So let's call it a genetic calling! When I was really small, my grandparents bought me a microscope for my birthday because I wanted to be a scientist. As I grew older, I felt I was good with people and that maybe being a doctor would be more my calling, especially because I always wanted to help people.
I love animals. There was a veterinarian phase. My parents said I had to get into a good vet school abroad if I wanted to be a vet. Ultimately I sort of streamlined my doctor obsession to dentistry because I had too many varied interests like dance and music, and being a dentist you get time to schedule your hours.

What were your plans after finishing BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery)?

Nikhita: I started singing in films in the Tamil and Telugu industries while I was in college (Sri Ramachandra Dental College and Hospital, Chennai). By the time I was an intern, some freshers would come and take selfies with me because of my hits like Ladio with (AR) Rahman sir, and Oh Oh with Anirudh (Ravichander) and Dhanush. It was very awkward to be a big deal, to be honest, but also very exciting and a little confusing.
I did intern part-time at a clinic after college and was also doing gigs at the same time. I was not too sure if all the songs I had sung so far were enough to change my calling. And then Raabta happened. There wasn’t much looking back after that.

You went to A.R. Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory to study music. How did that pave the way for you to be a professional singer?

Nikhita: I had enrolled in a part-time evening course in western classical vocals while I was studying BDS. The course was barely a few months but the world I was introduced to was what was important. Even though I was done with my course, I still spent almost every evening after college in KM (which was on the other end of the city), either doing choir rehearsals or just hanging out with other musical people. That world was so much more interesting to me. I felt at home. It was one of the auditions of KM in which Rahman sir heard my voice and sort of ‘discovered’ me as they say. So, in a way, KM paved the way for me into a career in music.

I think a year doing the wrong thing is insignificant to a lifetime of doing what you love. I don’t regret doing dental school. I decided to finish my degree even though I already had my first song in third year. Every skill we learn is worth learning, even if it isn’t really what we end up doing ultimately.
- Nikhita Gandhi

If there has been a mentor in your career, who would that be? What are some of the things that you have learnt from this person?

Nikhita: I think I have been blessed with many mentors. Firstly, my parents. They supported every decision of mine and trusted my instincts. I remember feeling so severely homesick during my first year of dental school and wondered whether I made the wrong decision. I called them up and told them that I was thinking of filling up the application for Berklee (College of Music) and they had my back. They always have my back and I am ever so grateful.
There have been some iconic musicians who have knowingly and unknowingly been instrumental in my journey. It was Usha Uthup aunty who told my parents about KM. She told me that I should check out that school since I was going to Chennai. A.R. Rahman sir has been so important in my musical journey. He is the reason I am doing music today.

What would you say to youngsters who study something and then realise they want to do something altogether different?

Nikhita: I think a year doing the wrong thing is insignificant to a lifetime of doing what you love. A year lost doesn’t matter. Even a few. Nothing is a loss, all the good and bad decisions we make, make us who we are.
Having said that, in my journey, I don’t regret doing dental school. I loved what I learnt and I decided to finish my degree even though I already had my first song in third year. I know so many musicians who are also doctors or engineers. Every skill we learn is worth learning, even if it isn’t really what we end up doing ultimately. So honestly, enjoy the journey wherever it takes you.

What are some of the things one needs to value to make a mark in one’s chosen field?

Nikhita: Discipline and dedication, and tons of hard work. I believe that hard work comes first, before everything. And it always pays. I also feel being original is very important.

You’ve sung in Tamil, Telugu, Bengali and Hindi. Do you love learning new languages through songs?

Nikhita: Oh I love it! It’s great fun to be a language chameleon. I can’t speak some of the languages I sing in like Telugu and Kannada but I still manage. I think the key is mimicry to understand how a person from that culture speaks and emulates words and emotions.

Who are some of the musicians you heard while growing up?

Nikhita: I’ve heard all kinds of music. My dad is a big Kishore Kumar fan, so all of those songs I know because of him, and that too in dad’s voice from all the numerous times he’s sung along karaokes at family gatherings. I’ve heard some classic and legendary music on vinyl at a very young age, thanks to my dida and dadu. They have the most insane collections --- Boney M, Jagjit Singh, The Doors, Frank Sinatra to my own boro dida (Gita Ghatak). My dadu, Nana Dadu as I would call him, would sit and repair the record player himself. I thank him from the bottom of my heart for making my aural experiences so exceptional.

From your repertoire, which are some of your favourite songs?

Nikhita: One of my more recent releases was Khud ko hi paake, which is my own composition. This song is close to my heart. I don’t usually like my own music but I really was very attached to this composition and I think partly because of what it represents. The song is about accepting yourself as who you are, with your flaws. There was a version of this song that I also did in celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community, which meant a lot to me.

From my film songs, I think Ghar from Jab Harry Met Sejal and Qaafirana are some of my personal favourites.

What are the top 3 songs on your playlist?

1. 09 Fingerprints by Hiatus Kaiyote

2. Fantasy by Alina Baraz

3. Gangsta by Kehlani

Last updated on 17 Dec 2021
21:40 PM
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