Sanjeeta’s power ballad and SRK

It’s an exciting time for singer, songwriter, and actor Sanjeeta Bhattacharya! As she awaits her Bollywood debut in  Shah Rukh Khan’s upcoming action entertainer Jawan, she recently released a new power ballad called X Marks the Spot. In an exclusive interview, the Berklee College of Music alum spills the beans about her new song, working with SRK, and her memories of being a part of the Grammy-nominated global music album, Shuruaat

IC: Tell us about your new power ballad X Marks the Spot. What was the idea and inspiration behind it?

Poster of Sanjeeta Bhattacharya's single, "X Marks the Spot". It is an artwork that shows the bare upper back of a woman with cropped hair, walking into water that is on fire ahead of her. (Courtesy: Sanjeeta Bhattacharya)
Poster of Sanjeeta Bhattacharya’s single, “X Marks the Spot”. (Courtesy: Sanjeeta Bhattacharya)

SB: It’s in the realm of a rock ballad drawing from my inspirations like The 1975 and Aerosmith. I wrote it during a period of general turmoil in my life. Everything in and around me seemed to be crushing my spirit and I wrote this song as a note to myself. I was going through my first bout of chickenpox, and the news reports said that the Amazon Forest had been on fire for three weeks. My personal relationship at the time reduced me to feeling unsure about myself and I felt vulnerable, small, and lost. It seemed like I had been shot in the lungs. XMTS is me putting those incredibly frustrating emotions out onto paper. 

IC: This year, you will also make your Bollywood debut in SRK’s upcoming action entertainer Jawan. Tell us more about your role and the experience of being part of the film.

SB: I can’t disclose much about my character but I’m part of SRK’s core team. The experience was dreamlike. SRK is startlingly intelligent, witty, humble, relatable, and generous with his art. There are lessons in humility to be taken from both Shah sir and Vijay (Sethupathi) sir, and I have so much respect for Nayanthara. On set, everyone is in the same boat. We shared laughs and became friends as we shot for almost two years, on and off. There is so much to learn from these seasoned actors, just by observing them. I think the biggest gift I am taking from the sets of Jawan is a group of genuinely kind-hearted, goofy, talented, funny people I now call friends.

IC: You were part of the Grammy-nominated global music album Shuruaat. What are some of your memories of working on that album?

SB: The ensemble became like a family, rehearsing and arranging all the songs, featuring artists like Vijay Prakash. My most memorable moment with the ensemble was during the AR Rahman Meets Berklee concert in 2015. We sang for an audience of 5,000 people at the Boston Symphony Hall. About a hundred people from all over the world on stage, singing Vande Mataram was a surreal experience. 

IC: Previously, you have acted in OTT dramas like Feels Like Ishq and The Broken News. Tell us about these roles. Does acting fulfill you the way being a musician does?

SB: Feels Like Ishq was my debut in long-form acting and I played the protagonist, Muskaan, in the episode “She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not”. I play an art director in an advertising firm navigating her work and sexuality and finally finding love. In The Broken News, I play the role of Juhi Shergill who’s a junior reporter at a news channel. Acting, just like music, is an act of empathy for me – to put myself in the character’s shoes and let it take over. I can’t wait to explore this art form to its fullest. 

IC: You studied at the Berklee College of Music. How did the experience shape your sensibilities as a musician?

SB: Berklee opened up my horizons for what music sounds like. I would never have found myself singing bossa-nova, Balkan folk, and flamenco in languages from all over the world, had I not met musicians who played it. I draw from these inspirations in my own music. I also began writing songs in Spanish because of my time in college

IC: You are the daughter of artist Sanjay Bhattacharya. Tell us about some of your biggest musical inspirations over the years, and how being a part of an artistic family impacts you?

SB: I remember listening to Abida Parveen, Mehdi Hasan, and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s albums while watching my dad paint. We used to go on long cross-country road trips listening to Boney M, and Ghulam Ali. My earliest influences have been everything that both my brothers introduced me to as well – which was a lot of rock and metal. Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Tool, Slayer, Rammstein, and Metallica. I remember the three of us yelling the lyrics in the car on our way to school. We were metalheads! Then my taste slowly changed towards pop and R&B. Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys, and Christina Aguilera were my favorites through middle and high school. Basically, my inspirations and influences are extremely varied. I enjoy music in all its glory. 

IC: What are you working on next?

SB: I plan on putting out three more singles, all compiled into an EP titled Dear Diary. I’m also looking forward to the release of The Broken News Season 2 and keeping my fingers crossed as I audition for new projects.

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Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She has worked for over a decade in print, television, and online media. Her diverse interests in the culture beat include books, music, travel, films,...