Jugpreet Bajwa, a local boy from Surrey, won millions of hearts across the world through his performances at the Indian reality show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. He talks about his journey to the top in an exclusive interview with Desi Today
By Surbhi Gogia
If you are from Vancouver, the first thing that comes to mind when you listen to the term ‘Bard’ is the city’s famous annual event ‘Bard on the Beach’ that stages Shakespeare’s plays. But did you know that the term bard traditionally refers to a poet who recited and composed songs on heroes and epics in old times. And leaving a few, most of these bards were associated with one common disability — blindness. It is said they had to lose their eyesight to gain a greater vision.
Jugpreet Bajwa, a 21-year-old singing sensation from Surrey, is a living example of a modern day bard who lost his eyes when he was just a baby. His family and Jugpreet himself took it as a sign of God’s way of showing them a greater vision – a vision to inspire and heal the world through music.
“Jugpreet was just 6 months old when he was detected with eye cancer. The word cancer in itself was a shock to us and generally it occurs in one eye. But Jugpreet was diagnosed with cancer in both the eyes which had to be removed surgically,” says Jagbir Bajwa, Jugpreet’s dad.
It was hard for the family to come to terms with the harsh reality initially. But his dad says, “We took it as a God’s way of telling us that we are better than our neighbours to take care of a baby who is just born and lost his eyes.”
Jugpreet was born in a family that loved music. Though his father is a realtor and mother is a health care professional, his father recalls that their family loved all kind of music and they used to sing and dance in family parties. Jugpreet was just a toddler when his foot rose up to the rhythms. Eventually his family found that he was not a normal kid who would just eat and go to sleep in his bed. “He used to listen to the music and sleep near the speakers.”
He went to Couger Canyon elementary and Seaquam High school in Delta. As soon as the family identified his love and passion for music, he was put into formal training of Indian classical music at the age of 6. He appeared for his first public performance in front of Squamish mayor. “The first time I sang on stage for Canada Day… it was Mere Sapnon Ki Rani for the mayor. It was an emotional moment for my parents. And it made my mates see me as more than just ‘the blind kid’,” says Jugpreet.
There was no looking back. Jugpreet has given more than 500 public performances since then. He is not only trained in various genres be it Indian classical or semi classical or English classical, he can sing in 11 different languages — English, Hindi, Sanskrit, Spanish to name a few.
“I grew up in a multicultural society. I used to travel and participate in different music festivals since childhood that created my interest to sing in different languages,” Jugpreet says. Although he thinks music in every language is soulful but if there is one language that entices him its Spanish. “What intrigues me about Spanish that it is spoken in so many different countries with a different dialects. ”
Jugpreet is just back from Mumbai after he performed at a popular Indian reality show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. He won millions of hearts across the globe, amongst the masses and the celebrities alike and made his way to the top. He was one of the top five contestants and finished third in the grand finale.
Jugpreet was in Mumbai to explore singing opportunity in the Indian music industry when he saw a newspaper ad for the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa auditions. “I knew this was the chance to showcase my talent to the world. I decided to take a plunge. Sa Re Ga Ma Pa is one of the oldest and most popular music reality shows on Indian Television. It is broadcasted in more than 150 countries.”
To clear the auditions and make up to the final contestants list was not a cake walk. There were 120,000 contestants. And there are lots of stages to clear before you even get a chance to perform in front of the judges. Jugpreet was not only selected but he got a standing ovation from the judges during auditions. Even during the show he was the one contestant who got most standing ovations for his performances.
Recalling his four months journey from auditions to the Grand finale, he says, “Each and every minute spent there was a learning experience. I learnt so much about playback dynamics, pronunciations of the lyrics and performance under pressure. Though I was in Sajid-Wajid team, we used to learn from every mentor. I went through rigorous training under Pandit Bhavdeep Jaipurwale Ji, the leader of our group. He is perhaps one of the best in India.”
He says his most memorable moments of the entire show was when Salman Khan came up to him. “I couldn’t believe when he said I was his favourite contestant. The dance sequence with Aishwarya Rai and appreciation from music legends like Asha Bhonsle and Rahat Fatah Ali Khan is something I can never forget,” he says.
Jugpreet’s talent and popularity caught up with the Indian media too that is generally very critical of the reality show contestants especially if they are disabled. The media never leaves a chance to mention the sympathy factor behind a disabled contestant popularity. But Jugpreet was not one of them. His popularity was solely based on his talent and exceptionally great voice. Mid-day newspaper in one of the articles mentioned, “Indian reality TV, including a popular quiz show, is often more about sob stories than talent. A member of the ZEE creative team, on condition of anonymity, says, ‘The creative team doesn’t portray Jugpreet as a sob story. In fact, he is the happiest contestant. We speak of his flirting, girlfriends back in Canada, and a big circle of friends. It’s is not an emotional trick. It’s about him being a fabulous singer.’ Zee TV’s business head, Pradeep Hejmadi, agrees. ‘Jugpreet’s journey goes to prove that no impairment can shadow genuine talent. He has been amongst our top-rated contestants from the start.”
Jugpreet himself feels his visual impairment never came in the way of following his passion for the music. “Music is something you feel from the heart and listen from your ears. I don’t think there was ever a time when I felt I could have done better with my eyes.” However, he says there have been moments when people came up to my parents and said I would not go far in life. Blindness is considered a sin in our society. That was the time I would sit down and ask, “God why me? But then I got the answer back ‘why not me?’
Yes why not Jugpreet, especially when he has become an inspiration for so many disabled people around the world. “I wanted to win hearts and show the people that just because you can’t see or walk doesn’t mean you don’t have a talent. You just have to discover it. Para Olympians are always my inspirations,” he says. Jugpreet recalled an incident when he met a blind boy who suffered from the same eye cancer. “This boy was so much encouraged to do something in life after he saw my performances. The boy had lost all hopes since his father abandoned him due to his blindness.”
Jugpreet feels lucky to have a family that supports him like a rock. If his father discovered his talent and put him into music training, his siblings help him follow his dreams. Jugpreet’s elder brother, who too is in medical profession, stayed with him for four months in Mumbai for entire show. His father’s message to those who have physically disabled kids is, “It can happen to anyone. Support your child. If a family cannot support a disabled person, no one else will. Never neglect your child.”
As for Jugpreet’s future plans, he says apart from singing, he wants to start his own music therapy school. “There are more than 90 diseases that can be healed through music. I wish I can help people heal their diseases through my music,” he says.
Currently Jugpreet is back in action in Vancouver. He performed recently at the Hard Rock Casino, Coquitlam and his show was sold out. He has also recorded his song for the upcoming Bollywood movie Chicken Curry Law starring Juhi Chawla and Ashutosh Rana.