If you’ve heard songs like ‘O Meri Munni’, ‘Maria Pitache’, ‘Hamma Hamma’ then you know exactly who we are talking about. Padma Shri awardee, Remo Fernandes, needs no introduction. He has won the hearts of people through his music, and now he’s gaining a separate fan following for his autobiography. He writes his life story like there isn’t another. He has candidly narrated the highs and lows in his life.
The chapters range from his early life in Goa during the Portuguese rule, to how his music career got kick-started. It brings to light his love life, the things he did for love and his girlfriend, and a lot more. And, if you want to know how he made it to Bollywood, then this autobiography is a must-read.
There are several lesser-known stories about the singer that come to light. In a conversation with GT, Remo talks about why he decided to pen down his life story, how he was been able to achieve success and win the hearts of many.
Did you ever think you would write your autobiography? Why were you so adamant to write this book?
Yes, I had been toying with the idea for the last few years. But, adamant? I wasn’t adamant. I did it because I felt I had a story to tell. Whenever I happened to narrate some past incident to friends in casual conversation, they all said I’d had a very adventurous and interesting life, and ought to write about it. And, I realized they were right. Also, I felt I had to write about the Goa that I had been lucky to have been born in, and known first hand. And, going through my whole life was such a pleasurable experience, I’d advise everyone to do it, at least for themselves. It is therapeutic, and an eye-opener, to say the least.
They say ‘memories fade with time’. Did you encounter similar problems while writing this book? Did you have to go back and meet certain people or revisit certain places to rekindle or recollect memories?
I felt that if I didn’t remember some things, they probably weren’t worth remembering! I went by my memories alone. Sometimes, I contacted friends and family to get some dates, names or other details right, but not for the memories themselves.
Your autobiography talks about your childhood in Goa. In what way did Goa influence your music career?
In every way! The place where you’re born and grow up always influences you in everything you do, especially if you love it like I loved, and love, Goa. Besides, Goa has such a rare blend of cultures; its very character is unique to say the least.
You never chased films or fame. Is that true? Tell us more about your journey in the Bollywood film industry.
If it weren’t true, I wouldn’t have written it in my book! Firstly, if I were after films and more fame and money, I would have settled in Mumbai, the showbiz capital of India, where all the action is. Not in Siolim in 1980, without even a phone or proper electricity, from where I started and still continue my musical career. I’ve written in detail about my rather distant association – through invitation only – with Bollywood.
About Zenia, you write in the book: “She made me discover a third new thing about me: that I could turn voluntarily, willingly, and happily monogamous after all.” What is it about her that made you feel this way? How did u know that she was 'the one'?
There is no How or Why to these things. At least not for me, as these decisions cannot, and should not, be made with practical and intellectual considerations in mind. They are matters of the heart. You either feel them through and through, or you don’t. Though in my case, my heart and mind function pretty much in unison. Zenia and I often speak about how we got together and marvel at it.
Everyone celebrates success, but the journey to it is a difficult one. Were there any low points in your journey, and are grateful that you were able to deal with them gracefully?
Oh, there were plenty of highs, and plenty of lows, too. If I were to narrate them all here, this interview would turn as fat as my book. Yes, let’s just say I’m grateful that I was able to come out of both the great dangers (the highs as well as the lows) in one piece. I’ve seen too many people succumb to success, and especially to failure, through excesses of every sort – alcohol, drugs, excessive sex, excessive food, even excessive religion.
Public figures often choose not to reveal their personal lives to the public. Were you comfortable about baring your life in a book? Was there any information that you wanted to hold back, but after much thought, gathered the courage to write about it?
On the contrary, there are some things I wrote which, after some thought, I decided to omit, as I had to respect others’ feelings and privacy, not just give in to my own quest for truth. I have never had any problem with baring all at all. My life has always been a rather open book, as one can see from my Facebook site. I had decided when I read Elia Kazan’s autobiography during college that, if I ever wrote my story, I would be mercilessly truthful about myself. A bloated, sugar-coated autobiography isn’t worth the price of the ink it’s printed with. I’ve read some of those, and there is no way I was going to put mine in that basket.
Which is your favourite chapter in the autobiography?
I can’t single one out, in the same way that I cannot single out a year or decade of my life as being my favorite. They were all precious, and they all taught me something or the other of value.
What was the kind of response you got from the people who read your book?
The best responses were from people who wrote saying, “I’ve just finished your book, and I wish it would just go on and on!” Or, that they were reading it for the second or even third time, almost one after another. There are those who said it was a valuable description of the Goa of bygone years. Those who appreciated it for my ‘style of writing’, though I didn’t even know I had one. I was particularly grateful when female readers said that I had treated, and written about, the women in my life with great respect and affection.
For readers, who are yet to pick up a copy of your book, what would you like to say?
If you do feel inclined to read it, well, welcome to my world!