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The Lovely and Legendary Ms. Suneeta Rao
May 10, 2000

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Absolutely gorgeous and glamorous but Suneeta's kind-hearted and sincere personality make her truly beautiful.
My favorite Hip-hop artist in the states, Ms. Lauryn Hill, has a verse on her last album that always stands out to me. It's a very simple line that says "My mother always thought I'd be a star. " That's intriguing to me, pure and natural talent and showmanship, especially in Lauryn's case since it turned out that her Mom was so right.

Right up there in the charts, but on the Indian horizon, is Ms. Suneeta Rao. She is better known in India as Paree, or Fairy, from one of her hits and the title is well-deserved. A light and magical glow seemed to follow her, dancing in her eyes, especially when she's talking about music! And to see this woman perform is to be held captive by her fiery energy, glamorous style, and beautiful voice.

"Always, Jasmine, ever since I was a little child,I knew I would perform. If I did not become a singer, I would've become an actress because I am a performer, I am a performance person," she smiled.

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Suneeta, with her biggest fans (after Trekker Kavitha) Mom and Dad.
And how did we get in contact with this trail-blazing, Hindi pop diva? Well, she came highly recommended as a down-to-earth, intelligent and gifted woman (and the best cousin in the whole world) by her cousin and fan Kavitha. Yes, Odyssey World trekker Kavitha Rao! While watching World MTV in Mali Kavitha would tell us that that Hindi pop star cousin whose video we'd just seen, was her way-cool cousin. But she never went into much detail otherwise. It was hard to imagine that we'd even get to India. There were still Egypt, Israel, Turkey and Iran still to cover.

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If you could, would you want to be a pop star like Suneeta Rao?

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Then gears switched as we landed in Bombay, the city that has it all. The shantytowns that seemed the greatest expanse of the city beneath us were speckled with clusters of high-rise buildings pressing forth from the extreme poverty below. Abeja and I spent our first days in Mumbai in an area called Colaba just outside Kamathipura, Asia's greatest slum.

Our first encounter with the living conditions of India's poor was a harsh reality to face. For many children, age eight or nine was about the time you began helping bring money into the house by peddling cigarettes or shining shoes, while your younger siblings ran barefoot playing in the streets, begging from the occasional tourist if the opportunity presented itself.

Pali Hills was a striking contrast with its high-rise apartment complexes and expansive ocean views. And Suneeta, whose father was a surgeon in Zurich during her early years, was fortunate enough to pursue her dream from early childhood. Like Beverly Hills, Pali Hills had a certain air of class and standing. It was hard to imagine that Asia's largest slums were a few train stations away.

Suneeta came into stardom in 1989 and remembers well the first pictures she took for her first record cover. Over delicious mangoes she told us about family, music, and loving what you do. Sad that she wasn't able to see Kavitha, who is up in North India, I whipped out a picture of us all from Thanksgiving in Egypt. The cousins look a lot alike, tall and slender, attractive eyes and bright smiles, "perfect for the industry" as one magazine article about Ms. Rao stated. She has it all!

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Suneeta lives high in the hills but she is very down to earth, humble, and excited for the opportunity to share her Indian heritage with the music world.
We actually caught Suneeta on her way to the gym to workout. I can only imagine the routine it takes to keep up the rigorous stage show that fans adore. She admitted that she hasn't been going as regularly as she should lately. Much of her time and energy have been dedicated to a live theatrical performance that she's recently undertaken. Music is her career but performance is her passion. She may very well be setting the scene to be ready when the big Hindi film role offer comes knocking on her door.

"As long as it's not one of those batting-your-eyelash roles [which are ever so popular in melodramatic Hindi films], I'd gladly consider an offer," Suneeta shared.

Suneeta explained that in comparison to the internationally proclaimed mega-stars of Bollywood's Hindi film industry, Hindi pop artists aren't so well known. But when she was in the company of some of those very superstars, they explained that they have a great deal of respect for the musical talent behind their leading roles. See, the famous Hindi music soundtracks that top the charts as the country's best-selling music is only lip-synced by the movie stars on the big screen. Suneeta and her vocally skilled counterparts do the work.

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Underneath pictures on her father's mantle from her younger days in the studio are a few of the magazine covers on which Suneeta has appeared.
In the meantime, Suneeta is busy, successful and looking forward to creating more Hindi pop for all of her fans. You can check out her tunes. Just request a song by clicking on the box next to Suneeta Rao's name and hear "Paree," my favorite from the album "Dhuaan," which means Smoke. Or check out everyone's favorite, a stunning combination of traditional Rajistani style with a new pop flare the way only Suneeta blends the two, in "Deheka Deheka" or "Don't tease me" from her "Kesariya" album.

Thank you Suneeta and the Rao family for their gracious invitation and insider's peek into the world of Hindi pop! We had a great time!

Stay tuned, our tour of the great Hindustan is just beginning. There's lots more to see, visit and learn!


p.s. - Please e-mail me at

Abeja - Endangered: The Ancient Communities of the Narmada River
Monica - Development That Works
Andrew - I Don't Care if that Croc is Vegetarian - I'm Still Not Swimming with Him! And Other Forms of Refreshment in Udaipur

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