How does it feel to be an overnight star?
It hasn't really sunk in. I haven't really felt the impact. I live exactly the way I was living. I don't know what it feels like to be a star. For the last so many months while the Indian Idol contest was on I stayed in a hotel in Mumbai. I'm still there.
Now I'm recording an album. So I haven't had much interaction with the outside world as yet. Obviously when I do step out I'm overwhelmed when people recognise me. The love that I get is a great, great gift. I don't want to lose this precious gift. I want to keep my head on my shoulders.
You are the first Indian winner of this global show.
Yes I'm the first Indian Idol and I see that makes me doubly responsible. People do have great expectations from me, I'm aware of that. The only thing I know how to do is sing. I want to give people good songs that they can hum, just like the songs I grew up humming by Rafi Saab, Lataji, Mukesh Saab and the other singing legends.
I want to carry music as far as I can. I'm cutting a pop album. And I understand the Indi-pop industry is in doldrums. I hope to still make an impact.
But you've gained popularity on television by singing well-known film songs!
I don't think that should be a problem. I had mentally prepared myself to sing fresh original compositions later on. If it wasn't Indi-pop it would have been film songs, but still my own. I just wanted to make my way ahead in life.
I want to be playback singer eventually. Right now I'm focusing on being an Indian Idol... it's a huge responsibility. I owe it to those who've given me this success to make the best of the opportunity. I want to work on my shortcomings as a singer.
You've now become an icon for the middleclass.
I am a boy from the middleclass. My father works in the Mumbai municipal corporation. My mother is a housewife. I've a younger sister. After completing my graduation I started my struggle as a singer. But there were no open doors for me in the film industry. I had braced myself for a long period of struggle.
But then Indian Idol happened. That became the fulcrum of my life. I never thought I'd become the Idol. I just wanted people to know who Abhijeet Sawant is. That's all. Beyond that I just did what I had to on the show... sing to the best of my abilities. My parents are of course very happy. Initially, they were quite apprehensive about my aspirations as a singer - and naturally so.
After all how much money can a singer earn? I'd sing from childhood. When it came to choosing a career, my uncle Sanjay Sawant, who is a singer, supported me and allowed me to be part of stage shows. But I wanted to move ahead. I had decided to give myself two-three years to make it and then do a desk job if things didn't work out as a singer.
Now I can't believe I'm recording an album with music composed by Biddu of my own for Sony! We want to record and release it as fast as possible because right now listeners are curious to hear me.
Finally there were just you and a boy named Amit Sana fighting to be the Indian Idol. How did the competition seem at that point?
We were both good friends and good singers. We never felt like competitors. Both of us were in competition with ourselves, trying to better our own performance with every step upwards. I made lots of friends. And when the contestants starting getting eliminated, I felt very dejected. It was like friends departing at the railway station. I used to cry for them.
You're from the middle class. Are you comfortable being projected as a pop icon?
I grew up listening to and singing film songs. The whole experience of being an Indian Idol was a culture shock to me. When I came into this competition I had prepared for huge changes. I didn't want to look self-conscious at any stage of the competition. I think it's very important to rise to the challenges that life throws your way.
What's is your advice to youngsters like you with dreams?
To be part of an event like Indian Idol is a bonus. But success comes primarily from hard work. I know success doesn't always come to the deserving. Destiny plays a great hand in one's life. You must have people to look up to.
If today I am an Indian Idol then I've idolised Sonu Nigam. I've studied his life. I want to mould my life like his.
One more thing: if you want to be a singer you must learn classical singing. I've done so for three years. I've trained under Bhavdeep Jaipurwale. At the same time you must be familiar with trendy music. It's the perfect balance between the classical and popular styles that makes a successful singer.