In 2002 (which was 14 years ago, BTW), Channel V gave India its first all-girls band VIVA, and suddenly we had our own version of the Spice Girls in Seema Ramchandani, Pratichee Mohapatra, Neha Bhasin, Mahua Kamat, and Anushka Manchanda.
In 2002, the internet wasn’t what it is now, but their fandom was still insane. So much so that there first concert found its way into the Limca Book of Records for being the first debut band to pull in over 50,000 people.
Video created by: Nomadic Parikrama
But at the time most of the girls were just out of school or college, and soon enough there was trouble. After the release of their first album VIVA!, there was a lot of speculation over Seema quitting the band. Finally, in November 2002, the band’s management confirmed it.
“I don’t know whether she’s received offers to go solo, but the reason she has left Viva is so that she can follow the Art of Living course, which she is very attached to and wants to complete a teacher’s training course in,” confirmed Lydia Fernandes, their manager, to The Times of India.
From then on, VIVA continued as a four-member band, and released their second album, VIVA! – Reloaded.
Sadly, this turned out to be their last album, since the band broke up after that. There was never any official statement about why or how the band broke up, and the members went on to have successful solo carriers. Then, in 2014, writer Ashish Kate gathered all of them (minus Seema) in one room for an endearingly candid chat.
It was after 10 years that they were together in the same room, and a lot of really controversial stuff came up in conversation, like why the band broke up or how they ate only five almonds in a day (WHAAA). Much to our joy, he recorded all of it. Here are some of the most explosive parts of the interview.
Anushka: Firstly, our contract expired. We started talking about what we should do; should we carry on or not. With Channel V we were stipend employees. We did a few shows towards the end where we actually made some fucking money. We made like 45,000 per show, each.
Mahua: No man, it was two and a half lacks.
Anushka: Per show Mahua. (Laughs) You keep quiet. We used to get 25,000 per month minus TDS (Tax deducted at source). Fucking TDS. They said the money that comes into your account will depend on how much weight you lose.
Pratichee: No that’s what happened. I’ll tell you. They were trying to get us to lose more weight. So they gave us an incentive of 5,000 rupees for ever kilo we lost. Anushka’s fine. Mahua has stopped eating. Neha is running some 100 miles a day.
Anushka: Neha, let’s just clarify. We weren’t getting anywhere emotionally, not together.
Neha: We didn’t have anything nice to say to each other.
Pratichee: The root cause was that we lived under one roof. Maybe we weren’t managed correctly. We couldn’t go to so much as a party unless the four of us went together.
Mahua: You can’t chill together, work together, live together. We didn’t have a life beyond that.
Neha: We liked each other. That’s the thing. The only issue we had, let’s be honest, was Seema. She always sidelined herself, and to quite an extent, we were all immature. And stupid. Maybe if today there was a Seema in the band we’d deal with it differently.
Neha: Listen to my side of the story. Initially, only Anushka and Mahua wanted to continue (with the band). They convinced Pratichee and me. I went to my dad and got the contracts done. If you believe me for once, believe me.
Anushka: Of course I believe you. There’s no reason not to.
Neha: I don’t lie. I went home for my sister’s wedding. On the way back to Bombay I was crying. I didn’t want to go back to this band. I felt the same way during class 8. My fault lies in the fact that I never saw you girls down and said why. On the first night back, Anushka and Pratichee are fighting. I had a fever of 105; delirious sick. It was the final straw. I’m dying, and nobody cares. I don’t want to be in this band anymore.
At this emotionally charged meeting, they also had an impromptu jam session, which gave us so many feels that it’s becoming difficult to type. So take a minute to drown with us.
Video created by: Abha Kate
Now, all five members of the group are happy in their individual careers, and while we’re not holding our breath for a reunion any time soon, we would die of happiness if that ever happens. Meanwhile, here’s what all of them are up to these days.
Most recently, Anushka was one of the Angry Indian Goddesses, and has been slaying us with her fashion choices and incredible music.
Neha has sung Bollywood hits such as Kuch Khaas Hai and Dhunki. She also participated in the dance reality show Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa. Her covers of other popular songs on YouTube should be on your playlist.
Anushka calls Pratichee her soul sister, who has been busy with live performances, and also sang for Angry Indian Goddesses. She acted in the TV show Mr & Mrs Mishra a few years ago.
Mahua also sang a few songs for Bollywood, including Rang Deeni for Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Dev. She’s married now and her hair’s still banging!
After quitting the band, Seema spent most of the next three years travelling, singing and teaching for the Art of Living Foundation. In 2006, she moved to Hong Kong. According to her Facebook page, she embarked on a comeback spiritual tour after spending her childhood in Nigeria, teenage years in India and nine years in Hong Kong.
Aah, the good ol’ early 00s!