I was born in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh in a family of seven children. After completing my postgraduate studies in Business Management from the University of Allahabad, I wanted to become a Business Executive. But it must have be the Lord's hand that brought me into films.
I joined the film industry to get public and professional recognition. There is no other forum in the sub-continent unlike the west where aspiring talents have abundant opportunities. I have recorded playback for over thirty five films working with top Hindi film music directors such as Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Usha Khanna, Anu Malik and Anand-Milind. Most of my songs have been with Bhappi Lahiri, one of India's biggest and most successful music directors. Some of my biggest hits have been with him.
I have sung for leading heroes and contemporaries like Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, Sunny Deol, Govinda, Shatrughan Sinha, Shashi Kapoor, and with nearly all the playback singers right from the late Kishore Kumar to Asha Bhonsle; Kumar Sanu, Udit Narayan, Abhijeet, Alka Yagnik and Kavita Krishnamurty.
I sang the theme song 'I am a Disco Dancer' from the smash hit film 'Disco Dancer'. The song sparked off a craze, so much so that even the Russians were reported to be humming to the catchy number. I became known as superstar Mithun Chakraborty's voice. I have also done a lot of concerts together with Mithun. We share a great relationship because he knows that I'm also very fond of social work so we often did charity shows together for orphans and widows.
I became the first singer in Hindi films to gain a gold disc with a first song and had achieved the highs that every artist desires and dreams of. At a concert at London's Royal Albert Hall the audience gave me a 15-minute standing ovation - a rare achievement for Hindi celebrities and especially for Indian audiences. They forced me to keep returning to the stage several times even after the show had ended. Two hours after the show, I came out of a gala dinner well past midnight to find the crowds still waiting for me in the cold London evening.
At New York's Madison Square Garden, I was performing with Mithun Chakraborty, Salma Agha and other singers. As I appeared on stage the people began to shout and sing so loudly that they drowned my voice. Unable to make out whether it was a favourable reception or not I stopped singing and asked the crowds if they didn't like me. "No" they shouted back and said, "We are enjoying it. We want to sing with you"
'Disco Dancer' was my dream debut, a virtual newcomer to the Hindi entertainment scene that catapulted me overnight to the heights of fame and glory. I had everything I wanted and more and there was no stopping that drive. I was busy making money, enjoying the popularity and being invited to concerts in Dubai, the United Kingdom, the United States, Israel, Australia and New Zealand among other countries.
I had everything going perfectly well as a highly acclaimed singer. I was basking as a rising global star with millions of fans and followers. But my story is about how God touched me in the saddest time of my life.
The brutal murder of my younger brother in Germany stopped me in my fast tracks to rethink about my life and its purpose. As I was vying to become number one in Bollywood, when suddenly one day I got a telegram from the Indian consulate in Bonn that my younger brother who was doing well in the hotel industry in Germany, had been murdered and that I would have to go and collect his body.
My brother had wanted to put a stop to some drug dealings that had been going on at the hotel where he worked. He refused to give in to death threats by those involved. They warned him not to interfere because it was dangerous. One night they killed him and threw his body in the lake, but the killer was caught.
It was a very sorrowful and devastating experience for me. I couldn't help weeping openly as I stood looking at his room and all the material wealth he had acquired in Germany. I found that he had everything he wanted. Every kind of material item was there except my brother. That really hit me hard. It made me realize that tomorrow I would also have to go and leave everything behind. I realized then that I had acquired so much wealth, popularity and fame but it was all going to be of no use if one day I too would leave everything behind me and go.
That was the turning point in my life that led me to search God and reality. I returned to India with these thoughts troubling me. It got to the point where I would roam Bombay's Juhu beach all night searching for an answer. On one particular night, the police arrested me thinking I might have been involved in smuggling or some kind of criminal activity. They let me go once they realized who I was
My search for answers led me to many places. Coming from a Roman Catholic background it led me to churches. I'd go to Mount Mary and ask the priest every morning to pray for me but I wouldn't find peace. I went to a lot of gurus, spending hours with them doing pooja and penance (Hindu religious rituals) but I still found no peace.
One day, I came across some born again Christians whose way of life, spontaneity, and worship, slowly and surely brought me to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. I could feel their love for me. They cared and I could feel the spirit of God giving me the peace that I was searching. I experienced calmness in my heart.
From a vengeful person, I was transformed into a peace loving one. I was also able to forgive the killer of my brother. I was determined to kill him when he came out of jail after seven years. I did planed to do this with some bad friends in London. I don't know if I would have gone through with that plan. I'm not a man of violence. But there was this deliberate thought in my mind of trading revenge.
It was only when I met these Christians who showed me their love and care. They pointed me to Jesus and His love that He forgave everybody, even as He was dying on the cross. I was very touched by His sacrifice. I felt His love descending upon me and I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour. The choice I made was final. It was at a cost. Jesus said, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his soul?" I have lost my soul in Bollywood and found it back in Jesus Christ! I found peace, joy and happiness. And I clung to it.
It meant that I no longer have to do the things everybody else had to do to get ahead. I used to look at man trying to be good to people, wanting to be on their good side and going out of my way to please them. But my whole attitude changed when I became a Christian. I decided to look to God alone and that whatever would come to me would be what God would give me.
'Anything for the glory of God' became my commitment. My focus shifted to recording gospel albums and singing in evangelistic rallies. The pastor of The Assemblies of God church in Bombay where I found Jesus would place the guitar before me every time he saw me in church. I'd end up singing in church on Sundays and I was drawn to Gospel music.
The fourteen albums that I have recorded are based on reflections of what my mind passed through series of songs tilted to a theme. It may be one of worship, praise, or witness for Christ. 'Socho Jeevan Mai Kya Paya' is based on my favourite scripture, 'What good is it for a man to gain the whole world yet loose his soul? (Mark 8:36).
I praise God when friends comment about 'Yeshu Tu Hai Mahan' that sold over a 100,000 copies. All proceeds from the devotional cassettes are rolled back for further productions and other social and missionary causes. The Lord has been using me not only in music but also in ministries such as Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Women's Aglow and Teen Challenge and raising funds for disaster relief projects.
It is important for me that as a Christian, my life should be a testimony for the Lord that the people around me see the changes in my life. He places a burden in my heart to minister to my media friends.
It is in this God has blessed me with an able helper and a committed Christian in my wife Rebecca. She's a great help to me in whatever I do. At times I feel that she's more spiritual than me. I am a born again Christian because of my wife and her parents.
As we dedicate our lives together for the Lord's cause we endeavour to bring forth our two children, Reuel 15 and Joash 10 in the Lords ways. We praise Him that He is leading them to partake in our Gospel music ministries. The Lord is leading us to train Christian children in Gospel singing. We covet your prayers.
For more information on Vijay Benedict, please visit www.vijaybenedict.com
Spread The Word
Burden in My Heart for My Friends