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Shweta loves India, but is 'a real Hamburger'!

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Shweta ShettyIndian pop diva Shweta Shetty, who sang foot-tapping numbers like "Johnny joker" and "Mangta hai kya", traded in her music career when she was at the top for marriage and domesticity in Germany.

Shetty, who married her German husband Clemens Brandt in 1997, now lives in this city, far away from India and her fans.

Sitting with Shetty in her flat feels like someone has turned on the sun, even though the blinds are drawn. The 37-year-old singer is a bundle of energy, especially when she talks of her passion for Hamburg.

"India is and remains my home, but I love Hamburg. I'm a real Hamburger," she says in her husky voice.

Born in Mumbai in 1969, the singer has lived in the Hanseatic city for seven years. She has a German passport, loves to cook German sausage with cabbage and potatoes, reads tabloid magazines like Bunte and Gala and is a fan of Hamburg's premier division HSV football team.

When it comes to the World Cup, she is "of course" rooting for Germany, she says with a laugh, running a hand through her long, curly hair.

She met Brandt in June 1996 at a party in Cannes. Ten months later, the couple married in her parents' flat in Mumbai. Two years after the wedding, Shetty moved to Hamburg.

"Many Indian friends predicted the end of my career at that time and thought that I would soon be back," Shetty said.

When she left India, she was a star and was considered a pioneer of Indian pop music, alongside singers Alisha Chinai and Sharon Prabhakar.

Her albums "Johnny Joker" (1993) and "Deewane To Deewane Hain" (1998) sold more than 1.5 million copies. She was also known for her songs in Bollywood films such as "Roja" (1993) and "Rangeela" (1995) and for her music videos on MTV India.

Shetty continued her career in Germany with the 2003 album "Saajna", a mix of R&B, hip hop, rock and traditional Indian music.

In 2004, she accompanied Sarah Brightman on tour, and she also produced a song with the German techno-duo Jam & Spoon.

Shetty was discovered by a music producer at the age of 17 when she won a music contest. Two years later she was singing to a crowd of 5,000 at an open-air concert.

Her disapproving father was shocked and asked her: "What will people say about us? Who will marry you?" He cut off all financial support to her and did not speak to her for years.

She survived for five years singing jingles and doing modelling jobs. In 1993, she finally made her breakthrough with "Johnny Joker".

It was only after her wedding that her father spoke to her again, and he has since become proud of his daughter's success.

Shetty enjoys her life in Hamburg. "I wanted to be free. Everywhere - in the supermarket, at the airport - in Mumbai I was watched," she says. "Here I have peace and quiet and I can leave the house in a tracksuit."

The decor of the flat consists mostly of Indian antiques - oil paintings, chests of drawers, an oil lamp from her great-grandmother and a small shrine with statuettes of gods.

Every day Shetty meditates for an hour and prays to her god, Shiva, just as she learned from her guru in India. Shetty trusts her guru. After all, he was the one who predicted that she would meet a man from far away who lived near water.


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