By CHIN JIAN WEI
Neeta Manishaa is the type of girl you don’t forget. One is instantly taken by the force of her personality as she cracks jokes and carries a conversation as if she’s known you for years. Also going by Neeta Manis, she is a singer, actress, TV host and frontwoman of her band, IamNeeta. The alternative pop rock band was established in 2011 by Neeta and her bandmates, Patrick Anohada on guitar and Anas Zakwan on bass. In 2019, Neeta also participated in Astro Ria’s Big Stage 2019, where she was a runner-up.
“My character can be quite misleading if you only know me through my songs,” Neeta says. “You might think that I’m a very polite girl or something like that.” She laughs at that. She had been peppering the conversation with various swear words by that point. She’s a very outdoorsy person, with most of her hobbies having to do with outdoor activities. “White-water rafting, camping, I love camping, I go every two or three months. I used to go swimming every day.”
Hailing from Sungai Petani, Kedah, she was discovered on YouTube at 17. “It was only then that it hit me: I can sing,” she says, smiling. “If I really wanted to make this a career, I had to be serious.” She moved over to the big city after turning 18. “Literally a few days after SPM,” Neeta clarifies. She still identifies as a “kampung girl”. “I was so weirded out, I had to go through tolls just going to my friend’s house; we don’t do that in Kedah! Being in the city for too long freaks me out, I find myself going back to nature.” Other than nature, she misses the food in Sungai Petani as well, as anyone raised there would attest to. Curry mee, Jawa mee, chicken rice.
She spoke to us fresh off the heels of her first official role as one of the main characters in a drama series, having shot on and off for about a year already. She studied theatre in college and went to a Chinese primary school, so she’s no stranger to memorising scripts. Other than that, life has been just progressing as normal, making music and playing shows.
“One of my bandmates is in Sabah, so every time that they’re down here we would go to a jamming studio and spend a few hours there,” Neeta says. “At the beginning of our career, my band and I wanted to train and train every single day no matter if there was a show or not. I think that really helped us because now everything is muscle memory. We don’t really need to practice like we used to, it’s more like just a run-through now. Because of that, we save a lot of time and we can jam and be creative, do new intros and outros. We started as alternative rock, we’re trying to switch it up but not too much. Our last song, Depresi, was the second song in which we included electronic sounds. But we’ll never run away from rock.”
Neeta shares with us the time she met the Hollywood actor Ansel Elgort when he came to Malaysia. Rather, she jumped the media queue and embraced him in a hug. “You gotta do what you gotta do,” she quips. Based on my conversation with Neeta, she seemed like someone who lived life spontaneously and adventurously, doing whatever she felt like doing. Skinny-dipping in Tioman, sleeping at bus stops, train stations and roadsides in Thailand, all part of her adventures.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” she advises youngsters who are embarking on a similar journey as herself. She continues with a rapid stream of advice. “With social media, everything is very exposed. Your mistakes are out there. Always be kind to yourself and do your best. Keep on chasing your dreams but don’t lose yourself. Social media and the industry is always telling you to do this and do that. Learn to train your intuition, your gut, your decision-making skills. Study before you enter the industry.
“People in the industry, we have this gift where our work will be seen for generations to come. I find that very heartwarming; I’m doing something for the future,” ended Neeta on a positive note.
BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE BASKL
COVER STAR: Neeta Manishaa
BASKL Editor and Co-ordination: Shah Shamshiri
English Text: Chin Jian Wei
Stylist: Shah Shamshiri
Hair, Make-up and Accessories: Chandra Shegar
Wardrobe : Huda Hassan Shahabuddin
Photographer: Bustamam Mokhtar, White Studio
Location: White Studio, Sungai Lui, Hulu Langat
Digital Cover Designer: Daniel Abdul Halim
For other BASKL Cover Star stories check out the links below: