Taal Inc. is a movement in Pune and India, of rhythm and sounds making giant stride that hasn’t left anyone passionate by music untouched as it sashayed into our lives. It bears the mark and signature style of its architect Varun Venkit who cannot be confined to a single genre. The Pune-based versatile artist, passionate singer and a maven at drums, rhythm and the world of music wearing art on his sleeve performed in front of someone no less than the former First lady of the United States Michelle Obama who garnered praise on him. Among his star-studded audience are former Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel and Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi. The man who has been part of the rock band Agnee and creator of Taal Inc. wears several hats, the latest being bringing Djembe within India’s reach, representing the largest Djembe school globally, TTMDA. Varun Venkit is a tale of extraordinary belief has through the dint of hard work, relentless spirit and seamless talent made Taal Inc. a brand not just in India and worldwide in leading the way. Musician, Psychologist, Drum Facilitator, NLP practitioner and percussionist, there is so much about this alumnus of Fergusson College in Pune and my batchmate who is an inspiration to many among this young generation by making art accessible to one and all.
Drum and guitar seem to be an inspiration at home which armed you with the strong belief that rhythm and psychology make Genesis. How would you define your love for drums and how it all started?
My love for drums is synonymous to my love for life or my love for food (and that’s saying a lot!) There was always music around me as I grew up. Listening, singing, dancing … This was how we spent our recreational evenings. I absorbed a lot of the music, fun and frolic that surrounded it and this is what gave birth to the inspiration and realization that rhythm is everywhere. Rhythm is within. We needed an avenue to bring it out. I started off as a drummer in various bands and eventually started this concept of Taal Inc.; which would bring music to the people in an open, non-judgemental, recreational and self-expression forum. My first drum circle was when I was 15 and working with 16 year-olds where my message was: ’embracing the fears and challenges of leaving school’ … I never looked back after this…
Drumming, psychologist, NLP practitioner, percussionist and drum circle facilitator show that there is not one creative aspect that you haven’t touched. How was Taal Inc. which one can term as your pet project, started and how do you see the interest of young India for everything drumming?
Taal Inc. Is an organization that works in the area of arts and health; positively influencing people’s lives using rhythm, music and the arts. Taal Inc. Started off as a band that made its first live appearance in 2006 at what was then, ‘Soul Avenue’, ABC farms. I wanted to take the next step forward and bring this joy of recreational music making to the people; from various backgrounds, predispositions… to all.
I was joined by my best friend and partner in rhythm, Janak Vadgama and Solonie Singh Pathania. The two of them helped me focus on drumming and content building while they took care of the business end of things. Setting a strong corporate structure to an idea that is new, art-based and unique was not an easy task but they were up for the challenge. Later we were joined by Dr. Anand Godse, who brought with him, his love and expertise for yoga, philosophy and industrial psychology. This worked perfectly as Solonie took the next steps in her professional life. What started off as a 3/4 member team is today, a 30 member team working with all strata of society, providing rhythm based experiences for education, self-expression and healing. Hence what Taal Inc. represents is excellence, passion and the notion that anything is possible when one possesses a strong will.
It’s been quite some time since Taal Inc. has been teaching drumming in various parts of Pune and India with a staggering number of 85,000+ to drum circles. It seems that you are set for a drum revolution and how does drum helps one not only physically and mentally but also to remove human prejudices that humans often have?
Taal Inc. has drummed with more than 100,000 people (and counting)… the benefits of drumming are manifold. Apart from facilitating blood circulation to giving a feeling of ‘here and now’s to its participants, group drumming is one of the only forums that brings people from all walks of life together; regardless of age, caste, sex, economic background, mental and physical ability. This is the magic of Taal Inc and group drumming or, drum circles. To sum it up in one sentence: Where language fails, music prevails…
How would you define drumming in Pune and would you say that as an architect of drumming, the city is emerging as a hub for everything rhythmic and Taal Inc?
Pune has always been a city that loves and supports art. This has been a strong factor that helped us thrive in Pune and now, in many cities in India. There’s a lot of drumming here… dhol and tasha during the Ganpati festivals to some amazing virtuosos of the tabla, dholak and dholki. Today, we’re very proud to say that many have heard of Taal Inc and/or been a part of a community drum circle which we organize on the third weekend of every month.
You boast of an incredible achievement with 800 drum circles as a facilitator and still counting, inculcating the art of teaching underprivileged children and was it the biggest moment in your rich career where Michelle Obama stood impressed watching. Can you share the words of praise she doled on you?
Having Michelle Obama as a part of the drum circle has truly been the highlight of my career. She congratulated me for the good work and asked me, keep drumming. I unequivocally agreed with a smitten smile plastered across my face.
Apart from this, we’ve drummed with the ex-Chief Minister of Gujarat Smt. Anandiben Patel and played for the gathering of Japanese Prime Minister Mr. Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Sri. Narendra Modi… All memories that I’ll cherish forever.
You are the first Indian to be honored as TTM Certified Professor for your achievement in Djembe. When was the first time you explored Djembe and can it be defined as a pure art form of expression?
Yes. I also recently got my diploma and became a senior certified teacher with TTMDA. My Guru, Mamady Keita is a grandmaster of the djembe and started TTMDA; which is the largest school of djembe in the world. I’m proud to represent him in India. TTM represents Mandingue culture; traditional West African culture. Every rhythm taught has a story and social relevance. Rhythm in Guinea is synonymous to life. The Mandingue is the birthplace of the djembe. Taal Inc is India’s first school for the traditional djembe. And this is the spirit of what we radiate through our work whether it is a djembe class or a recreational drum circle.
How does drumming work as a form of therapy and healing people, since you hail from a Psychology background?
The first thing is that everybody can drum. There is rhythm in each and every one of us. A drum circle helps to truly understand this. No matter whether I’m old and think I can’t play, I can. This feeling of being a part of something bigger than the self is what automatically makes Taal Inc drum circles so attractive to the participants. After the initial one, there is a lingering rhythm that one is left with and that keeps one in good company. What a happy and relaxed tribe we would be if we could constantly access and remind ourselves of our inner rhythm… This is what we offer through our services. Drumming helps us clear our conscious minds and access a deeper potential of our own selves. It helps us to be in the here and now. This is what makes drumming therapeutic.
You have recently performed with Agnee and how was it getting back with the band which you were a part for three years? So, far how has rock changed and shaped on the scene?
It’s a great feeling to get back on the saddle with Agnee. I have grown up listening to this music and continuing my journey with them. I hope to be a part of many more gigs, on amazing stages. Agnee has managed to keep the flag waving high and strong and has a good long life ahead of it. Here to rocking out with them!
Can you share a bit about the inner rhythm workshop and for whom it is targeted at-individuals, college-going crowd or corporate, the extent to which it can harmonize minds to increase productivity or awareness, for that matter?
Taal Inc’s Find Your Inner Rhythm workshop is a weekend rhythm retreat, a musical therapeutic spa of sorts. We offer people cutting across all ages and backgrounds an opportunity to connect with their inner rhythm through this two-day journey. This workshop is for anyone with an interest in music and its therapeutic, healing properties. Whether you are a counselor, a corporate trainer, a school teacher, or a social worker…The value of recreational music making with groups helps bring out the best in them. And to bring out the best in a group one must be able to tap into that repertoire in the self. This is what Taal Inc’s Find Your Inner Rhythm workshop offers to one and all.
It’s been a long journey for you right from your Agnee days to performing during the college fest Oorja at Fergusson and emerging as a successful entrepreneur for Taal Incl. How do you look back at your incredible creative journey and the future projects that you have in mind?
The journey has been amazing for sure… There has been learning, challenges, celebrations, achievements and more. I have had the pleasure of wearing many caps through this. That of performer, facilitator, teacher, researcher and trainer…
Taal Inc has drum circles for corporates, weddings, colleges, private gatherings and special get-togethers. We’ve launched new corporate training programs called Drum Talks and ExChange. We offer traditional djembe classes in Pune, Mumbai and are training many more teachers all over the country. For kids, we have a co/extracurricular module called Kids In Rhythm to impart the value of life skills through music and rhythm. For our specially abled population, we have a program called Art Talks, that is routed through Flow (our section 8/ not for profit company) & finally, Find Your Inner Rhythm workshops designed for anyone willing to experience healing aspects of rhythm and who would like to learn how to use rhythm with groups. As we repeatedly say, give us a group and we’ll have them drumming and learning in a matter of minutes.
Personally, there’s going to be some fun musical collaborations that I’ll be announcing soon. Very excited to continue exploring this journey of finding my inner rhythm and also be a mirror for those around me.
Now I look forward to developing these further so that all of these caps metamorphize into our motto: #ComeDrumBeOne
Once upon a time in Wonderland, lived a dork and a rimmed spectacle beast infatuated by the Cinderella beauty who oozed charm and sensuality. He waited for the day to seduce with chocolate, red roses, and mushy card to win her heart. The testosterone level rose higher and the body temperature level soared feverishly. He was convinced it was his chance to go for the kill. Valentine Day lurked closer to shuffle his card and play smart, believing that the beauty will bite the bait.
He waited for one whole year to propose and after all, don’t they say flower fragrance makes us loyal lovers. The euphoria died and the beauty slipped away from his hand. The flowers, chocolates, and heart-shaped card sashayed its way on Insta, Facebook, and Twitter. The male gaze counts the petal while the female heart longs for the prince charming riding high on the horse to steal her away. Our missed hero’s dreams went into tatters.
Luv shuv slipping behind the imaginary bed sheet and the mind became an enemy on the world’s Valentine Day. All roses sold like hot pancakes and no country too big to run away from lovers recovering from amnesia. Suddenly, we were in love with Valentine’s love toast and notes pe charcha poster boy, Nirav Modi who swept us off our feet and suddenly disappearing into the hole. Our Nirav Baba is the toast of the season, running away with the crores to make our Valentine yaadgar. We have just recovered from Valentine as if some bird flu made a silly comeback and offering company between the legs. Oops! Whose legs are shaved this Valentine Day and the priceless gift of Vaseline cream becoming balm to our broken hearts? Who has got this crazy idea of forking apna sapna money money to make a hole in the pocket…naughty mind I said pocket hole not some other hole! Nobody does Valentine like this Nirav man who has nicely got away with all the crores while we emptied our dime and cents to woo lady Valentine. He is the new teddy bear in town. Ever ready to give Nirav Modi a bear hug selfie to post on social media with Happy Valentine and professing love ke liye kuch bhi karega!
Our beast is nursing his misfortune. He could have impersonated this Modi chap to win over her beauty. She could have found him sensitive. So what he is ugly! After all, she could have been the valentine in exchange for crores. No lover is cheap, after all. They could have sung the duet, mein ladki Po Po Tu Ladka Po Po doing a velfie dance on Facebook. Inspiring love! What say!
Valentine Day is all about hope and kicks in the bum to send aspiring lovers’ adrenaline rushing on spotting a tiny estrogen. Wait! Chai per charcha! Mann ki baat! Hell! No Valentine pe Charcha! Our PM could have turned into love guru and all mitrons making a beeline, listening to his speech on how to seduce on Valentine Day and demonetize love. So many love stories would be churned by cross-dressing and cross legging a la Baba Ramdev in splitting position. The various sex asanas on V-Day would make unfortunate and ugly duckling like us sip the solo wine and wait for her to pull back the streaky hair with a smile and invite us to heavenly bliss. Why should women have all the fun on V-Day while we men can show our cleanly shaven legs wearing the RSS Khaki shorts, parading our assets in the name of love and flowers?
Now, I badly need a date after being women dutch for years! Single just doesn’t pay. I am really believing in God Valentine now for sending Priya Varrier’s viral teasing smile to win over my heart. Valentine Day has reignited hope in my heart. If Priya Varrier’s winks can, why can’t I? Valentine is over. Sniff! Sniff! Now delete all those mushy smooches, kiss in the air, declaration of love for Sunny Leone is passe and our Priya (tamma) Varrier is in. Never ever underestimate a Valentine smile, I tell you. Almost died of diabetes on Valentine with so much sugary love spread all over the place like Naan butter quenching my hunger for love. A matter of wink, Modi, and Valentine pe Charcha after all. I hate Valentine Day! No promise me Shiv Sena, Karni Sena and Bajrang Dal you won’t break my legs for I am no lass.
I am lazing around. Sitting still and idle is very therapeutic. There is no compulsion of doing the running around, working round the clock, preparing interviews and pitch for the client’s deadline or scribbling in the agenda diary. Life is a race, we are often told. Every day is sheer madness in running against time and obsessively trying to wrap up things for work never ends. We are caught in a seamless and entangled web where the adage, ‘Tomorrow never comes’ holds true for us.
The pressure is relieved today and a choice to take things easy. We all need this one day in life. This week, there were two public holidays, one on Tuesday for Maha Shivratree and today, Spring festival. I worked on Tuesday from home, sorting the client’s weekly newsletter and reading cum gathering for the corporate’s magazine where the deadline is fast approaching. At times, I don’t know where to put the head and choose to give myself an off today. We all need to slow down to figure things out.
At times, I wonder what social media is turning us into, the over obsessive who doesn’t shy in posting selfies every nano-second and showering our Valentine love going all over the place. The world just went gaga, crazy and weird to an irritating level on Valentine Day. It irked me to see so much of love splaying like virus in the atmosphere. It’s such a fake world we live in and we wouldn’t leave our smartphones to check notifications. It makes me wonder about the definition of happy individuals or healthy couples needing social media validation. I am also guilty of constantly checking notifications on the phone and high time to do some soul-searching, albeit cutting the phone chord momentarily.
What has happened to genuine human bonding and interaction where we would pick up the phone to call our loved ones? Zilch! One can count on the fingers the number of times we actually indulge in quality conversation with real people rather than being enslaved to gadgets or a life controlled with the daily stress of work which is stripping us of our real emotions. I feel that every week, we must choose a day to be with ourselves, chucking out the pressure of doing better than the self or the world, learning to take things easy and not doing anything. Just be with the self in a state of awareness. Breathe fresh air and meditate.
I connected with a friend on WhatsApp just now, R who was a classmate at Fergusson College and speaking after a decade-plus which feels like crisp and beautiful memories. We both agreed. At times, I am amazed how technology ushered in our lives and there was a time when we would send messages on SMS and nothing on earth would lead us to believe that one day, something like WhatsApp would make us connect again. The college friends are bliss and pure blessing for me and can’t even imagine life without the people who played such an incredible part in making me who I am today. I love such surprises for there is a hidden meaning that the extraordinary will soon unfurl. Hidden surprises have always been part of my life.
Now that what one calls a fulfilling and productive day in life without doing anything. I started reading Rishi Kapoor’s Khullam Khulla and like the book’s title suggest with the tagline uncensored or the initial pages, no stone or controversies would be left untouched right from personal things into his childhood days or his father, the iconic Raj Kapoor Sahab. It makes for a spicy read on the brash kid that he was and the book is a candid take on the lives of the Kapoor or the biggest showman’s offscreen romance with Vijayantimala and Nargis.
The weather been very hot today and sweated it out by doing 30 minutes of yoga to keep one healthy and fit. Yoga has brought me closer to my inner self and bringing so much peace, harmony and tranquility.
Shall be back to the grind tomorrow. I know it’s a Saturday but there is work that needs to be fleshed out and appointment sorted out before hitting the road in full gear next week. Time to accelerate things since I really hate the last minute rush that puts so much pressure on the head. I shall come with a fresh episode for Pune Memoirs super soon.
At a time when we should be celebrating the achievements of women in society who battle against all odds in both urban India or rural countryside, it is a human tragedy that we are nurturing prejudices on something as natural as menstruation. Women cutting across social class face enormous discrimination when it comes to periods on the part of so-called learned religious scholars, families or obsolete patriarchal norms that reingineer guilt and shame to a unique human biological aspect.
R Balki’s Padman not only carries a powerful message to chuck out all prejudices about menstruation but also seek to educate the masses that there is no shame, guilt or ostracization for women to go through this cycle and in using sanitary pads. The film surprisingly starts at a slow pace but more than the narrative, it is the inherently strong message sent by the maker and the lead actors which successfully makes the cut. In short, the real star in Padman is the message conveyed to flush out social ostracization in celebrating a woman in her unique firm which makes the film a winner.
There is no denying the fact that in stark villages and even cities for that matter, women going through menstruation suffers a huge deal of discrimination and are regarded as dirty. Akshay Kumar plays the real-life hero, Arunachalam Muruganantham the man credited for making low-cost sanitary pads for women and quite surprisingly, the star underplays himself in this natural act and at no point, he tries to rise above the script. He slips easily into the role of the village bumpkin and large-hearted man with utmost ease shining in several scenes, helmed expertly by R Balki. As Lakshmikant Chauhan, Akshay Kumar portrays a sensitive man who loves his wife Gayatri dearly but is also sensitive to the cause of women.
I have always believed that among the young crop of actors, Radhika Apte is one of the finest we have in the Indian film industry and as Gayatri, she is simply terrific playing the conservative ‘village belle’ who is ashamed to use a healthy pad at the cost of her health because ‘auraton ke liye sabse badi beemari hai sharam.’ As Gayatri, Radhika lends credence to the character and dons the submissive, naive women to perfection who has one argument to thwart her husband’s effort, ‘You don’t interfere in women’s matters.’ Given that she has relatively few scenes in the movie, Radhika holds her own forte and sparkles in several emotional scenes and particularly the ones where she breaks down.
Sonam Kapoor makes an entry post-interval where she plays the modern, chic and urban Delhi girl with perfection injecting freshness in the film. She simply owns every frame in donning a character so close to what she probably is in real life and does full justice to it. Sonam gets the best lines and gives a fitting reply to Akshay Kumar in every scene. It’s her best performance after the hard-hitting and memorable Neerja. So many of us will be fida over Sonam.
Stand out scenes:
There are several stand out scenes in Padman, particularly the ones where Akshay Kumar speaking in an accent-laden with broken English during the UN speech in America or the instance when he explains the sanitary pad machine to visitors through both sign language and broken English. Secondly, the scene where he wears a pink female underwear, a risk that very few actors with his superstar status would be willing to take and attaching an animal blood pouch, not only touches hearts but packs a punch.
The romance between Akshay Kumar and Sonam Kapoor was unnecessary and hard to imagine someone of the calibre of R. Balki to indulge in such a cliche. It is not only forced but works against the film’s spirit. Of course, there are several moments in the narration which is slow and tedious, particularly the start and post interval moments that make the flick, at times, look like a documentary.
R. Balki’s Padman is an honest effort in portraying the sensitive issue of menstrual health and tackling shame or nurtured prejudices that women are subject to in our society. The director has successfully pulled all strings together in weaving the thought-provoking message, beautifully marrying reality and mass entertainment as well as extracting brilliant performances from its lead cast. Of course, the maker pays a fitting tribute to Amitabh Bachchan in the cameo where he not only plays himself but lends dignity and charm. The megastar is debonair personified. The cameo fits beautifully with the film’s theme. Padman is a must watch and should be lauded as a very honest effort in creating awareness, educate and break the taboo on this sensitive issue that afflicts women.
The song Garam Chaha is a unique concept, conceptualized by singer Aashish Vilekar and award-winning filmmaker Sankalp Meshram who speaks to us about what went behind the scenes into the making of the video. Sung by Aashish Vilekar and Shruti Bhave, directed by Sankalp Meshram, Garam Chahe is a Marathi song produced by Audumbar Arts and released by Zee Marathi which has been garnering rave reviews since its release. Welcome to the duo Aashish Vilekar and Sankalp Meshram giving us a peek on what went behind the scenes during the making of the video.
Freshly minted tea leaves and brewed flavor not only offers a ubiquitous feeling to beat the Mumbai blues, albeit India but to wade through the sweltering heat. Chai or Garam Chaha in Maharashtra is eponymous with emotions and identity for the masses. It equates minimalist with maximalist, a juxtaposition of tea and emotions. So Mumbai, so India! To constantly live on the edge and bearing a contrasting simplicity to quench our emotional thirst with tea. Just imagine for one day that our quest for Garam Chaha is relegated to dreams and ruins of the past where our favorite beverage would mysteriously flicker in the air. Can you imagine tea or Chaha to go out of our lives?
Tea is simply banned from our lives. Yes! You read it well. It’s the message behind the Marathi song ‘Garam Chaha’ produced by Audumbar Arts and released by Zee Marathi, beautifully crooned by the multi-faceted Aashish Vilekar and talented Shruti Bhave, languishing on the dearth of tea in our lives. The video has been shot aesthetically by the award-winning editor and director, Sankalp Meshram.
Today, we feature on the blog the duo behind the making of Garam Chaha Aashish Vilekar who lent his voice and director Sankalp Meshram, two creative souls bound by mutual admiration, having a long creative association but also started their career at more or less the same time.
As its name implies, Garam Chaha swept through the vistas of Indian cities and showcases a concept tapping into the pulse of middle-class India. Aashish Vilekar terms the concept behind Garam Chaha as simple and multi-layered at the same time. “It is the ignition and inspiration we all need for it represents a slice into the life of middle-class India. It is the moment we soothe, share and breathe free over a cup of tea. Chaha is the commoner’s drink which inspires us, the artists, a perfect, simple and sweet companion. A taste that inspires the promise of a release which is not catharsis but a creation,” he says.
Music became the calling card of Aashish Vilekar not by pure accident but laden with deep symbolism. He narrates: “One early winter morning in 1983 was the first time a beautiful pattern of melody and verses was heard and I found myself humming simultaneously from within while sipping my favorite tea. The time my inner voice gently stroke touched the soul that I can compose a song. Time has flitted but I continue to compose songs and pen the lyrics for them.”
Award-winning editor and director Sankalp Meshram who won several national and international awards as well as being a visiting faculty at Whistling Woods International reveals that the making of the concept was initially planned to revolve around a simple story telling the tale of a group of art students who are out on a day trip doing landscaping painting led by their professor that would be played by Aashish Vilekar.
He explains: “The concept was about students somehow finding it difficult to get tea on their way, feeling listless and uninspired without India’s favorite beverage. It wasn’t a bad idea on paper but I felt that something wasn’t clicking. Somehow, the idea was incomplete for we know that in India, there is no dearth of tea.”
Brainstorming with the self and the FTII alumni asked himself, how realistically anyone would accept the premise of being unable to get tea. The director shared how the creative team doggedly kept working earnestly on the idea, planning the shoot and shot division before going for the final kill.
“We were a fortnight into the project and suddenly during the dead of the night at 1 a.m, this totally crazy idea flashed inside my brain. The kids couldn’t get any tea to drink for the simple reason that it was banned in the country!!!”
The big idea struck Meshram like the big bang theory perhaps. “I called Aashish ( Vilekar) at 1.30 a.m to share this idea and poor guy was so groggy at first but it didn’t take him long to understand the new angle. He was ready to incorporate the same,” he says. The director makes no bone about his admiration and perks of working with Aashish Vilekar, saying, “It’s one of the greatest payoffs for Aashish is very sharp at grasping a new idea and has the courage to fly with it. It’s his conviction which allowed the song to become what it is today. We were both kicked off with this idea and convinced that it would arm Garam Chaha with a strong narrative that we were looking for.”
For Meshram, the idea germinated beautifully on two counts. Firstly, it solved the problem of realism to give their story the correct futuristic and dystopic background, allowing the fantasy plot to become believable. Secondly, the song lingered on the contemporary and garnered the excitement. He says, “The concept became a slight comment at the season of narrow-minded politics where various ‘Bans’ became order of the day. We showed through the song that in some absurd Kafkaesque way that drinking tea has been banned. The music video portrays a day in the life of this art professor taking the kids on a study tour and just cannot find a single drop of tea. Or, perhaps, he imagines everything.”
Garam Chaha is touted as the comeback song of Aashish Vilekar after almost a year. Aashish defines the concept which is a sort of rebellion brewing with a dash of sweetness and Kadak that has seeped into the life of every Mumbaikar coupled with the song giving a feel of vibrant Maharashtra’s culture.
“Love alone is the most rebellious thing on this planet. I strongly oppose the idea of ‘Rebellion means being loud’ and it may be seen through the lens of scholars cum intellectuals. In my book, love can be sweet and kadak at the same time.”
Both Aashish Vilekar and Sankalp Meshram profess an undiluted admiration for each other and a friendship that has been going strong for more than 25 years where they started their journey together from Nagpur. It wouldn’t be wrong to call it a collaborative friendship that evokes awe and admiration at the same time looking at their career highs. The director harks back to those days, “From Nagpur, Aashish (Vilekar) went into art, music, and poetry while I ventured into films. Our friendship went through the ups and downs but we were able to churn some brilliantly creative collaborations and case in point is Aashish along with Shailesh Dane composed the music for my feature film, ‘Chutkan Ki Mahabharat’. The film bagged the National Award for Best Children’s Film in 2005 where Aashish penned all the songs and since then, following this brilliant, multifaceted career where he always keeps me in the loop about what he’s being up to.”
Garam Chaha first happened to Sankalp Meshram when one day his close friend Aashish Vilekar dropped to his house. “He casually played this new song that he has just recorded which captured my attention with the wonderfully catchy tune and soulful lyrics. I was simply blown away. I conveyed the same to him. When Aashish told me that there are plans for a music video, I told him that the song has seamless creative possibilities and I would be happy to assist him in any way I could.”
Meshram shares the grapevines: “There was a certain hesitation on his part in asking me to work with him in a direct professional capacity since he correctly guessed that I would busy with my mainstream assignments. The only thing that he requested to me was to look at the editing aspect of the music video and to offer my inputs on the same. I felt a strong connection to the song and acceded to his request on the spot.”
The idea of Sankalp Meshram filming the video happened during the rough edit which Aashish Vilekar did with his ‘very promising bunch of JJ college kids.’ Meshram who lauded the wonderful editing and shoot by the JJ School of Arts students said that along with his friend, they felt something was amiss, the story and a certain narrative idea that should be embedded in the song. “We agreed that the work requires some re-thinking and reshooting. I vividly remember that the decision to direct the video was an impulsive one and thankfully Aashish immediately agreed to my request. I also told him that Garam Chaha was a kick ass song which calls for an equally Kickass video. I cannot thank him enough for giving me the opportunity to work on this wonderful song that captures the senses. That’s how Garam Chaha happened to me,” Meshram tells.
Audumbar Arts’ Garam Chaha is garnering a terrific response from listeners and viewers alike which leads to Aashish Vilekar sharing some behind the scenes anecdotes. Firstly, he says, the song took birth while traveling through the serene hills of Sahyadri Mountain where he has this peculiar habit of humming words and composing a tune the same time that he writes.
“During the shoot, it dawned upon me that I was entering into the zone of abstracts as a painter where my narration may not show figuratively as a previously painted canvas but was turning more sensory”, Vilekar adds. Secondly, the all-rounder artist who wears several hats says that there is a transition in his own style which stayed with him for years coupled with transitions which are likely to be sensorial and simplistic.
On future projects on the anvil in both arts and music, he says, “The transition may create a newer possibility in the structure of my composition and painting, something which offers an aesthetic pleasure to both youth and maturity can give birth to something new.”
The medium of shooting a music video can differ from other genres such as feature and ad films where Meshram gives a first-hand account. He explains that the main distinction of shooting music or a playback sound lies in the fact that the source of one’s visual imagination is the soundtrack.
“The soundtrack is your master here which fits the context of visuals serving the master. As you allow yourself to respond to it, the soundtrack must be able to replicate images inside the head is the video that you visualize. Music can set fire to our brains which gets totally crazy coupled with weird imagery starting to pop up. The reason why music videos are cradle and laboratory for experimental film-making. There is a tremendous creative license to go berserk in music videos.”
The opposite was done while shooting for Garam Chaha where the makers didn’t allow themselves to go crazy. The visual style was restricted pretty much to a realistic grammar of visual treatment where the story unfolded in a proper linear time following the laws of cause and effect cum oriented spatiotemporal progression, Meshram explains.
He says: “It was a deliberate strategy as we were already dealing with a pretty absurd idea-something as benign as tea banned. I didn’t want the song to be visually absurd or crazy since there was a need to make our bizarre proposition not only accepted by everyone but believable at the same time. Straight-faced realism was the key for us to open up the black humor embedded in the song.”
Sound and crisp editing have always played an important role in film-making where many argued that being an editor is a stepping stone to become a director one day. Meshram says: “Everyone who attempted to make films knows that it’s during the editing that a film gets to be actually made. Having said this, one needs to understand that shooting a frame is a film-maker’s unpredictable contact with reality and sometimes the latter bends to our wishes while on other occasions, we have to bend. Everything is very unpredictable. A dose of reality has got its own way to surprise the best of us. The material which is recorded the time the image is acquired is filled with the mercurial nature of reality itself. All films are re-written and re-designed on the editing table. Editing is film-making.”
At the same time, he emphasizes on an important aspect implying that unless the director has understood the vast possibilities of its work during the shoot through enough ingredients, magic will not automatically happen.
“Without an iota of doubt, a deep and technical knowledge of editing really helps to hone their skills as a better director,” Meshram shares.
Aashish Vilekar is an all-rounder and versatile artist who has lent his voice to beautifully rendered Ghazals such as Ghar to Aakhir Ghar Hota Hai and the award-winning children movie, Chutkan ki Mahabharat’. Certainly, there is a force that makes him loaf the creative road and a force that drives him towards the creative pursuit. He says with a tinge of humility, “Frankly speaking, I am lesser known and the credit mentioned are negligible yet during the span of years, I have dedicated myself to the musical journey, something which keeps me going from strength-strength.
Aashish Vilekar says that he has kept away from the arc light but that didn’t deter him from being forever active with his creations and churning music, at times for others, like it was the case with the albums by Times Music and fountain. Being an advertising professional, he contributed 1800 plus radio commercials which serves as an incredible feat and a staggering record. A career milestone was reached, he says when Sankalp Meshram asked him to compose for his children’s film, ‘Chutkan ki Mahabharat’, a feeling that he cannot express in words. “Doing music for a full-length film is a tough task and that too for kids who are the most unpredictable lot. Sankalp had the inner faith in me and there was no way out but to prove to a friend who always supported and encouraged me. One thing that I love about him is how he puts a twist in the tale like in the story of Garam Chaha which was his idea. Sankalp has put his magical touch after seeing the rushes in the first shot that fired his imagination since he has always told how much he loved the song. That’s how Garam Chaha happened,” he says.
“The time I was away from singing was something I sorely missed because it was my mother’s gift to me and I know that she is watching me somewhere. I must keep this promise,” Vilekar says.
Aashish Vilekar career is filled with incredible achievement not just as a painter, poet, singer, lyricist or musician but also the fact that he is the Head of Photography at JJ School of Applied Arts in Mumbai. His paintings are often showcased at the Jehangir Art Gallery but he says with a whiff of humility that it’s all about his inner nature and whittles down to him being the creation of God. He explains, “I carefully observe myself with a critical eye so that my creations are not trapped in trends and influences.”
He rues the unfortunate trends and fashion-phobic mentality which is a real tragedy and a dampener to encourage artists in India. There is a dire need to give a shot in the arms to popularize art. Vilekar explains, “All platforms are crowded and the need to garner TRPs have become more important than the genuine promotion of artists. The sad fact is that people are most interested in sales. How can we promote art and create an artistically cultured society? There are platforms but to produce a song or painting calls for financial support and in the context or circumstance, a good melody may die before reaching its audience. A lofty thought expressed through the creative medium such as painting may never see the light of the day,” he explains.
Society is ever evolving and we are at the crossroad. Arts and music make the perfect blend offering sensory pleasure but this mixture must be understood properly for us to be able to achieve virtually art expression and give birth to better creations in future, Vilekar argues.
The need for aesthetic expression to revolutionize our thoughts and ring change is emboldened by the words of the art connoisseur. “Contrary to the perfect blend of art, demonstrative painting on live raga or music performance can be a gimmick and a shallow way of interacting between the two forms of arts. It’s not the interpretation of the text in another language but it is the way we think, understand, appreciate and react to weave pure art.”
He says, “Music is a catalyst in doing painting. Similarly, music and colors are catalysts to give shape to a song. Aesthetic experience is a mental blend and physical incarnation. The aesthetic experience that I express is bound to transcend from my own work of art to entertain and enthrall the audience’s allegory experience.”
Garam Chaha echoes a revolution which needs not be violent and the same thought is echoed in the appreciation of arts as a form of expression where the artist reiterates, “There are beautiful possibilities around us to alter orthodox concepts, patterns, and cliché thinking. Art is such a beautiful ambassador of peaceful pleasant revolutions,” Vilekar emphasizes.