Indie band Madboy/Mink on drugs, films, and films on drugs | art and culture | Hindustan Times
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Indie band Madboy/Mink on drugs, films, and films on drugs

Imaad Shah and Saba Azad open up about ‘stoner films’, and the global marijuana-legalisation debate

HT48HRS_Special Updated: Jul 02, 2016 17:34 IST
Arundhati Chatterjee
Imaad Shah and Saba Azad open up about ‘stoner films’, and the global marijuana-legalisation debate.
Imaad Shah and Saba Azad open up about ‘stoner films’, and the global marijuana-legalisation debate.

It is not easy to reach Imaad Shah (29) and Saba Azad (23), the duo that makes up the indie alternative band, Madboy/Mink.

We want to meet them, but they’re travelling. We want to get them together on a call, but they can’t do it. “They’re celebrities; you know how it is,” we’re told at one point. After four days, we scrap the interview. Then, there’s a text saying they’re back on. We have a call scheduled for 4.30pm, which gets pushed twice more. Finally, at 7pm, they manage to get on a phone, together, from Delhi, where they’ve just wrapped up a gig at Haus Khas Complex.

They say they are genuinely busy: Azad is acting in a web series, Ladies Room, while Shah is preparing for the release of his film, M Cream (opening August 10). It is being touted as “India’s first stoner film”. The tag annoys Shah, though. “There’s more to the film than just cannabis users”.

It was really difficult getting in touch with you…

Imaad Shah: I know. Sorry about that. We are in Delhi and it was really hectic.

Saba Azad: It was quite a busy day. And I’m a bit under the weather.

It seems there’s more on your plate besides Madboy/Mink. There’s Ladies Room and M Cream...

SA: I come from a theatre family. So acting was always part of my life. I was also part of Janam Natya Manch, one of the oldest street theatre groups in Delhi. But acting on the web is new. And the internet is such a fantastic medium, even for our music. You go to places like Nagpur and Bhopal, where you don’t think people will know you, and realise that they, in fact, do follow home-grown music.

IS: I think the internet has had a positive as well as a negative impact. For instance, for independent musicians, the internet has made the process of releasing music more democratic.

SA: The old-school concept of record labels is over. There’s a more direct relationship with the audience. We were surprised to find that people in Greenland, Belgium and Australia listen to our music.

IS: Yes, some in Czech Republic too.

The internet also leaves no room for censorship…

IS: Actually, I feel that artists, especially in mainstream media, exercise a lot of self-censorship. Most of them are afraid that the content may not be accepted. So they start censoring their work from the word go.

Have you done that too?

IS: As a musician, no. But as an actor, in a couple of films, where I had sex scenes, I did feel that someone might decide to hack it, and it would end up affecting the plot. To me, the CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification) has always seemed like a far-away body.

SA: It is supposed to be a certifying body. In recent times, it has become something else.

Imaad’s next, M Cream, is being called “a stoner movie”. Has it run into trouble with the CBFC?

IS: We were scared that it might. But there have only been a couple of minor changes, I hear [it was appproved by Leela Samson’s Board in 2014]. And that’s good, because the film can now reach a wider audience. Though, I’d like to clarify that calling it a stoner film is kind of limiting.

SA: Yes, I don’t think it’s right to call it any particular kind of film. Most films stand alone as individual stories. For example, I loved Pineapple Express [2008; it has drugs, action, comedy]. It transcends genres.

IS: I think it’s a universal movie centred on marijuana smoking. The target audience is not restricted to cannabis users. I feel the concept of a ‘stoner film’ is still being defined and hasn’t been explored as much because cannabis is frowned upon strongly. But that attitude is changing. Across the world, people are waking up to the fact that demonising cannabis is pointless.

It is ironic that the USA was one of the first countries to ban and demonise the use of cannabis in the ’60s. Because now, they are also one of the agents of change. Let’s hope we follow suit, because we do what America does, mostly (laughs).

SA: It’s essential to note that there are other uses of marijuana, that go beyond smoking up. The hemp is extensively used in artificial fibres.

IS: On some level, maybe there’s also fear that hemp will affect the cotton industry.

There has been a long association of drugs and music. Have you guys, while making music, experimented with substance?

IS: (Laughs) Well, over the years, we’ve had different ways of making music. Everybody does it differently. But yes, there are artists who are public proponents of legalising cannabis. And because a couple of people died young due to drug abuse doesn’t mean you should generalise. At the end of the day, it’s a plant. It’s organic.

With all the film commitments, what happens to Madboy/Mink?

SA: Both of us are actors and artists individually. Along with the band, we’re involved in acting, dance and even film-making.

IS: We do plan to work on films together someday. That’s the grand plan. As of now, Madboy/Mink still takes up a lot of our time. We also produce music for films in our individual capacity. Saba sings a lot. I work on the music direction bit.

SA: We worked as Madboy/Mink with Dibakar [Banerjee, director, for Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!; 2015]. He allowed us to retain the song [Calcutta Kiss] as it was.

IS: When it comes to the band, it’s all about our creative freedom and sound.

Don’t miss

Madboy/Mink will perform at the Budweiser MADE Stage on July 2, 9pm onward

Where: Todi Mill Social, Mathuradas Mill Compound, Lower Parel; Call: 6511 0361