Filmmaker Anubhav Sinha’s life story could well be out of a Bollywood film. Raised in Allahabad and having studied in Benares (now Varanasi), young Anubhav led a life his small town upbringing taught him to — like every good middle-class boy, he pursued engineering — until he realised that it wasn’t the life he wanted. He followed his heart, came to Mumbai. He made a mark as one of the best music video directors, before venturing into films.
The director of India’s most hyped superhero flick — RA.One (2011), Anubhav has now come full circle by doing his bit to promote indie non-film music through his newest initiative, Benares Beat.
The online music platform, which recently released a single featuring Bappi Lahiri and Jazzy B, plans to bring together musicians from diverse backgrounds. Anubhav talks about this project and the need to revive forgotten music forms among the youth.
Tell us more about the concept of Benaras Beat.
I love making music as well as making films, but there’s a whole lot of music that can’t go into movies. I’ve been working on the marketing aspect and planning how to take this music to the people. So I launched a YouTube channel (Benaras Media Works). Right now, I’m working on one with Shillong Chamber Choir. It’s a Sufi-choral collaboration. We are in the process of recording it and also planning a video for it.
Which are the other artistes you are working with?
I can’t say that right now because I don’t have all that on paper. But yes, there’s an English rap artiste, who’s teaming up with a traditional singer on a song that features rap as well as bandish. This has never been done before. I am also partnering with other music labels to market this project. So, maybe, you will see some of the music on television also. I will do my best in terms of outdoor promotions.
With more and more experimental/fusion music shows on TV and bands coming up, do you feel the environment is more conducive to such initiatives now than before?
I feel Indians are very musically inclined. There’s a song for every occasion in every culture in our country. I think it’s a myth that we only relate to Bollywood music. Today, people are more open to experimentation. I am in talks with some serious traditional musicians who have never collaborated. When I proposed the idea to them, they were very welcoming. The idea is to make traditional and folk music more accessible to the youth. The younger generation isn’t really aware of forms like kajri and thumri. But every time you have added some element of Bollywood to it, it has worked.
With the kind of newfound interest we are showing in folk and the exotic outlook towards it, don’t you feel we urban Indians are disconnected from our roots?
It’s a tragedy. Our own culture has become exotic for us. We’ve grown way too far from our roots. Folk music is very fascinating and diverse. Unfortunately, today’s generation doesn’t relate to it. I’ve grown up on Kabir, but my son doesn’t know of him. For him, Kabir is only a part of Hindi textbooks. But if I bring Kabir to him in the form of rock, it’ll become exotic for him.
Your upcoming film Gulaab Gang is attracting a lot of attention because it stars both Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla? Was it a conscious decision to have them together?
That was never the idea. We didn’t do it because we wanted to bring them together. Juhi was cast first, then we were thinking of a surprise cast for a part, and that’s how Madhuri came into the scene. They’re magical. The first time I saw them together on the set, I walked up to them and got a picture clicked with them.
Tell us about the film’s music.
The director — Soumik Sen — has worked on the music. It is lyrical, earthy but at the same time, modern. It has a very cohesive sound.