People combing their hair into neat partings, adding a ribbon to ponytails, packing a school bag and leaving the house – this is how the video of Bengaluru-based folk rock band Swarathma’s new song, Beta Sweater Pehno, begins. All the band members – from age 28 to 42, are dressed up in white school uniforms. Violinist Sanjeev Nayak (42) and vocalist Vasu Dixit (36) keep their flowing beards intact, and Dixit even wears a skirt.
The result is comic, but the treatment of the sepia-tinged video is melancholic. The members wear morose expressions as they go about a regular day in school. The song talks about parental and institutional pressure and expectations that children face, and the effect it has on their psychology. It also talks about how teenagers are forced to follow societal norms.
Bass guitarist Jishnu Dasgupta (38) says, “Growing up, my experiences were pretty much like those of every other middle-class Indian family. There was always pressure to perform academically. But don’t get us wrong. We’re not against parents. It’s just that sometimes, though you want the best for your child, the way you end up making it happen doesn’t always work well.” It is the sense of isolation that follows, that is highlighted in the song. “I sometimes feel the parents are under way more pressure than the kids are,” Dasgupta adds.
Dixit came up with the idea for the video while jamming on the song. “Comedy and sarcasm come naturally to me. So much so, that my friends are usually careful about what they say around me, because you never know how I’ll twist their words and make fun of them,” he says.
The shoot of the video, too, was not without its share of humour. Originally, they had planned to show the band members on a see-saw. “It was clearly designed to take the weight of young children, and not some food-loving band members. When Milan [drummer Joel Milan Baptist] and I (perhaps the heaviest two in the band) tried it, we had to stop shooting because the see-saw lever started to bend as it could not take our combined weight,” Nayak recalls.
In another shot, where he had to miss a shot while playing badminton, being a decent badminton player meant he had do a few dozen retakes before he managed to miss the shuttle.
This isn’t the first time that Swarathma has come up with songs that give a social message. Their song Topiwalleh spoke against corruption in politics, while Main Unme Se Nahi Hoon dealt with society’s attitude towards those with mental health issues. However, guitarist Varun Murali (28) says they don’t want to be tagged as a band that highlights social causes. “While it feels good, it was not a conscious decision to write songs that speak about causes or support them. It has been a natural expression,” he states.