Sanam: The inseparable fantastic four! #coverstars
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Sanam: The inseparable fantastic four! #coverstars

In 2011, four boys came together to form a band. Six years later, Sanam is India’s biggest band on YouTube with 2.5 million followers

brunch Updated: Sep 15, 2017 14:07 IST
Ananya Ghosh
Ananya Ghosh
Hindustan Times
#coverstars,sanam,sanam band
Sanam, the band, came together in 2011.(Shivangi Kulkarni)

Four like-minded guys who love singing came together to form a band in 2011. And today, six years on, Sanam Puri (Lead Vocals), Samar Puri (Lead Guitar and Vocals), Venky S or Venkat Subramaniyam (Bass Guitar and Vocals) and Keshav Dhanraj (Drums and Vocals), are still inseparable and their band that was the first band from India to cross 1 million subscribers on YouTube, is today the country’s biggest band on the digital platform with a 2.5 million strong fan following.

It was Venky who introduced the members to one another and it didn’t take them too long to decide the course of their lives thereafter. In 2011 they formed the band and started creating original songs. In between they would occasionally do covers of old Bollywood classics and at times even of the contemporary chartbusters. But the first one they recorded for Youtube was an original. It was in 2012. “Teri Aankhon Se was written much earlier by Samar for his ex-girlfriend. We rearranged it a bit and recorded it,” says Venky adding that their first song video was more of a DIY project.

“We wanted to make a video of it. But we didn’t have much money. So we got out friend Charu Datta Rane, a DOP, to shoot it. But again for editing, we faced the same problem. No one was willing to do it for the kind of money we could offer at that time. So, Samar actually learnt how to edit and edited the video,” Keshav elaborates.

The reaction was not even close to what they get today. Their new single Dil Kya Kare has crossed 1 million views within a week of its YouTube release. But, it was a start nonetheless and the reactions they got were positive. “We were brand new. We had no reach. Initially, we hardly got any views. Then we tagged all our friends and they started spreading the word,” says Samar. However, Venky reveals that although today when they go on rewind mode, it might seem that it was a slow start but at that point they were elated with whatever response they got. “To be honest, we had no idea that YouTube has such a reach and we never imagined that we will get this kind of popularity. “It was a song we loved and having grown up watching music videos, we wanted to do a video of this one once we recorded it. We wanted people to see it, and so we put it up on YouTube. We didn’t really expect much from it,” says Venky.”

“We wanted to make a video of it. But we didn’t have much money...Samar actually learnt how to edit and edited the video.”

“The reactions gave us the confidence that we are going in the right direction, and then there was no turning back!” adds Sanam who has done a few Bollywood songs without the band. “It was not the same. I was feeling very lonely and missing these guys,” he says. To this, Samar points out that to create an identity, today one needs to create his/her own unique sound and having a band always helps.

Since they were keen on bringing back the band culture, it was their manager Ben Thomas, who suggested they upload more and more songs so that it can double up as their portfolio. And it is then that they decided to do covers alongside coming up with originals. For their second video, they did a cover of Jee Le Zaraa, and it’s the covers of the retro classics like Lag Jaa Gale, Aap Ki Nazrone Ne Samjha, Mere Mehboob Qayamat Hogi, and Gulabi Aankhen that ensured their meteoric rise to fame, apart from their collective ‘cuteness’ factor which ensured that this interview had to be stopped multiple times to accommodate gushing teenagers turning up with selfie requests. Point this out and they behave like blushing brides, quickly trying to change the topic: “Do you know we had also done a Rabindrasangeet, Tumi Robe Nirobe, which went viral!” quips Sanam before admitting that the band was rather apprehensive to attempt the song. “Bongs can be harsh critics and then, we were attempting a Tagore song! We were damn scared of a backlash but thankfully, people loved it,” says Sanam who took help from a Bangladeshi friend who lives in Canada. “She helped me a lot with the song, especially the pronunciations,” he reveals, adding that the most important part about doing a successful cover is to get to the soul of the song and not drown the real essence with complicated music arrangements.

Ask them the secret behind their success, especially since India today does not have too many bands, and Venky says, “We knew making it big as a band will not be easy. But we really enjoy our time together, be it recording a song or doing stage shows.”

“In fact, I think our ‘success mantra’ is that we love what we do and who we do that with. We don’t really think of the reactions while we are recording a song. We enjoy the process and I think that reflects in the finished product. Even if our songs had not gone viral, I don’t think we would have stopped doing what we do, maybe it would have taken some more time,” adds Keshav.

The band has a very busy tour calendar and their live shows take them to countries like Maldives, Mauritius, Holland, Trinidad and even Israel. The Indian diaspora instantly connects with the band’s covers of old Bollywood songs. But now Sanam, the band, is planning to focus more on originals. “We want to reach 10 million subscribers!” quips Sanam.

The band now puts out two videos a month. “It is important to be consistently creative. While singing, I need to feel the song to emote. . If there is too much pressure to release a new song, I will not be able to give my 100 per cent. And the band understands this. To be honest, we don’t want to be greedy about numbers. In an attempt to get more subscribers we don’t want to mechanically churn out new songs. We are here because we enjoy it. It is our love for what we do that keeps us going, not the number of subscribers. That is a bonus!” says Sanam.

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First Published: Sep 15, 2017 14:07 IST