Music, classical or modern, cannot have hierarchies as is evident in director Anand Tiwari’s web series, Bandish Bandits, says Chahak Mittal
We have seen Bollywood pairing up opposites, who, despite different life struggles and aspirations, end up falling for each other. However, how often have those been united by music? Director Anand Tiwari’s forthcoming web series, Bandish Bandits, is one such example. Through two youngsters, Radhe (played by Ritwik Bhowmik), an aspiring Hindustani classical singer from the Rathod gharana of Jodhpur, and Tamanna (played by Shreya Chaudhry), a pop sensation from Mumbai, he aims to create a fusion of two music genres and bring people from two different cities who find their way into love.
Opposites attract. This has been a common leitmotif for love stories in films. Bandish Bandits brings musical opposites together to form a fusion. How did you conceptualise this?
The best stories happen when opposites attract even in real life. We wanted to have two young Indians from two completely different backgrounds interact with each other and fall in love because those parts will eventually lead to a great story. That is why we chose a classical music background for Radhe in Rajasthan and made Tamanna a singing sensation from the urban generation on YouTube. We did have to do serious research on music though.
Music has been used as a backdrop to bring two people closer in many films. How do you think this one is different?
Well, this is different because it involves generation Z, which has never been represented like this. We generally see love stories interwoven with internal conflicts, not external ones. In this series, they are actually going ahead with their ambitions, which, in turn, are going to clash. We have 10 parts to the series and each will map the trajectory of each character in far more detail than any film.
What does the title Bandish Bandits signify? Is there any underlying theme of robbery you want to highlight?
The title signifies the band that Tamanna and Radhe — the two protagonists — create. Bandish, which comes from the traditional musical gharanas, is a fixed, melodic composition in Hindustani vocal or instrumental music. Bandish in Urdu also means shackles (rukawat) or chains and restrictions. And bandits are dacoits, the outlaws — the people who don’t follow the norms. Hence, as per the title, these two kinds of people are going to make their band, different from anything else that is around them.
How challenging was it to create 10 episodes solely around music and combine it with drama in order to sustain the storyline?
It was very challenging for the writers. They had to take a lot of time to make sure that they found their balance. At no stage, could the music overpower the drama and at no stage, could the drama forget about the music. The world that we were creating and representing had to have both the elements at an equal level.
We had amazing people from the music industry helping us, namely Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Akshat Parikh, the latter a practitioner of the Pandit Jasraj school. All of them helped us getting the music right while we were making sure that the drama was on point.
Was this an attempt to emphasise the importance of two completely different music genres, especially among the millennials?
Well, these are actually Gen Z, who are younger than the millennials. I think India has always been a country of different value systems. It develops in different stages and at different places. These two people, too, represent two parts of India with their unique value systems, aspirations and ambitions. Radhe and Tamanna are hence going to be very standalone characters and also relatable at the same time for the young generation.
Rock music is popular among millennials. However, the classical music genre has fewer followers...
We are not representing rock at all. Tamanna’s music is pop and Radhe’s music is Hindustani classical. It’s a misnomer to think that Hindustani classical is traditional. It is timeless and that's the point we wanted to put across. Youngsters can own Hindustani classical music as much. It's Indian music and once you start understanding it, you will start realising that it’s very contemporary and young.
In the series, we have showcased it in a traditional gharana form. And Radhe will show you how it can be so liberating for young singers and music lovers as it would have been for somebody who would have been born in the 60s or the 70s or even the 1800s. The reason why classical music has lasted for over 400-500 years or maybe more than that is because it has always remained contemporary.
Looking at the current chaotic times, when everything has been transitioning, including the music industry, do you think the audience misses live concerts and gigs which might not find place in the near future?
Well, who are we to predict that first of all? Nobody can predict anything. I think something without restrictions can only be imagined in a fictional world now because of what we are going through. I am sure in our minds, we would like to live in a time in 2020 where there is no Coronavirus or a lockdown. So I think, at least in fiction, we can pretend that and I think the audience would like to pretend too. They also want it — to escape. Well, we hope Bandish Bandits gives them their kind of escape to the world that we all love and want to go back to soon.
(The series can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video from August 4.)