Fast forward to the past

Fast forward to the past

Music documentary

Fast forward to the past

A music afficionado who is the editor of a leading music magazine ‘Indiecision’, Arjun S Ravi is also the director of OML, co-founder of ‘NH7 Weekender’ and very recently, a documentary filmmaker. A music journalist, he initially set out to write a book on the inception and evolution of independent music in India. Twenty discarded chapters later, his plan took on a twist when he was approached by Red Bull Media House to make a video piece on the same thriving topic, which helped him unfold his creative talent for documentary filmmaking.

Two years of determined effort and the result is the unconventional six-part web documentary series — ‘Standing By’. This being his first real tryst with filmmaking, Arjun jovially says, “I can now write a book on why not to make a documentary!” An intriguing and extensively researched piece, ‘Standing By’ uncovers and documents the history of independent music in India and unearths some of the most interesting stories which were fundamental to the formation of independent music in the country. It amalgamates over 100 interviews including those of musical legends like Usha Uthup and Amyt Datta, and the best known names in the present music scene like Nikhil Chinapa, Monica Dogra and Vishal Dadlani.

“It was quite a learning experience. We shortlisted many names, which became a long list of over 500 people. Even though we were able to cover just five cities, we were on roads for 40 days and conducted five to six interviews each day, which were about two to three hours long! We did a lot of secondary research that was available in the form of publications and archives. We then had to fill the blank and identify the best,” he explains. One and a half years of constant backbreaking work, the result was 400 hours of footage that needed crisp editing. “Hats off to the post-production team for their unmatched work,” he says.

The six-series documentary begins with the exploration of the jazz scene in the country in 1947 and proceeds to the 60s and 70s and the rise of beat groups, the mid 70s to late 80s with the nationwide spread rock and, later, metal, the 90s with MTV and the music video explosion and finally to the dance music boom of the present day. However, there were more interesting archives that he uncovered and he explains, “It is interesting how music in India has come from all around the world and how we made it our own. Our research revealed how pop music was there in India for more than a century, even before the inception of Bollywood music. Every bit of this is not included in the 30-minute long series, which is why we came up with the concept of a digital timeline to complement the documentary.” The timeline gives a detailed insight of the music scene from the 40s to present day and has 80 to 100 video clips that are not found in the original documentary.

He continues, “It was interesting to explore the rich music legacy in India. The documentary starts with the exploration of the 1990s, but even in 1800s, there were unconventional genres like opera that existed here.” With hard-hitting interviews that has each one’s version of history, he puts forth, “It is an honest effort to express everything that is relevant. Some of the bytes might be contradictory to each other, but all of them are honest in their presentation.”

Ask him about his personal experience as a filmmaker and he says, “I have unravelled many things that I did not know about myself. I was anxious and incredibly hesitant at first as I had to talk and record and not write, which I have been doing for the longest time. But it was an enjoyable process and is very rewarding.”

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