Tag Archives: interview

Meghna Gulzar’s Chhapaak: Behind The Scenes

With her latest film Chhapaak, Deepika Padukone addresses vitriolage, shatters gender stereotypes, and attacks modern-day misogyny.

Malti (Deepika Padukone) was attacked with acid on a street in New Delhi, in 2005. Through her story, the film makes an attempt to understand the on-ground consequences of surviving an acid attack in India, the medico-legal-social state of affairs that transpires after the acid has been hurled and the face is irreparably burnt. Beyond its cinematic sphere, movies like Chhapaak are characterized by their sheer necessity in our society where women are forced to grapple with heinous acts of violence in real time.

This movie helps to raise awareness about a key societal issue yet also helps to shatter stereotypes that surrounds its victims. Deepika’s character is searing not because she is wildly different but because the movie proves that she is just like the rest of us. Chhapaak opens Friday, January 10 in theaters across North America.

Watch this new behind-the-scenes video featuring interviews with Deepika Padukone and director Meghna Gulzar about the making of this acclaimed motion picture.

To find out more about this movie, click on the subtitled trailer here.

Local theatre and showtime information is available here.

 

 

Ghazal Singer Roshan Bharati in the Bay Area

India Currents got the opportunity to speak with Dr Roshan Bharti during his recent visit to the Bay Area. “I was born in the family of professional musicians for 17 generations. I am carrying the torch of my family legacy – my grandfather was Ustad Jamal Khan, a famous vocalist who belonged to the Senia gharana (also known as the Kalavant gharana) of Hindustani classical music, which traces its roots back to famous musician Miyan Tansen, one of the nine jewels of Emperor Akbar’s court in the15th century,” says Dr Bharti. “Ustad Jamal Khan is known to the world as the legendary ghazal singer Jagjit Singh’s teacher.”

Bharti has served as Associate Professor of Indian classical music for the last 25 years, imparting knowledge to a new generation of students, He has performed with on stage with the world-renowned great ghazal maestros and legends Ustad Mehdi Hassan, Ustad Ghulam Ali, Jagjit Singh and Abida Parveen. Associated with Doordarshan and All India Radio as a “Top Grade Artist” he has composed and recorded numerous ghazals. 

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SF Mayoral Candidate Angela Alioto Talks to India Currents

Angela Alioto, mayoral candidate, was born and raised in San Francisco. Her parents are former San Francisco Mayor Joseph L. Alioto and Angelina Genaro Alioto. During her service on the Board of Supervisors, Angela was elected President of the Board. She served as Vice-Chair of the Board’s Finance Committee, Chair of the Health, Public Safety and Environment Committee, and Chair of the Select Committee on Municipal Public Power, a committee she created as President. On January 8, 1997, Alioto left the Board of Supervisors due to term limits.

Her campaign reached out to India Currents and we the opportunity to talk to her one on one. Here is a transcript of the interview:

Vandana Kumar (VK):  I publish India Currents magazine. We’ve been around for thirty-two years. India Currents is devoted to the exploration of Indian culture as it exists in the United States, as well all issues of interest to the Indian community. Also on this call is my partner, Vijay Rajvaidya.

Vijay Rajvaidya (VR): Angela, hi. I am a thirty-five year tech veteran from the Bay Area. I joined India Currents five years ago to actively engage with the Indian community.

Angela Alioto (AA): Hello.

VK: One of the things that interested me was that you have really deep ties to San Francisco. You were born here, raised here, educated here, you’ve done years of public service here. Your father was the mayor of San Francisco. So, you must have been influenced by his service. Can you tell us of any incident that may have left an indelible mark on you or something that prompted you down this same path of public service?

AA: I think that the fact that my father was a coalition builder really impressed me in my youth. One of the most important things that stands out to me is when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, we were there with the black Baptist ministers and the other cultures and they all stood together on the steps of city hall and made it very clear to the public that wanted to riot that it was much better to do a peaceful march. So as a consequence of the coalition building that my father did with different communities, we were the only city that did not riot. I think that’s one of the best talents any mayor can have: being able to put communities together so they work for the betterment of the people. That is absolutely essential and that is something that is totally missing today in today’s government.

VR: That’s true.

VK: What year was this?

AA: 1968. Martin Luther King, Jr, was assassinated. Two months later Bobby Kennedy was… those were very tumultuous times.

VR: Angela, I have a question a little bit more to the ground here. I was looking at the last Census numbers and according to the 2010 Census one-third of the population in San Francisco is Asian and there is a growing population of Indian-Americans there, largely young, highly educated, second-generation Indians who have made San Francisco their home. Their main concern is adequate and affordable housing. Can you tell them how this is going to happen in your administration? In particular, if you could elaborate on your idea of prioritizing “density over raising height limits?”

AA: Well, first of all, affordable housing is the top priority problem in San Francisco. And it’s because we have so many new employees that have come to San Francisco who can afford higher prices and, as a consequence, so many people were worked out of the available housing that we have.

VR: Correct.

AA: The only way we’re going to be able to do anything about this affordable housing crisis in San Francisco is by building more density. We absolutely need to build the 5,000 units that Mayor Ed Lee suggested and along with that we have 17,000 units that are in the pipeline. But as far as it ever being really affordable, depending upon someone’s salary, that’s going to be the problem of the future, trying to figure out what is affordable. Right now, they’re calling affordable housing for any one project that’s done, let’s say they do 25 percent or 30 percent affordable housing, well affordable housing is $130,000 a year salary. That’s not affordable for a lot of people.

VR: Correct.

AA: The question is where are the people who make $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 where are they going to live? I believe that you have to do dedicated buildings and developments for them. It’s just terrible what’s happened in San Francisco. We have young kids that are making so much money that the price of an apartment, it goes up three to four thousand dollars for a single bedroom, I mean, people can’t afford that.

VK: That is very true. You know, in the last few weeks, there has been much conversation around the issue of San Francisco as a sanctuary city. Can you explain to our readers what is different about your position on this versus the other candidates and why.

AA: I am very surprised that the other candidates came out against me on this. I wrote the original sanctuary city law. I never included dangerous felons. So, in 2016, they amended it and they added dangerous felons. So what my ordinance does is it takes the protection of the sanctuary law away from dangerous felons. In other words, if you’re going to kill somebody, if you’re going to rape somebody, if you’re…going to create mayhem, then you are not going to be covered by San Francisco’s sanctuary law, as you are not covered in the State of California. So, I was very surprised to see my opponents come out against it. Why they want to protect dangerous felons I do not understand.

VR: Yes, that can be of quite a bit of interest to a younger generation as I believe because they also take a certain kind of pride in this position. It’s a good thing to explain the difference and we’ll try to do that. I am going to move onto a different subject matter here.

You know, the Indian-American community is now getting involved in the political process all over the country, as a matter of fact. Currently, we have five Indian-Americans serving in the U.S. Congress. And, this year alone, eighty-eight people are running for various public offices and yet there is no Indian-American county supervisor. You have been one, so I thought I would ask you, how does one become a county supervisor?

AA: Well, first of all, San Francisco is a city and county, so we don’t have a city council, so you’d be a supervisor for the whole city. What one has to do is get involved with the grassroots organizations. Get involved. Go out and register people to vote. Go out and get involved in the community and help with the homeless. Help with the drug abuse situation and the dirty streets. You have to organize and get involved and then put your name on the ballot and run in a district. It should be absolutely foreseeable that a person of Indian descent would be able to be able to be a supervisor in San Francisco. I know that as mayor of San Francisco I will appoint a large diversity of supervisors when an opening comes because I totally believe in the cultural diversity of our city.

VR: That would be of great interest to our readers, yes.

VK: So, Angela, you have run for mayor twice before, but not succeeded.

AA: I just missed it in 2010. I just missed it.

VK: So, what made you decide to run again? I imagine it was not an easy decision?

AA: No, as a matter of fact I have a wonderful life. I am a civil rights trial lawyer, I have four children and five grandchildren, I live in Italy during the summer. I have a wonderful, wonderful life.

I decided to run for mayor because first of all I know how to take care of the situation with our homeless population and it’s so totally out of control that I can only imagine it getting worse and worse and worse. And I know I am the one person that has the experience to actually get the job done. As you can see with all the tent cities throughout the city, you desperately need someone who knows what they’re doing. Same goes for the drug and alcohol abuse that’s occurring in our city, and our dirty streets. That’s why I decided to get into the race. There’s no question homelessness was the key for me.

VR: You touched on homelessness, so that prompts me to ask you this: you know this is related to the affordable housing crisis in San Francisco. This statistic was interesting to me – a minimum wage worker would have to work 4.7 or approximately 5 full time jobs to be able to rent a two-bedroom apartment. San Francisco has several thousand homeless residents despite extensive efforts by the city government to address this issue.

AA: Right.

VR: And you know, this thing is still there. I have read your position and little bit on the homelessness, how you want to do it, but can you elaborate a little more to address this, because this impacts people living over there and also the tourists. It directly affects the tourists also.

AA: I’m sorry, that question is, the first one is about being able to afford to live here?*

VR: How do you plan to address homelessness?

AA: My homeless plan is phenomenal. My homeless plan worked. From 2004 to 2012, we housed more than 4,600 chronically homeless people. It absolutely worked. And they’re still in those apartments. But when things started changing in 2012 and they moved the homeless buildings to affordable housing buildings and then they moved the money around, that’s when we started picking people off the street and we had nowhere to take them. So, that’s the major problem. My plan is on the city website. Just put in the key word “Alioto” or “chronic homelessness”. It’s there, it’s extremely extensive and it absolutely works. It’s a huge success story. I have no idea why they stopped, no idea.

VR: Well, that’s why they have to elect you again, so you can…

AA: I’m telling you, I know how to do it.

VR: Yes…

AA: I’ll do it again, you’re absolutely right. It’s a matter of taking people off the street, which in 78 hours you know exactly where to put them because you can tell what kind of category they go in, whether it’s drug abuse, substance abuse, or whether it’s mental health, or whether it’s just someone who couldn’t pay the rent for two months and is down on their luck.

VR: Yes, that’s right.

AA: There are very different types of homeless people. And you have to decide what type they are before you start moving them.

VR: I was discussing exactly this with Vandana this morning!  Homeless people, they have to spend full-time of the day to just satisfy their basic needs, and it doesn’t leave them any time to think about how to get out of this situation.

AA: Right, right…

VR: You know, the basic requirements can be focused somehow, for taking care of basic needs…

I think being homeless is like…a full-time job.

AA: Oh, it absolutely is.

VK: Angela, so are you saying that the plan you had implemented and suggested earlier as something that worked and then they stopped it? Who stopped it?

AA: The city. When tech started moving into town, the city stopped everything we were doing. And moved the money and moved the buildings.

VR: Okay, we hope we can get control of this problem soon because it’s a beautiful city.

AA: I think working together we can, because, you know, you said something nobody ever says, and that is homeless people are working all day long just to survive, not to get out of homelessness. That’s an excellent observation.

VR: That’s true. That’s why I was telling if we could provide them with basic facilities like where to take showers or where to do things, that itself will leave some time so that they don’t have run around and look for the place…

AA: Right, right, right…

VK: People say, “get off the street, get a job.” Well…

VR: How do you get a job? You don’t have time to look for that.

AA: Right…

VR: So coming to the end, I have a kind of capping question. Many candidates for public offices have made special efforts to connect with our community, the Indian-American community, by going to their events, engaging with them culturally and socially, so I was going to ask you, do you have any specific message for our readers and do you have any plans to go and engage with this community in San Francisco?

AA: Oh, absolutely I do. First of all, I’m a third generation San Franciscan. San Francisco has always been an iconic cultural city. We need to cultivate all of our different cultures. So, I have actively, throughout my life, been going to the individual cultures to see how we can get them involved in government, to see how their small businesses are, to see how the quality of life is for them in San Francisco. I have always been actively involved in the Indian community in San Francisco, going back years and years and years. The Indian community has always been very supportive of me, especially the restaurant businesses.

VR: Yes.

AA: Always, always wonderful, wonderful. And, of course, we have commissioners. We have many Indian commissioners, not enough, but we have many that have been there for quite awhile that are my very, very good friends, so I have always interacted with the Indian community and I will do that as mayor…

VR and VK: Very good to know that.

VK: My sons actually live in San Francisco and I was asking them, “Are you going to vote?” Of course, they are my kids, so they are registered to vote, but when I mentioned your name, they said “well, there’s a restaurant by that name, …”

AA: Yes, that’s my cousin’s. Those are my rich cousins.

VK and VR: [laughter]

VK: So, that’s what they knew! … but I think it’s worth you doing an outreach to a lot of younger demographic as well.

AA: Absolutely. I hope your sons vote for me. It’s very important.

VK: I will tell them.

AA: This is a very crucial election. Crucial. All throughout the last five months, the other opponents have been saying they wouldn’t take money from outside sources, and now, the last three days they’ve all taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from outside sources. It’s just really been a terrible experience of dishonesty.

VK: What do you think is the difference between you (the candidates)? I see London Breed as polling higher, but we know a thing or two about polls!  In what way has your campaign been different from hers?

AA: I’m a very people person. I haven’t missed one panel, one debate, one interview. I have been everywhere. London is a very nice person, but she hasn’t participated very much in the election because she has so much money.

She has millions of dollars, over two million dollars they’re spending. Our campaign doesn’t have that. As a matter of fact, we didn’t get the public money that they all got. But having said that, we’re very, very different and I think you can see that in our platforms.

VK: Okay, sounds great. Thank you for spending this time with us.

AA: Thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

 

Sarod Maestro Rajeev Taranath Interview

One of India’s foremost classical musicians, Rajeev Taranath is a master of the sarod. His career spanning over four decades, has drawn accolades from critics and audiences throughout the world.

A distinguished disciple of the late legendary maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, he also received guidance from the great sitarists Ravi Shankar and Shrimati Annapurna Devi . Rajeev Taranath is the recipient of many honors including India’s highest government award in the arts, the esteemed Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2000.  He has received critical acclaim for his deep introspective style that melds imagination and emotional range combined with technical skill, and a highly disciplined approach to the development of a raga. “Rajeev Taranath’s sarod improvisations mixed the spiritual and the spirited…the raga began with introspective meditation and proceeded into an exuberant rhythmic celebration.” said critic Edward Rothstein of The New York Times   A noted linguist, he speaks eight languages fluently. From 1995 to 2005, Taranath served on the music faculty of the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles. Currently living in Mysore, India, Rajeev Taranath travels worldwide teaching and performing.  Given below is an interview with this esteemed musician. 

Did you grow up in a musical family?

My father was deeply interested in music. He used to sing and play the tabla. Although he was not a professional musician, I grew up with a lot of music around me. He started teaching me very easy songs. When I was around 3 years old, he made me listen to a lot of classical and vocal records and performances. I soon started singing and gave my first public performance at 10.

So, how did you leave singing for the sarod?

The most vivid moment in music I remember is the first experience of hearing Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, it was electrifying. I was and am a great admirer of Ravi Shankar’s music, so I used to attend every performance of his when he came to Bangalore, the city in which I lived. That particular time, he came with Ali Akbar Khan, who said that he would play the sarod along with him. Before that, I had heard very little of the sarod being played and definitely I had not heard Ali Akbar Khan play. It was a life-changing experience when he played his first movement on the sarod. That was my moment of epiphany, a moment of total grace.  As I was listening, my life changed. Music moved to the centre of the universe.  I was hooked and never looked back.

 Can you explain why it spoke to you so much?

Well, you know, it’s like falling in love. How can you explain it?

So, one performance changed your life?

My life changed direction after that point. After I heard Ustad Ali Akbar Khan for the first time, it was a year and a half or more before I got introduced to him. I was just past 20 when I went to him and he soon accepted me as a disciple.

Please describe the training.

It was daily, sometimes twice a day, but then there would be periods with no lessons for a month or more, because he would be away, performing. By the time I went to him, the demand for his public performances was very high. I started practicing one hour, two hours. Then, for some time, it went on for up to 12 hours a day.

How do you work when you’re practicing music for 12 hours a day?

At that point, I was a beggar. I couldn’t find a job, but there was a benefactor Mr. P.K. Das of Kolkata. This man had nothing to do with music, but he gave me a room, and not very much later, he and his wife insisted I should have my meals with them. I had some sort of job afterward to keep me going, but they took care of me for six more years. That gave me an opportunity for which I am profoundly grateful, to practice many, many hours a day.

You had a very successful career as a vocalist when you were young. You were even described as a child prodigy. I have heard that you were and are profoundly moved when listening to the great vocalist Abdul Karim Khan. Why did you decide to switch to sarod? Many people say that the voice is the ultimate instrument for Indian music.

There is no doubt that vocals are at the center of our music. But Ali Akbar Khan is for me the paradigmatic example of excellence. I would say that in his sarod playing there is a kind of vocalism. He has a flexibility and versatility to his imagination, all of which have vocal sources. It’s not that he actually plays vocal bandishes. There are sarod players that do that, but he is not one of them. Vocalism is for him an abstract, silent, but immediate storehouse for the movements of the raga. It’s the thing that makes a raga more than a scale. I can almost say that given two very good instrumentalists, the person who is the better vocalist—in this special metaphorical sense—is the one whose music will have more “juice.” He might not be the fastest, but that’s because he would have no need to be the fastest.

Has Hindustani music changed over the years?

To answer that question, I think it’s helpful to compare music to both language and physics. If you compare the English of Shakespeare’s time to modern English, you can see that it’s essentially the same. There are noticeable differences, but we can still understand Shakespeare. The physics of Shakespeare’s time, however, has been completely replaced by modern science. Throughout the history of Hindustani music, there’s been the same kind of growth and change that you can see in a language. But you don’t have the new completely replacing the old, as is the norm with scientific progress. For example, Ali Akbar Khan made profound changes in the sarod. Before him, the instrument sounded quick and staccato, with lots of trills. Khansahib still uses those trills, but his innovative playing gives the instrument a new profundity and depth.

What do you think is the biggest challenge in playing Hindustani music?

First, of course, you must practice and study diligently. If you do that, you will become either a competent or an incompetent player, and you will get to know which very soon. But once you have crossed the bar of competence, in about three or four years, what do you do then? You know how to play the raga correctly, but then what? At that point, playing the raga is rather like spreading butter on bread. You’ve got to see how well you can spread it, and how widely you can spread it. You must push at the frontiers of the raga, and yet see that it doesn’t break. If the raga breaks, you are in a kind of melodic anonymity, which ultimately breaks you as a musician.

Have you managed to stretch the borders of any of the ragas you play?

I try. When I play Patdeep, it’s difficult to make it long. You can feel very comfortable playing Yaman long, because
it’s quite spacious and flexible. So is Bhairavi. But Patdeep is very brittle, and can’t be stretched easily. The rules for Patdeep are very strict, which is why it makes such an immediate effect. Once you’ve heard the identifying phrases, you know exactly what it is. But that’s a double-edged sword, because the audience is immediately “Patdeeped,” and it seems to be near closing time right away. Then you’re left with the challenge of where to go from there. For Patdeep, I try to unfold the scale of the raga a little bit at a time, so you can hear every nuance. You have to hold the raga back, stop it from exploding through you. That enables me to stay inside the raga, and not let the raga go, even when I’m playing for a long period of time.


Last month I did a concert in which I played Patdeep for the alap-jor-jhala, and then switched to Madhuvanti for the gat. Madhuvanti has almost the same notes as Patdeep, and many of the same note arrangements. But Madhuvanti has tivra ma (raised fourth) and Patdeep doesn’t. Even though the notes are similar, the mood is very different, and these differences have to be kept. I wanted to create a natural change in mood, while still maintaining a sense of unity in the performance.

When you play two ragas together, how do you decide which ragas to combine?

There’s a kind of dialectic involved between a technical closeness, and yet the need and challenge to keep the moods different while playing in very similar scales. There are also other factors not as capable of tidy articulation. You might combine a raga that has a certain kind of gravitas with something that is not quite so serious—moods that are contrasting, yet still very close.

Can you speak about your approach to developing a raga throughout the many years of riyaz?  

There’s a kind of patience that you learn to take with you to the raga. If you’re patient, the raga will speak to you eventually.

Can you discuss the ideas you have regarding teaching Indian classical music?

 When it comes to teaching of music, there is a trio – a teacher, a learner and an instrument. The teacher demonstrates how he has put the instrument to use and what he has been able to achieve. The attempt here is a give and take of such experience. This exploration of possibilities, initially in the form of bits and pieces, as alankaras or tabla bols or whatever, later on turns into an exercise in bringing together these little experiences to construct a creative whole. Further on, it is a kind of invitation to the learner to live with the teacher in the common world of music and in this journey together, the learner may even reach beyond. Each one’s style of playing is guided by one’s own possibilities, difficulties and impossibilities.

What is special about your gharana?

Unlike other gharanas which for many years remained closed-door, teaching freely with openness is a major preoccupation with the Maihar. Allauddin Khan, the Paramahamsa-like saint-musician took to vigorous teaching. This can perhaps be traced to the difficulty he encountered in learning and the fact that Allauddin was compelled to choose the sarod in a veena-dominated tradition which confined its veena–teaching to its kin alone. But his ingenuity incorporated the possibilities of veena into the sarod, remodelling it for the purpose. Several nuances of the veena came into sarod-baaj and later years saw the promotion of sitar, sur-bahar and sur-singar.

The Maihar-Senia gharana, which traces its lineage to Tansen in the 16th century, was one of the few schools that taught women music and we find historically the presence of many distinguished women instrumental performers within it from Saraswati, Tansen’s daughter, to Annapurna Devi, the daughter of the legendary Allauddin Khan.

In the context of our guru-sishya parampara and the oral/aural tradition, you once mentioned the ‘mediation of the eye’ in western classical music. Don’t you think a guru’s role is equally vital there in guiding….?

Mediation of the eye is important in Western classical music because of the reliance on the system of notation. The journey is from note to note but nothing as much may happens between the gaps. It is in the movement between notes that one’s culture operates. Mimesis is the basis of our music-teaching. Our music fills up with meends, gamaks, bols and these cannot be written down. We clutch the guru’s imagination, his mind that is so private. A guru gives good active seeds… but can one teach creativity?’ The artist or maestro, as T.S. Eliot says, lives at a conscious point where past and future are gathered. He has all the richness of the past, waiting to pass it on to the future, for his students to gather it all.  So I try to teach, but a problem which I have repeatedly faced is this: I can transfer musical information but I don’t know yet, how to transfer the sense of relish. This is important in the kind of music we play and teach because the given is so tenuous.    

Can you explain the artist’s process or desire for mastery?

To make better music– there is a desire, which is a life-long process- to create a match – to bring the thought and performance nearer and nearer.  Actually it is the desire to translate what is happening in your mind into your fingers – even without that gap. The finger itself becomes imagination.  But curiously the more you master, the more your imagination becomes active. Because what strikes you or me is seriously limited by what we can execute in singing or playing.  And as that capacity improves, your imagination improves. The more you go toward mastery the more you see, the more you climb, the more you see. So there is no end to that – they feed on each other.  Because you see, you want to climb more. Because you climb more you see much more. And so it goes on.  And that act itself is a matter of very profound satisfaction – a  fullness, which I suppose is why you are really after this exploration of mastery.   In music it is more obvious perhaps, but it is there in everything.

In the education of a performing art, there is the finding of greater and greater satisfaction in the possession of the knowledge you are seeking. The same art can be treated as a discipline or can be treated more casually, mechanically as a subject.  When music becomes a discipline, that’s your life, when music is a minor subject, it’s very different.  If anything becomes a discipline, you seek a fuller kind of satisfaction.  Simply being well- trained in something is not enough.  Often many are well-trained for a purpose which quite often lies outside the central subject.  Their own interests are elsewhere.    When something becomes a discipline, that becomes a center of interest.  If it isn’t, it shows.  And in some artists it becomes obsessive.  And when it isn’t obsessive or the central interest you can make out at some stage.  

How would you describe mastery in this art form?

If given more time, I will go more and more toward radiant simplicities. Those simplicities are the product of a lifetime. Any durable experience has to arrive into a state of simplicity. Courtship is complex, a durable marriage is simple.

This article was compiled from several interviews by Leslie Schneider and is reprinted with permission from the Canadian South Asian magazine, “AAJ” (Oct 2016).   

A Conversation with Ram Sampath

Ram Sampath enthralled the audience with his unique music compositions synchronized to a live dance troupe in San Jose, an event hosted by the Mona Khan Company, on March 10 and 11, 2018.  Held in the intimate Mexican Heritage Theater, the concert was accompanied by Mona Khan’s own dance troupe.

The multi-talented Sampath – musician, producer, vocalist, composes for Bollywood movies, MTV India, Coke Studio musical series, and popular TV shows such as “Satyamev Jayate” in India. His background in Carnatic music infuses his compositions with a meld of Indian classical music, jazz, western and pop.

After having started his career composing jingles for advertisements, Sampath moved into the realm of pop music and later started composing for Bollywood films. Sampath’s musical score for the movie “Delhi Belly”, which was acclaimed by music critics, earned him a Filmfare Award.

He now has his own music production house “OmGrown Music”, in collaboration with his wife, Sona Mohapatra, who is a singer in her own right.

The concert in San Jose was a rich experience for the audience, featuring a medley of hit songs by Ram Sampath, who was accompanied by vocalists, Pawni Pandey and Siddhanth Bhosle, as well as a live band. The dance choreography synchronized perfectly with the music, and the dancers in vibrant Bollywood outfits were eye candy. The tight synchronization between the music and dance was the obvious result of an incredible effort and practice by the team.

Sampath exhibited the range of his musical and vocal prowess, in the short span of the two-hour concert, with compositions that were mostly his own.

He also introduced new singers Rithisha Padmanabh and Nishant Bordia, winners of a singing contest that he had hosted in the Bay Area along with Radio Bollywood 92.3 FM

I had a glimpse of the man behind the musical mask in a post-event interview:

I.C.:  Who is your muse or your inspiration for your music?

Sampath:  Life is my inspiration and the experiences that have shaped my life. Even when I started out as a young lad, I had privy to life experience content to express in my musical composition. I have had an eventful life, right from my childhood (smile).

I.C.:  You were trained for 8 years in South Indian Carnatic music. Does that training permeate your music style?

Sampath:  Yes, of course. I still love Carnatic music and often use it in my compositions. There are many modern day Carnatic music composers who I consider giants in the industry that I listen to regularly.

I was exposed to many genres of music growing up. Learning music at a young age is a blessing as it becomes a part of who you are – your roots, so to speak.

My dad loves Western music – the Beatles, for example. My mom is a fan of Bollywood music. I also have a rock and jazz component in my music. When I compose, I am influenced by all the above and more. The move into Bollywood was organic, the result of my eclectic music background.

I.C.:  What is your favorite musical composition or song?

Sampath:  That’s easy. Definitely “Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar” composed by Jaidev from the movie “Hum Dono” and sung by Asha Bhosle and Mohammad Rafi. It is a masterpiece in musical composition. It has so many elements that are perfect in the song – emotions (longing), lyrics, melody, and overall composition. It’s timeless.

I.C.:  What is your biggest challenge?

Sampath:  My taste in music needs to be agreeable to Bollywood. There is a lot of junk music out there that is being consumed. My desire is to create amazing, high-quality music for the audience. Consistently.

I.C.:  What is the future of your musical journey?

Sampath:  I am getting more collaborative in nature. For example, this live show with Mona Khan Company is a new beginning for me. I want to do more live stage shows and collaborate with other artists in the years ahead of me.

Thanks for the show Ram Sampath and the heart-to-heart interview. It was good to get a feel of the man behind the excellent music.

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