Anupam Roy impressed with his music and background score for the Shoojit Sircar film Piku, and made his way into the national consciousness. Making the full time leap to music about half a decade ago, Roy has seen the fruits of that decision sooner than most would expect, and we catch up with him to know more in a little chat.
1. First up, you’ve had a bit of a meteoric rise from playing Bangla Rock, initially to small audiences that became massive over time, then getting involved in Bollywood and landing up on Coke Studio. Has that been a trajectory you ever envisioned for yourself?
Yes! I have been writing songs since I was a teenager, and have always wanted to be a singer-songwriter; sing my own songs. Things began to look up when two my self-composed songs were used in a Bengali film in 2010; Srijit Mukherjee’s debut effort, Autograph. The songs became so popular that I quit my job in Bangalore and came back to my hometown Kolkata and started my life as a musician. I wouldn’t restrict my genre of music to ‘rock,’ because I am principally a songwriter. Because I have many influences, I really don’t want a tag to be associated with the songs and the music I create. Performing my songs live and recording solo albums has been a dream, and that began taking shape after the 2010 stint. Bengali film music started reviving, and in turn I started getting work like crazy. 4 films a year! I had never dreamt of working in films as a kid, and Bollywood was definitely out of syllabus. Hindi songs? Impossible! But… we don’t control our destiny.
2. I remember meeting you on the sets of Coke Studio a couple of years ago and you seemed to be completely nerve-wrecked, but when it came to delivering - it was smooth. Does that how your routine generally works? Hyping yourself mentally, and then delivering with ease? Give me a breakdown of what’s going on?
I’m usually very worked up. I keep saying yes to almost everything and I’m always under huge work pressure; extremely restless and if a single day passes with a realisation that I haIt could be poetry, making songs, writing - I have to work. That said, during the Coke Studio session, I was tensed, but it had been a physically tiring day too.
3. In your episode, you do two songs - Moner Manush and I Wanna Fly - both diverse in their approach, yet find a blend of your style. What was your idea of approaching them - one a traditional baul tune, with Satyaki Banerjee reinterpreting a Lalon Fakir folk tune and the other, a creation with Babul Supriyo debuting his daughter in a duet with him?
It can be seen as a typical Coke Studio fusion tune - in the extension of it as a music piece, and lyrically as well. I wrote an extra verse for Moner Manush in Hindi (lyric excerpt below) carrying forward the theme of the song. It dwells on the concept of spirituality and love, and happened to be the first time I was working with Bangla folk music.
Mai wahaan.. Ja chuka hoon
Tu jahan ren chuka hai (x2)
Mere dil main kahin tu chupa toh nai
Muskurata hua tu yahin hai kahin
Dhoondta phir raha ekk nishani teri
Milbe jaye tu poochu kahaani meri
Kisliye kisliye jee raha hoon yah
I Wanna Fly
Babul Supriyo had wanted me to compose a song for him and his daughter, and that’s how I was roped in. Of course, it was also great to work with Javed Akhtar Ji - and I’m really fond of the team overall. The outcome was a pop song, almost serving as a dialogue between father and daughter.
4. Several commenters on YouTube seem to find the reinterpretations of Coke Studio songs irksome, as with your take on Moner Manush - what is your approach to dealing with such situations in a time when the Internet makes it so hard to avoid any feedback - positive or otherwise?
I love feedback, be it positive or negative and it helps me grow. People are listeners, and they can’t know you through your music alone - and feedback often is either just ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ so I try to take that sportingly.
5. Time for a look back - over the course of the Anupam Roy Band, which is of course still functional - where was the journey leading to? What was the reaction of the ever-changing bandmates when you decided to do your first B-town movie? Calcutta, as we know, holds a solid rock n’ roll nostalgia, wears it with pride, and sometimes looks upon Bollywood as some kind of enemy. What was it for you?
6+ years and our live line-up is going strong, with only 3 changes so far. In 2017 we are travelling to Australia, Dubai and the US of A. The five piece band setup is mainly for my live gigs, while I work with a wide host of musicians in the studio. Of course, we love rock and roll but ‘music’ is a higher priority than the form. Content matters, then comes form - be it folk, classical, pop, rock, Bollywood - I am open to everything, and experimenting with it.
6. What projects are in store for you next?
Quite a few lined up. I’m currently planning my next Bengali solo album, having released 4 previously - the last one being Ebar Morle Gachh Hawbo. I have four Bengali films and two Hindi films going on in the capacity of a music director currently. As of 2017, besides my fourth solo album, two Bangla films, Black Coffee and Posto, and a song for the film Running Shaadi are already released. Dear Maya, which releases on June 2, features one of my songs as well.