‘Bandish Bandits’ was released on Amazon Prime on August 4. The director has in the web series used music as a connecting thread in the story which is interesting considering the present scenario of Indian (film and OTT) music which is full of pop, hip hop, remixes etc.
Director Anand Tiwari and actor Kunal Roy Kapoor in conversation with Zaheeb Ajmal throw light on many aspects of this web series. Excerpt from the interview:
The name of the web series is interesting. How did you come up with this name?
Anand Tiwari: The reason why we called it Bandish Bandits was sheer instinct because it is about music and as the trailer indicates, there is going to be a fusion between pop and classical. The term ‘Bandish Bandits’ came about because it’s good alliteration, it could be a band as well. Then we started discovering the hidden meanings behind the word ‘Bandish’, as you were guessing, it actually means a composition in Hindustani Classical. But in, Urdu it also means kind of binding something or someone. Bandits means Outlaws. So, people who, are going to break the norms of the traditions of the Hindustani classical is succinctly indiacted by the title- Bandish Bandits. Also, it sounds good. So we went with it.
This is first ever musical series in India...How do you see the future of this kind of genre in India ?
Anand: We aren’t unfamiliar with the genre at all. In fact, we’ve been making films in this genre for, I don’t know, a hundred years, or for as long as talkies have existed. So music and drama have gone hand in hand from the word go, right from Raja Harishchandra onwards. We have had a long and old tradition of sangeet natak (musical drama) So, that’s the tradition we are following.
It’s not new at all. We’ve just brought it to the digital language. And I don’t think we are the first, I think there has been Bengali series that has been done before on the same theme. I have not seen it, so I’m not sure, but, what’s more important for us is that we all understand music. We all understand music because it can be communicated without language when we do that, because India is a country full of different languages, different cultures. If you want to tell the story of beyond one city or beyond one culture, what better vehicle than music? Hence we feel that it’s a very relevant show for today’s youth.
Kunal, We have seen you manly in comic roles, what kind of roles do you prefer to do?
Kunaal Roy Kapur: Thank you. You see, in all the characters that, whether it’s Tripling or whether it is even Anand’s last film, Love Per Square Foot or Jawani Deewani or Nautanki Saala I think I’ve always been cast as, well, not a funny guy, but someone who you get humour out of. I think there’s a big difference between playing a funny person and playing someone who you laugh at and you laugh with.
So I think there are many different types, you know, like sometimes you’re laughing at the character. Sometimes the character is so smart that he’s making you laugh. So I think that, that, there’s a huge variation in how you can do comedy. And sometimes you need lines. Sometimes you don’t need lines. Sometimes you can be a very, very serious character but still is extremely funny because of the situation around them.
So for me, very rarely do I try to play humour. You know, I can’t come onto a set and be funny. You know, I need the support of the script of the director, of a costume of everyone around me to make that character funny. May be, I can understand where the humour is, but my objective is never to be funny. So I think that’s how I approach it. And I try to approach each character slightly differently.
I have done various stuff-drama, horror, yes there are situations in which humour is generated. So I am trying to experiment, but I think that the reason why people come to me is because of Delhi Belly or because of my early work, where I was a funny guy. So I’m not complaining, you know, don’t get me wrong. People call me up and say, there’s a comic role, please come and do it. I have no problem in doing that as well. It’s just that it’s not all that I have to offer, but I’ll be more than happy to make a career out of it.
Why we see so less of you in films or TV series?
Kunaal: Well, I’ve been doing stuff. You know, I’ve done another show on Amazon Prime a few years ago or going viral, which is a crazy, it’s a mad show. It’s pretty out there. You should check it out. There’s one called Side Hero. There’s lots of other stuff that I’ve been doing. But I’ve been trying to break out of comedy. So maybe you know, that acceptance factor of not being a comic guy is there. So I’ve been trying to do other stuff as well. Let’s see how it goes. I Think I’m still starting off as an actor.
Would you like to talk about the songs in the series?
Anand: Yes, There are a lot of songs in this series. The jukebox has come out as well and many tracks that are going to be out in the series itself when you see it. So I would like all of you to go check them out. There is pure classical, there are Jugalbandis, there are fusion tracks, there are pure pop songs. The title track is great. It’s a gamut of music. It’s a world of music that you’re exposed to.
Kunaal: I’m not the right guy to be asking about the music. I, all I know is that my character needs to sell all of it. That’s all he needs to do.
Anand: And the music that Kunal is selling is by Shankar Ehsaan Loy. Need I say more.
Kunaal: I mean, what a great thing to do. I think they are just the most perfect music directors to have for a show like this, you know, and as an Anand said Shankar Ehsaan Loy, they’re more than music directors. They collaborate on a show like this because of the music. It’s not like a movie, which is not in the world of music. And there are songs, you know, this is set in the world of music. It’s set in a traditional space as well as a pop space. And I think no one in our country represents both these musical spaces better then Shankar Ehsaan and Loy. And so I think we’re very, very fortunate to have them as music directors and collaborators.
Given the situation, given the COVID-19 pandemic across the world, World of entertainment has moved to OTT. It’s mobile entertainment these days. So how do you see it? How would it change the world of cinema?
Anand: I don’t think, calling digital just mobile is justified. A lot of people watch it on laptops. And it was changing already. In the last five, six years, digital space has only been evolving and exploring. And, it is just that these few months have accelerated it. But it would have happened eventually in any case, this is a, this is a platform that is here to stay for a very long time until we discover a new way of entertaining ourselves. And we will start having content for that too. But it is not like it’s going to take space of television, or of cinema or of theatre, they can all coexist.
Kunaal: Yeah. I agree with what Anand saying. It’s just that I see the kind of films that will be produced for cinema will change and have already changed over the last few years. You know, it’s commercially not possible to always have certain types of films for cinema. I think the beauty of an OTT platform is that you can meet very specific content for a very specific section of people all around the world. You know, and if people have that commonality, if this show is going out to 200 countries, so I’m seeing that in all those countries, there will be people who love music, you know, who love romance who love drama, who love the combination of these things. And I think this is the beauty of this medium that it’s not just limited to cinema hall.
For cinema we have to release it there. Then we have to do marketing there. Then we have to put in all the infrastructure to release this film and promote it. But the beauty of this space is that people now all over the world, all these 200 countries, people who have an interest in music in Indian pop music and Indian classical music, or be them or people from those countries or Indian origin people, they can all access it.
And I think that being able to tell stories that will hopefully be accessed around the world is a very unique thing and we should cherish it, you know. And it’s a wonderful thing. Cinema will always be there for, for a certain kind of movies. But this is a unique opportunity in time right now. So really quite excited.
Last question would be censorship. Like in films, you have CBFC, there’s been a lot of noise about censorship to be put in place for OTT. Will it help?
Anand: No, I think, I think it’s a larger conversation. I mean, to be honest, every OTT platform has its own standard and practices. So it’s not like anything goes when you come to a platform like Amazon Prime, your content needs to meet the standard practices of Amazon Prime because it’s presenting you in 200 countries. So you’re not just following bonds of your own country, but of, of various international mandates. So I think it’s a very big misnomer (that the content is not regulated on OTT). I think when you’re in a prime content space there is a lot of attention that is paid to what kind of content that can be.