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Interviews |  29 Jan 2016 16:10 |  By RnMTeam

RnM interview with Roy Dipankar: Unearthing the Indian underground music scene

From playing covers at small DIY gigs to hordes of bands releasing countless albums, the Indian metal scene has evolved over the years into a well-oiled machine churning out massive concerts and tonnes of original music. This surging underground monster has reached far and wide, spreading across all the corners of the country.  With an intention of showcasing this sub-culture and youth point of view on various subjects, Chennai-based filmmaker Roy Dipankar embarked on a journey to track the growth of the metal scene in India. In this interview with www.radioandmusic.com Dipankar talks about the journey and the intention behind making Extreme Nation.

From studying physics and then MBA to working as a copywriter, and later on as an A&R professional with Universal Music, managing music and film content at IndiEarth and now documentary film-making. How did you pave such an interesting career path?

"I believe every thoughtful and creative individual sub-consciously as well as in a discerning karmic way, tries to reach a certain set of goals in life. For me, the aim was to follow those paths in achieving the goals (and I am nowhere close) and then learning and improvising all along the way. Hence every juncture and move was a vantage point, though hugely led by an un-satiated thirst to create something unique, beyond the regular and the usual."

When and how was the idea of Extreme Nation conceived? Was it something that you always wanted to showcase, considering you are a metal head?

"I wouldn't know what qualifies me to be called a ‘metalhead’ as that is very subjective depending on an individual’s perception. I have been exposed to music - popular hits and classics from the West to eternal Bollywood, from classical music to ghazals or Qazi Nazrul and Tagore music from a very young age, considering the amount of LPs that my grandfather used to gift me. He used to work in the exports division for HMV (now Saregama). 

Metal Music happened to me in college, with MTV breaking into Indian terrain in the early 90s, and late night shows like Headbangers Ball, etc. Years later, as I progressed to more extreme and underground forms of metal, getting exposed to music from across the world, and attending underground close-knit gigs and concerts in India, I felt the need to chronicle and present the current scenario in the sub-continent. Because, personally I believe the Indian sub-continent has become more organised and the underground has produced some excellent quality of music and bands. Hence what better time than now for Extreme Nation, was my line of thought."

Can you run us through your team and the journey of filming Extreme Nation? 

"The concept of making a film on metal, or rather 'film' extreme metal in its most intimate and purest form had been revolving around in my head since the a very long time. However, somewhere around mid-2013, I started putting thoughts on paper. It was supposed to be a doc-fiction, cinema variety style with real life footage mixed with enacted characters originally. But by the end of initial shoots and after replaying some interesting footage, I realized this would become an extensive form of documentary filming.  Almost 3 years later, across 13 plus cities and involving 4 countries and some excellent collaboration with filmmakers and expert cameramen from the Indian subcontinent, it has become some sort of ‎a chronicle, an in-depth documentary. 

After careful planning and then charting out shoot schedules co-relating with on ground events, confirming availability of characters and technicians, followed by expenditure on ‎travel, equipment, and crew, meant quite a big amount of funds. All of this, while keeping in mind, that I also have a day job with a lot of responsibilities. Hence when it goes DIY, time management as well as finances are the main hurdles. But the outcome is rewarding and provides with the right kicks to keep it going."

How many bands/organisers/gigs and locations have you met/covered?

"It is difficult to name every band and gig covered in this journey for Extreme Nation. Though, I'm not a big ‘gigger’ anymore. However, as the film lead me‎ and not the other way round, I got to attend some fabulous gigs. Trendslaughter IV in Bangalore and Order of the Heretical Trident in Kolkata were my most memorable ones. One has to attend these to understand the power and awe of this genre.

I found most bands and individuals very receptive and ‎forthcoming in putting their thoughts, opinions and feelings out, be it Toshi from Syphilectomy (Nagaland) or the entire Deadbolt gang from Kolkata. Nitin Rajan organizer of India's oldest underground metal show Domination - The Deathfest‎ (Mumbai) and frontman of Primitiv provided true insights. Also Samit Das from Kolkata, Deathfest & Sandesh Shenoy from Cyclopean Eye Productions (Bangalore) provided me access to some really occult regions. Same goes for Hassan Amin (journalist, and vocalist for Multinational Corporations) from Pakistan, who opened up a whole unexplored world of underground following in Lahore. Similarly with Lahiru Chathuranga from Serpent's Athirst (Sri Lanka), and Amit Sanyal (Orator) and Anton Dhar (Nafarmaan), legendary musicians from Dhaka Bangladesh are some legit mentions for now to name a few."

Apart from metal music what are the other aspects that you hope to showcase through the documentary?

"Through my documentaries, I would always like to depict much more than just brushing up on the subject of the film. With Nafir, my debut documentary, I had tried to depict not just Sufi music of Iran, but also inter-personal human relations, the enigma of mystic poets, man versus time, and so many other aspects. 

Similarly, Extreme Nation is an attempt to provide an unscathed and un-tampered view of the youth of the subcontinent and their voice arising from varied socio-economic, political and region-wise points of views. The documentary is shaping up to be an exciting ride from the present to the past and back, without following the usual TV or web-based formats which are sometimes painfully academic or blatantly sponsor-driven."

What stage is the film in at the moment and when do you plan to release it? You are looking for co-production funds for this project, have there been any concrete negotiations around that?

"Most of the filming involved has been successfully completed. I am in the process of pitching the film at Indian and global documentary ‎forums to obtain co-production funding and grants. I'm awaiting updates for the same, and once that is in place, work on post-production will commence, leading to the film’s completion. Further, once Extreme Nation ‎acquires a good world premiere, hopefully, the film will look at a late 2016 or early 2017 release. The vision is to have it released in theatres across India followed by a digital release. So now you can see, that my dreams are of extreme kinds!"

How did you get into metal, or was it just a natural inclination?

"Contrary to regular belief, Metal is never a phase. This music chooses you, and demands a lot from the fan in terms of understanding the ethos. It's an intricate art. It is loud, but there are finer, subtle nuances too. For me, it was a huge shock when I heard the music for the first time! But then shock turns into awe and finally a great affinity kicks in. Mythology, history of mankind, occult, space, nature, geo-politics are just some of the topics out of a huge variety of subjects dealt with in metal music. Maybe the inclination was natural." 

From the early 2000s till today, how have you seen the metal landscape in the country change?

"I remember in the early days, Rangbhavan in Bombay, that was quite a haven for metal fans as a venue, was shut down by the then mayor Pramod Navalkar. Citing complaints of disturbance due to noise by a nearby college and hospital. Though, surprisingly the venue was open to other forms of live events. But there has been a complete turn-around in today's situation. More and more venues across the country - both viable and the unsuspecting ones - are opening up to provide a platform for metal music. The biggest example would be the Big69 gig that was held at Richardson & Cruddas in Byculla, I remember visiting the place as kid as my father's workplace. Whoever would've thought then of a metal gig happening at a fire-oozing steel melting factory, though it sounds perfectly apt!

If you ask me, the metal landscape is doing marvellously well. Seldom does one feel an upsurge or rush of such a magnitude as ever before. The amount of choicest underground extreme international bands from all over the world touring India in the past few years has been amazing! Each one of these bands had a great feedback for the Indian fans. Indian bands of today are mature, responsible and yearning to test limits, and go beyond in quality production and ensure enthralling live performances, to produce better albums and soundscapes for the fans who are the true upholders of the faith. All I can say is that the cult has only grown stronger and more organized. The energy is incredible and the intention is robust."