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Interviews |  15 Apr 2011 16:06 |  By PavanRChawla

Mohan of Agnee: We want to back the anti-corruption cause with more than just a song

Agnee is hard at work, and in the midst of composing songs for Aalaap, its first Bollywood movie as independent music director, Gulab Gang, a film about a gritty gang of women in UP, and Shaala, the Marathi film about a school kid romance in the backdrop of the emergency, the iconic band is determined to support Anna Hazare's anti-corruption drive meaningfully by inspiring its 78000 Facebook friends to join the cause, among other things  The band also plans to release a physical album soon and is looking forward to a hectic schedule of touring across the country, plus its Create With Agnee initiative. Lead vocalist and percussionist Mohan also tells Pavan R Chawla that the fact that India's topmost platform, Bollywood, is open to accepting new musical talent into its fold is great news. Excerpts.

Agnee is supporting the anti-corruption campaign in India. What are your thoughts on it and how would you be lending your support?

Mayank Gandhi, one of the pioneers of the cause, bumped into us at Baroda airport last month and spoke to us about this and asked us whether we would like to be involved. We took our time to read through what it was and made sure we were acquainted with the cause before we supported it. Once we understood what the Jan Lokpal bill was and why it made sense for it to be pushed, we were on. As of now, we've been making our friends on Facebook aware of what the cause is, as we felt there were too many people who were just running into the movement without realising what it was about. We've got about 78000 friends on our Facebook page, and with this kind of strength in numbers, the onus was on us to be able to use it wisely.

Our involvement in the cause, however, does not stop after Shri Anna Hazare's fast has succeeded and will definitely bear more fruit in the future too  We would honestly like to do something meaningful towards the cause rather than just make a song about it and make people listen. Honestly, we don't think making a song pushes people to fight against corruption, or for that matter, take up any cause  We'd rather that we involved our friends in this, made them participate, and made them join the actual fight against corruption at each individual's level  We're actually starting an interactive session with the team of India against Corruption to involve all the people at the grassroots level in this.

Your views on initiatives like, and as sites that are giving independent music the kind of presence and exposure it never had in the past.

It's just great that there are avenues for independent artists to showcase their music. We've actually been fortunate to go mainstream and then switch to independent, so we're sort of in a lucky situation of the best of both worlds, really. We're still not very sure about how it would work for independent artists to actually become hugely successful, but it's definitely a step in the right direction.

Strangely enough, though, we're now seeing a phase where Bollywood has suddenly become open to new talent in music and new sounds -- at least new in the Bollywood space  So it's wonderful that the biggest platform our country has to offer is actually open to taking new people into its fold. You have amazing music coming out from people like Amit Trivedi, Sneha Khanwalkar, Sachin-Jigar and so many people who haven't really had the chance to work on film before. At the same time, the experienced big guys like Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Pritam, Vishal-Shekhar and AR Rahman are all going great guns too.

What suggestion do you have for young artists?

Our suggestion for young artists is not to take the �independent' tag more seriously than their music itself. A great song deserves the best promotional platform it can get, and if a film project is possible, it makes no sense in not using that platform just to feel great about being independent.

If one does need to go independent, because of lack of opportunity in film or otherwise, be smart about it. We started tying up with the reality-show platform before anyone else did, partly by chance, and partly because we understood that independent music videos will not be played on TV. We also decided to go independent first after realising that we would actually be able to promote each song of ours with a video and a platform -- something that would not be possible in an album format where you could at the most have two videos out of eight songs. We've started the �Create with Agnee' initiative, which is as much a way of marketing as a way of getting fresh talent to work with us and give them an opportunity.

Finally, the world's best initiatives will not help a song if it doesn't work at the very core: the song has to be a good song and appreciated by people! Marketing's role would be to get people to listen to the song or watch the video; whether they like the song or not is up to them. Ensure a good product first and then we've at least got our core right; the next part then becomes easy. There will be some platform that will be eager to join you and use the song to their benefit, thereby giving the song its recognition as well.

OK, let's speak about what Agnee is busy doing now. We have heard the Splitsvilla anthem. What next do we look forward to from Agnee?

We're working on some films as of now, so songs of those should be out soon. We're also doing a lot of live shows and getting people familiar with our songs old and new. On the private releases front, we've followed our principle of releasing our songs as singles since 2009, and we've released six songs so far. We're going to release 2 more and also then release the physical album with all these 8 songs and something extra for people to actually buy the album. We've also finished 2 legs of our �Create with Agnee' initiative, the search for lyricists and singers, and come out with some super talent from among our listeners. We're now going to launch our third leg of Create with Agnee this year, which will come out soon. We're very excited about it.

Gulab Gang will see Agnee as a music director. What do we expect from it?

Gulab Gang is a gritty story about a gang of women in UP who fight for the general good of the women and people in their area and their lives. The film is written and to be directed by Soumik Sen. The music for the film will be a lot of folk rock; something that's been our sound since the time of Sadho Re, Ujale Baaz, Kabira… and even Raanjhan Yaar Di. The project is going on floor around October, and we should hopefully have finished all the songs for the film before it does.

What about Aalaap…?

Yes, that's on a more immediate level -- we're just finishing all our songs for the film. Aalaap is about four college students in Bhilai who form a band and how they deal with life and circumstances of the area. It's a fresh film about youngsters, but has its meat in the seriousness of the topics touched in the film. The film has seven songs in it, and marks our debut as solo music directors in Bollywood. We've given it our best shot for each of the songs, and have touched a range of genres through them. There's some rock, some folk, some straight up pop, some tribal stuff and also an Item song to boot. The film's really given us an opportunity to go out of just the band sound and create stuff that we couldn't really execute in the band album format, so we're very kicked about it.

We're also working on finishing two songs for the Marathi film Shaala  The film is about a school kid romance in the backdrop of the declaration of emergency. It's all about nostalgia and a sneak peek back into our own school days. There are two songs in the film, of which one is a romantic ballad and the other is a classical song that comes at various parts of the film. The film looks great and we should be done with the songs by the end of April.

In terms of your concerts where do we see you next?

We're back in Gujarat this month, with a show in Gandhinagar and another in Baroda. We're also performing in Jabalpur and Pune. Next month we're on a four-city tour of Maharashtra and also going to Varanasi and Delhi. We're having fun. The stage is where the heart is, and we're glad we're able to tour so much!

You've been nominated in Twifi for Udaan. What are your thoughts on it?

Well all I can say is thank you. :)

The song Naav is without doubt lyrically and melodically one of the best songs I've ever sung. Both Amitabh Bhattacharya with his lyrics, and Amit Trivedi  with the music direction, have just come together in an outstanding fashion in this song, and I've just grabbed the opportunity to be a part of a wonderful composition. I had a great time singing it, and since all three of us are friends, we all had our inputs on the song and I kept singing as many ideas as I could get, so it was great.

Being nominated for the song at a couple of awards is just the icing on the cake – primary is the fact that I enjoy listening to the song even now and am fiercely proud to have been a part of it, and that's all I can ask for from a song!