This documentary reveals how India has made rock music its own. Check it out – Edexlive


From live concerts to film music, we have seen how rock music has become a part of today’s pop culture in India. But where did it start and how was rock music popularized in India? Abhimanyu Kukreja retraces the journey of rock music in India through his documentary titled Rockumentary which hit theaters earlier this month. A music journalist and independent filmmaker, Abhimanyu left mainstream media in 2009 and soon embarked on a seven-year journey to trace the roots of Indian rock music. The documentary begins with Abhimanyu talking about how he knew the sound of American, German and English rock, but had no idea what Indian rock was.

Abhimanyu, behind the scenes

It was in 2006, while Abhimanyu was in college, that he was introduced to rock and roll. He says, “Some of my roommates at the hostel had their own band. That’s how I was introduced to Indian rock. I came across the Great Indian Rock Show started by Amit Saigal. I was also a big follower of the grunge rock movement that was going on then. There was a lot of information about these foreign artists but when I tried to search on Indian rock music I couldn’t find anything. It’s this curiosity which led me to pursue this topic.

The documentary is divided into eight chapters, each describing a particular era. The first chapter is “City of Joy”, describing the period between the 1930s and the 1960s in Calcutta. American jazz pianists, Teddy Weatherford’s band were one of the first rock bands in India – around World War II. George Banks, a Nepalese trumpet player who moved to Calcutta, played for the band. Abhimanyu traveled to Mumbai to interview his son, Louis Banks who is also a popular jazz musician. The documentary goes on to reveal that after the partition in 1947, the Anglo-Indians who remained continued to perform in the 1950s and 60s. They hired Indian musicians to play roles in the group and they chose the genre .

The next chapter talks about Elvis Presley’s influence on Indian rock and roll. There was a music contest that was held in the 60s, the winner of which would earn the title “Elvis Presley of India”. There was a Sikh man named Iqbal Singh who danced and sang like Elvis who won the competition. Later popular Bollywood movie — Ek Phool Chaar Kaante — had a full song by him that immediately caught attention across the country. This helped spread the rock music genre across the country.

There is another chapter called “Shillong Diaries”. In it, Abhimanyu explains how Shillong is not only the rock capital as it is popularly called, but it is the music capital of India. He says: “To call it the capital of rock is an understatement. When I interviewed people from there I realized how big in Shillong hip hop is, EDM is big these days Shillong’s best-known band is a blues band called Soul Mate. To narrow it down to one genre is very unfair to Shillong.”

He adds: “The musicians I interviewed shared treasures of their lives and to convince them to speak, I had to travel a lot. There was a lot of persuasion to do because no one knew me. I traveled the ‘India, all metro cities, the northeast and a few small towns like Rishikesh. I went there to cover the Beatles ashram. The first time I went there was when it was in ruins when it was under the forest department. The second time I visited, the Archaeological Society of India (ASI) had taken it over. They now maintain it well and have made it a paying place.”

Abhimanyu, on his way to the Beatles ashram

There were several other interesting discoveries Abhimanyu made during his research for the film. For example, there was an album called Obsession 77, which was by a band called Atomic Forest in the 70s. He remastered it and made it into a vinyl record and now it’s a very high priced collector’s item,” says Abhimanyu.

The documentary traces the history of rock music to current bands. Abhimanyu interviewed around 30 artists across India. Many 70s bands were based in Delhi but have now moved to Goa and other places to retire, so tracking them down was a difficult task, he says. However, Abhimanyu adds, “One person led me to another and people went out of their way to support this movie. For example, I wanted to interview the leader of Atomic Forest, who is now in the United States. I didn’t have the funds to travel but he had his own team there and I just had to send him the questions and he did the rest. Most people don’t see that as commercially viable.

Talking about the financing of the film, he says: “I was contacted by Saurav Datta, who is my co-producer. He is very passionate about rock music and he had the money. So he wanted to invest in it. He saw a old documentary on YouTube and contacted me. He came to Mumbai to meet me and spent a month with me. We did all the filming and then he ran out of money. So the film was blocked. is when a friend of mine, Elizabeth Coffey, who owns a production company, came to our rescue and finished it for us.”

The documentary is so informative that it received a U certificate and is now allowed to be shown in schools. Abhimanyu recalls, “I asked for a U/A certificate for over 15s. But one of the jury members told me that this film deserves a U certificate because it is part of history. Indian rock and that kids should know.and roll music has contributed a lot to the Indian music industry, you can even see elements of it in Bollywood songs.This genre has strong roots that have influenced modern music. The documentary also talks about some obstacles that the Indian rock music industry has faced, such as lack of access to western rock instruments and a society that is not always willing to accept rock music. Rockumentary is the first Indian rock music documentary to see a theatrical release.


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