Rockumentary: Evolution of Indian Rock traces the country’s affinity to rock music right from the 1930s
Most Indians would imagine that rock music in the country was born in the late 20th century. Dharamshala-based filmmaker Abhimanyu Kukreja has a different perspective to present after spending nearly seven years to research and produce a 79-minute documentary named Rockumentary: Evolution of Indian Rock. The work picks up pieces of history right from the 1930s when pre-independent Kolkata was a hub of jazz bands.
“I used to work as a music journalist for a TV channel. Since it was a new endeavour, it afforded me the space to work on underground music while everyone else was obsessed with Bollywood. I’ve had the chance to shoot with bands like Jethro Tull and Limb Bizkit and developed an interest in the history of the Indian side of things,” says Abhimanyu.
After travelling to popular rendezvous of movie enthusiasts such as the Film Market at Cannes Film Festival and winning multiple accolades at Webisode Festival Houston, Texas this year, the documentary is establishing the fact that India’s rock history has tales exhaustive enough to be told on an even bigger canvas.
We ask the video producer about his experiences during the shoot as his output has been selected to be screened at fetes such as Italy-based World Cinema Milan, International Film Festival of Shimla and Pondicherry International Film Festival this year.
Earning the journey
In a country dominated by film music, venturing into an independent industry like rock cannot be financially viable—whether you’re performing on stage or creating a video record of its history. So, one of the initial hiccups that Abhimanyu met with was funding. But, his previous work, for the aforementioned TV station, named Rockumentary: Becoming of Indian Rock attracted co-producers, Saurav Dutta and Elizabeth Coffey.
Besides the monetary factor which weighed them down in travelling to places ranging from Mumbai to Nagaland and Dehradun to Bengaluru and procuring shooting equipment, there are a few factors that decelerated the pace of the project.
“One particularly difficult thing was to break into the circuit of the older rockstars. They didn’t know me and I couldn’t just go up to them and ask for old music or photographs which would be personal treasures for them,” informs the 35-year-old.
However, once the word spread about the good work that he was doing, people were happy to help him with one of India’s rock veterans even hiring their own video guy to send in a clip from the US!
The production is structured into eight chapters, beginning from the story of how Kolkata’s Park Street embraced jazz in the ’30s and rock ’n’ roll in the early ’60s. The video traces the evolution of influences from the Elvis Presley to The Beatles generation and beyond.
For an average rock music aficionado, there is a great deal of trivia loaded into the video as the seek bar moves forward. This includes interviews with many icons like Shillong’s Lou Majaw and Mumbai rocker Gary Lawyer and the names of many pioneers such as Chennai-based The Mustangs and Mumbai’s The Savages.
After discussing the various instances and issues Indian rock has gone through, the documentary concludes after a brief look at how India’s younger bands like The Local Train and Avial are making rock India’s own. Currently focussed on touring the work in film festival circuits across the world, Abhimanyu aims to showcase Rockumentary: Evolution of Indian Rock on streaming platforms soon.
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