India has always inspired Western musicians
Writer-director Abhimanyu Kukreja’s Rockumentary: Evolution of Indian Rock releases tomorrow at PVR Cinemas
It was in 2008 while working for a newly launched English language news station that Abhimanyu Kukreja wanted to do something new, something which hadn’t been done before. So, Kukreja began covering independent Indian bands. “I realised we all know the history of American and British bands, but not the Indian ones. That thought led me to foray further, and one thing to another. I had started digging deeper into the eras when Rock N Roll started,” shares Kukreja. This led to what he terms as “the biggest challenge” of his life till date – the making of the 79-minute film, Rockumentary: Evolution of Indian Rock. The film, premiered at Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival in India in December 2018, will be officially released on March 5, 2021 at PVR Cinemas.
Foray into filmmaking
Kukreja wanted to be a cricketer as a kid. He even represented Indore in U-19 team in the CK Naidu Cup but then his thoughts moved on, from sports to the world of art. “I was deeply influenced by films. During my growing up years, late Urmilla Sial, the only sister of Raj-Shammi-Shashi Kapoor, often visited us during summer vacations. She and my grandmother were good friends. She used to bring video cassettes of documentary films for us. There was no cable television back then, and I would watch these documentaries with much interest. I remember watching the films on World War with Sial aunty. That was my first introduction to the art of filmmaking,” reminisces Kukreja.
Making of Rockumentary
Rockumentary features artistes like Usha Uthup, Louiz Banks, Subir Malik, Susmit Bose, Rahul Ram, Luke Kenny, Abhinav Dhar, Arenla Subong, Bobby Cash, Gary Lawyer, Imtiaz Ali, Kanan Mohan, Kit Shangpliang among others and bands like Avial, Agnee, Blue Temptation, The Local Train, The Circus, Undying Inc, Summersalt and Soulmate.
Talking about the making of this film, Kukreja says, “Every step and stage of this film was a challenge, but that’s the beauty of filmmaking because once you overcome challenges, the prize is big!”
Thanking the artistes for their whole-hearted participation, he says, “Most welcomed the idea on the first go. That’s a reason we have such a huge line up for a 79 minute film. Some wanted to meet me personally before I brought in the cameras, which I did. Winning their confidence to share the treasures of their lives was an important step too.”
It took Kukreja almost eight years to complete this work of art. “There were a number of reasons for this, funding being the main one! Getting hold of the musicians was a challenge, so was editing the hundreds of hours of interview footage – what to keep and what to discard took a lot of time. But all’s well that ends well. I could not have done this without the support of my co-producers, Saurav Dutta and Elizabeth Coffey,” he says.
The filmmaker says Rockumentary has been targetted at the global audience – Rock N Roll has a global appeal. The film is made in such a manner that even those who aren’t into Rock music would enjoy watching, mainly because of its historical significance. “The CBFC has given it a ‘U’ certificate, which means you can enjoy it with your family. People should take their children to watch it because it is a musical and full of information about the band scene in India! It tells a very important part of our own music history – of Rock N Roll in India,” he avers.
Talking about the acceptability of Indian music abroad, Kukreja says, “Indian music or Indian classical music is extremely popular and accepted by the Western audience. We know how Pt Ravi Shankar became George Harrison’s teacher and taught him sitar. But these are traditional Indian sounds that have always been amusing, attractive to the world. India, as a country, has always inspired Western musicians, whether it be its spirituality or its culture.”
Drawing attention towards independent musicians from the film, the filmmaker says, “Western audience is slowly realising that India is not just a land of Bollywood, snakes and elephants. Bobby Cash made a huge impact in Australia so much so that the Discovery Channel did a documentary on him. Parikrama did a tour with Iron Maiden in the UK- which certificate does one need after this. Uday Benegal from Indus Creed had a decent career in the USA with his band, Alms for Shanti. Agnee and Indian Ocean, the two Hindi bands, have toured extensively internationally. The list goes on. “
Kukreja is, at present, making a documentary series Lost India, an American production where he has twin roles – he is playing himself as a character and also doing the camera work. The documentary series is exploring Mahabharata war from a scientific and an archaeological point of view. “I would be on tour for shooting sites across India after the release of Rockumentary,” he signs off.