A bit of THIS and A bit THAT....Kuch Khatha, Kuch Meetha, Thoda Naram, Thoda Garam!

Monday, May 22, 2006

For everyone who wants to follow their dreams....

Read this article in 'The Telegraph' and is dedicated to everyone who wants to follow their dreams....

In filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh’s cult hit Jhankaar Beats, a group of advertising executives nurse a dream to form their own band and launch a music album, even as they worship R D Burman and lug drums around in the boots of their cars. Ghosh might have taken a leaf out of the lives of the members of Bangalore band Aurko — with the difference that these particular RD worshippers have actually lived out the Jhankaar Beats dream.

With the launch of their maiden Indipop album Nadiyaa, Aurko has chosen to go a route only a few Indian bands have gone before —releasing original Hindi non-film music. The music video of their signature song Nadiyaa — an ode to the city of Calcutta — is catching the imagination of viewers even as it is played repeatedly on music channels, while their album released by Times Music is steadily making its way up the charts.

The story of how a small group of dedicated music lovers from Bangalore managed to release a pop album in Hindi with an established label, even as they climbed the corporate ladder as managers and executives, is an inspiring one.

The six-year-old band’s journey probably started when lead singer Supratik Ghosh, whose day-time avatar is that of GM, sales and marketing of a leading advertising agency, was transferred to Bangalore from Mumbai. Supratik came from film and music stock — singer Geeta Dutt was his grandmother’s sister and his father Shyamol Ghosh was a director — and he had already cut his teeth in music by reaching the semi-finals of popular TV talent hunt Sa Re Ga Ma. “Just before I was sent to Bangalore, I had been on the verge of establishing real contacts and making successful forays into the Mumbai music scene,” recalls Supratik. “Being sent to Bangalore seemed like a punishment, but it turned out to be blessing in disguise,” he says.

Chance meetings with Souvik Mukherjee, an engineer who is the band’s other lead singer, Aakash (who’s not a part of the band any more) and IIT-ian Saumya Shanker, who works in the financial services sector, kicked off the process that culminated with the release of the album. They started with doing covers of Hindi songs for Durga Puja functions, moved on to corporate events and did close to 200 live shows before another chance meeting spurred them on to write and compose their own music. Meanwhile, some people left, and others joined in, such as bass guitarist Jeet Das who is a part of the core group now.

At a show at Planet M, the band met Ravi Bhatnagar, VP, marketing of Times Music. “He gave us the confidence to start work on our original compositions,” recalls Supratik. “I think we had been moving towards that for some time, and his encouragement just gave us the final spark,” adds Saumya.

Having recorded the album, they did the rounds of music labels and were almost signed up by Sony Music in 2005, when an unexpected blow fell. The label decided to hold back on launching any new voices to support the channel’s reality show winners, and it looked like one phone call would end a dream that had been in the making for six years. “The day we were told Sony could not sign us up was perhaps the worst day of our lives. We couldn’t talk, couldn’t sleep the whole night. It was a really bad time,” says Supratik. But soon Times Music stepped in and the album was very much on its way.

Melody and fresh voices are Aurko’s strengths, and they are refreshingly honest about the fact that they are catering to the masses — no highbrow pretensions here. “We want our songs to be hummed by a maid as she sweeps the floor, by a chauffeur as he drives his master’s car,” says Supratik. They have made melody-based music and a very Bollywood-ish sensibility their own and are unabashedly populist.

What they do offer, according to them, is a value-for-money album. “It’s not the kind of album where the video song is the only one worth listening to while the others are just there to make up the numbers,” asserts mild-mannered Saumya. Their music has folk and tribal elements — while Nadiyaa has a Bhatiyali refrain, Dholna has strains from an Assamese folk song and Kaho Na makes use of traditional Indian instruments such as the sarod and tanpura.

Shooting the video for Nadiyaa in Calcutta was a first-time experience for most of the members — it left them slightly wet behind the ears and pretty much everywhere else. “Since water is the overwhelming theme of the song, we were drenched almost throughout the three-day shoot in the middle of a rather cold December,” grins Supratik. The shoot had other harum-scarum moments, such as director Oni Sen ordering Supratik’s wife Lalpi to act in the video after an actress had dropped out. “Those three days were completely mad, but total fun,” they say in chorus.

The whole project has been almost a family venture — with Lalpi and Saumya’s wife Soma writing the lyrics, doing PR and graphics work for the band and other friends chipping in with important back-stage work. “The fact that our non-performing friends work tirelessly for the band without a share of the limelight and glamour shows that they really believe in the music. This gives us a lot of strength,” says Saumya.

What also helps are the discipline and work ethics instilled in them by the corporate world. Even with demanding jobs and upwardly spiralling careers, the band manages to find time to practice, ideate and chill out together. “I think we have a good mix of creativity and discipline, and that’s helped us a lot,” says Supratik. Of course, the creative side of their lives is set to escalate now with the release of the album and the large numbers of shows that they have committed to — but a little bit of clever time management should be able to cover that, they feel. Besides live shows, they also have the release of the second video for the song Puchhe Ye Dil Se to look forward to, as also other on-ground activities. A tie-up with Café Coffee Day promises that their CDs and cassettes will be sold from the café chain’s 300 outlets soon. The release of the second video will also be followed up with what they are calling the ‘What’s Your Story’ campaign,a programme that will encourage visitors to Café Coffee Day to relate incidents of being misunderstood by loved ones in a fast-paced life — the theme of the song Puchhe Ye Dil Se.

They might be the new kids on the block, but Aurko sure knows how to play its audience the right way.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Read this article in 'The Telegraph'.

Dialled dinner delivered at doorstep - Scooter-borne network picks up food from restaurants, brings it to caller’s home free

Condos of swank steel and myriad marble are reshaping Calcutta’s urbanscape and the ever-widening base of ICE-age (information, communication and entertainment) pros is changing the way the city eats — outdoors and in. With dialling for dinner fast becoming a way of life, the need for meals on wheels is growing by the night.

Enter, WoW! or Waiter on Wheels, a “unique free door-delivery system” that picks up food from various F&B outlets on phone-in orders to serve both domestic and corporate clientele in town. “An informal survey showed a defined need for a service like this,” says Vikas Thakker. The 42-year-old marketing man has kicked off the WoW! delivery device with a fleet of Honda scooters, a call centre and a tie-up with three outlets for starters.

The service for the moment is operational in south Calcutta, and the munch menu comes from Copper Chimney on Theatre Road, Azad Hind Dhaba in Hindustan Park and Green Chilli on Rashbehari Avenue.

The central business district and Sector V are next on the radar, besides expanding the domestic domain.

“We plan to have 18-20 two-wheelers in the next six to 12 months and eventually cover the entire city with our door-delivery network,” promises Thakker. To beef up the cuisine count, WoW! is looking at “one or two options on Park Street”, restaurants in Chinatown, Salt Lake, VIP Road and the Phoolbagan-Kankurgachhi belt in the immediate future.

The WoW! army aims to break the common ‘two-km-radius’ boundary for home delivery. “The concept is nice and as long as they have a solid database of clientele from good eateries with a proper mix of menus, it should work. Similar services are quite popular in Bangalore and Mumbai,” observes Debasish Ghosh of Mainland China.

Rajiv Kothari of Bar-B-Q agrees. “There is immense potential in home delivery, and many families would love to have their favourite restaurant food in the comfort of their homes during weekends and even on weeknights after a gruelling day. No one has done it in a professional manner in Calcutta till date and so it hasn’t taken off yet.”

Thakker is aware of the huge dormant delivery market and is keen to serve it right. “The restaurant owner gets to provide an additional service with existing infrastructure, and the customer gets his/her favourite fare without budging from home,” he stresses.

While dishes from the existing restaurant roster come at “no extra cost” to the consumer, WoW! promises to deliver “any order from any reputed eatery” in future at “a nominal additional price”.