A Young Music Mesmerizer
Belonging from classical music Gharana, Akshat Parikh is a promising artist from the young lot. Speaking of his accolades, he was the finalist in India’s first online reality show closeup web singer. He was also awarded “Best Title Track of the Year for serial Maharana Pratap.” His brilliance has not only made him do shows in India and overseas. In this interview, he talks about him choosing music as his career, Bandish Bandits, and more.
Which is the first-ever composition you heard that inspired you to go ahead in Music
There was no such particular thing because I belong to a family of musicians. They are all connected to Classical sangeet. So, since childhood I have seen my grandfather, my uncle doing Riyaz at home and I’ve grown up listening to them. I never consciously decided on taking up music. It came easily and naturally to me. I have learned most of the things by listening. After completing graduation, I was in a dilemma whether to go ahead with my master’s in Business Administration or focus on Music. I knew I couldn’t anything without music, it is something that soothes me. I have learned to do tally accounting but the music was my calling.
How did ‘Bandish Bandits’ happen?
I am from Ahmedabad but It’s been 9 years since I’ve come to Mumbai. And only 5 years back I started teaching music. I remember getting an offer for a musical play where I had to train the actors but it didn’t work out. Because they thought, I was too young to teach and manage the group. I am pretty sure someone must’ve recommended my name for ‘Bandish Bandits’. I have been doing many jingles and ads so I think they must’ve got my reference from there. They approached and then I met the makers of the show. They narrated the whole story and situation to me; the cast was not finalized then. I gave my inputs wherever they needed and then the training with actors began.
What has your process been to train the actors?
The biggest challenge for me was that no one knew music. Even though they play the role of legends and connoisseurs. I had to start from scratch to teach them. The process and the training were different for each one of them. I got to spend more time with Radhe. We would practice every day. According to me if anyone goes through or studies the fundamentals of classical music, that person may not sing but will surely understand what it is and the viewer too. It is very important. We used to have a mandatory lecture on music but we don’t see that today. So, we started with the basics like what is a ‘swar’, ‘raga sangeet’ and I would explain to them the why behind everything they did. I went into the details of what their character is supposed to do. I cannot make someone sing like a pro in 2-3 months, even god cannot do that. My main aim was to make sure that whatever they do should be appropriate for the character and it should look correct. As we got the Bandish from the Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy team we worked on what their expressions should be while singing. What will be his expression when he is singing ‘Taan’ or ‘Thumri’ and how will he interact with fellow musicians on stage. It had to be smooth and seamless. It was easy for me as an artist to understand these things but a whole share of credit goes to the actors for doing such a great job and for trusting me and following what I taught them.
Have any challenging or rather fascinating incidents took place while training the actors?
Oh definitely, I spent more time with Ritwik who plays the role of Radhe. We started from zero, the training happened in the month of October-November and by April we started shooting for the Classical music portions. Sargam needs to be memorized because you can’t cheat there. The shot is tight and the lip-sync has to be perfect. Ritwik developed a strong grasp over them. If the shot was in fifteen minutes and I told him what he has to do in the scene, he would pick it up in no time. I was pleasantly surprised at his grasping speed. My focus area was to make it look real as if he’s really singing. Because I had seen a movie in the past where I found the essence missing. Those movies could’ve done a better job in representing classical music. It should look real and natural. This was the only thing I had in mind while training. Working with Naseerji required much attention and detail. He is amongst those legends who act with conviction. So, when I sat with him, he used to ask questions like where is this raga from? What about the hand gestures during singing? What’s the feel of it and so on. We also went through how a master must teach his disciple, the way he taught Radhe in the show so he goes into the detail of every element and nails the nuances.
When you do “Riyaz” which principles have become a part of your system?
I cannot do without Riyaz. It has sat into my system. In case I am busy and skipped my Riyaz, if I am asked to sing, I get conscious. I don’t know if it’s common but it happens with me. But I have made it a point that no matter what I do or how busy I am, be it even for 15 minutes at least, I do my Riyaz every day without fail.
Apart from singing and live concerts do you see yourself composing one day?
I have composed many jingles but there’s a song I recently composed, “Namu Tane Hun Gurjari – Gujarat Anthem” coming out on 1st May on account of Gujarat Diwas and Maharashtra Day as they fall on the same day. The song is available on various platforms.
What is your view on how the music industry is going to grow after the pandemic?
I think today’s scenario is quite good because we have started concentrating on the technical aspect of music. In this sense, you need a good phone, a strong WIFI connection, or a good camera. Because it helps you, I have noticed many artists including myself, put out our videos and we’re making our own audience. Gone are the days when you had to come to Mumbai and give auditions if you wanted to be a singer on a reality show. Today things are different, it doesn’t matter if you are staying in a city, town or even a village. You can make your market through social media. You can meet your audience. Secondly, you know how great our Indian film music has been. These days you can’t find a song that sticks on your mind forever. It has a lifespan. There are many factors included in this but I think there’s a lack of poetry and Indian touch. We feel very comfortable and accept things that belong to us, like Indian music. Something that has been born with you in the same place, forms a connection with you because it is the culture we’re introduced to. The advent of independent music is a success. There was a time when playback singing was considered to be a parameter to be a singer. Today Independent music and Indian film music are at par. It is quite possible that independent music can overtake Indian film music. Because you have all the freedom an artist can have, you can be as creative as you like, you can bring out your true self through music. Film music has certain limitations. There are too many things involved.
Your insights about Bollywood’s Golden Era which has beautifully impacted the music industry.
I haven’t seen many films but I’ve heard Hindi songs. If you look at the 60s, 70s, 80s many Indian elements were used and they had western symphony music. But that is missing now. Because when you made music at that time, there were nearly 100 to 150 people involved. Their souls were connected in the making of the song. Programming is the name of progress in today’s time, it has become more program-oriented. There was a synergy while making music during the Golden era and that is why we still find them to be evergreen. It is timeless. The culture of today is the song that gets promoted the most becomes a hit. Many songs are genuinely good but they go unnoticed. The Golden era had a variety to offer to its audience. What beautiful compositions were made. There was versatility. Now if you look at Rafi Sahab, he gave his voice to Shammi Kapoor for a fun peppy song and he has made us cry too. There’s a wide range of emotions he could evoke through his songs.