“I view it as a ‘hybrid’ between two forms i.e. art and music. The resulting collaboration features ideas by the artist and the music by the musician, which are fused into an audio-visual piece that symbolizes the triumph of such collaborations,” expresses young director Srinivas Sunderrajan while talking about the making of his unique show The Dewarists, which is currently running into its third season. In an exclusive chat with Pandolin, Srinivas explains the new format of this show, his collaboration with the artists and the thought process that went into creating themes for it.

Shiv Ahuja_DSC9864Tell us something about your background. When did you form your hardcore band Scribe and what was the inspiration behind it?

I dropped out of an IT under-graduate course previously and then completed my graduation in advertising from Mumbai University. Being part of the indie music scene, I got to meet a lot of musicians. With them, I ended up playing in multiple bands till we became a little more serious and formed Scribe. It just felt right at that point in time, to play music and have a good time. There wasn’t any ‘rigid inspiration’ behind it.

How did you get into direction?

During college, I worked on an American independent film called “The Pool”, which starred Nana Patekar. We shot this 35mm film in the streets of Panjim, Goa with a motley crew of seven and this whole experience shattered all my pre-conceived notions of filmmaking. I was heavily inspired by how small the crew was and how just pure passion and dedication can help you realize your vision. This experience led me to believe in myself and made me explore cinema in a completely unconventional way. Also, I was interested in the art of story telling and we made a lot of college projects as “audio-visual presentations”. This further opened up my mind about utilizing the AV medium to tell stories, in whichever way I wanted to.

Shiv Ahuja_DSC9211When did you come on board for The Dewarists and what were your initial understanding and thought process for the show?

My connection with The Dewarists goes back to the first season, when my band mate and dear friend, Vishwesh was directing the show. Also, the people behind the show, Samira and her team at Babblefish were long time members of the nascent indie music scene. We always used to meet at gigs or various festivals, so in a way, we all grew up together and kept in sync with each other’s work and progress. I guess that’s how I came on board for this season.

Now, since the show already had two highly successful seasons with a set episode structure, it was definitely a challenge to understand the new format i.e. “Art meets Music”. “How would a visual artist collaborate with a musician? What would their end result be?” – these were the newer questions that we were asking ourselves. And hence, the best way to go about with this season was to approach it as a ‘completely new show’ in itself, one that had no earlier season in the past. So basically, we started from scratch by creating our own edit structures and concepts, solely because there was no reference point to stick to. This approach freed our minds from going back to the older structures and helped us create a new look and format for this season.

What was your brief to the team? How do you all discuss ideas and work towards creating stunning themes?

Well, the timelines of the show are quite small between the episodes and heavily dependent on artist dates and schedules. Therefore, I generally tend to write a bank of themes that one could always fall back on, in case of everyone drawing a blank. Thankfully, the collaborators are always excited and overflowing with the ideas for their work. Hence, my brief to the team becomes quite simple, i.e. “Just be in the moment and absorb the energy of the collaboration”.

Shiv Ahuja_DSC9638I feel, by adopting this method, one reduces the stress that is usually observed in such high-pressure shoots. Besides, I am honored that I get to work with the team, which comprises of extremely talented individuals with each having great experience in their line of work. Thus, sharing ideas and listening to their views also helps me understand and evolve better as the helmer of the series.

In an interview, you called the third season of The Dewarists a ‘hybrid audio visual piece’? What do you mean by that and what was your approach for it?

In previous seasons, viewers saw collaborations between the two musicians and that final track was perceived as a music video wherein both parties performed the song. Whereas, in this season, due to the different types of collaborators, one could not conveniently label the piece a ‘music video’ as it took on a unique form. This is why, I view it as a ‘hybrid’ between two forms i.e. art and music. The resulting collaboration features ideas by the artist and the music by the musician, which are fused into an audio-visual piece that symbolizes the triumph of such collaborations.

Keeping this in mind, the approach was to try and free your mind from existing conventions of music video forms and to see if something unique comes out of the resulting mix. There is no emphasis that all the collaborators need to be seen in the video as they are present as ‘concepts’ or ‘ideas’ and not in their physical form. This may sound too intellectual on paper but it’s not that complex when you see the episode and the resulting AV-piece. For example, in our first episode, we had a light painter, a music producer and a performing artist. The resulting AV constituted superb light paintwork but the music accentuated the entire mood and movements of the dancer. Likewise, in the second episode, the neon work of installation artist Shilpa Gupta mirrors the themes of Lucky Ali’s lyrics and music along with her fusion concepts, which formed the narrative of the final AV piece.

Shiv Ahuja_DSC9733How unique is the current season?

The uniqueness lies in the combination of art and music. As a filmmaker or a storyteller, one is always bound by certain conventions and process. But here, seeing the way the collaboration evolves, one can clearly draw inspirations for their own lives and discover unchartered mediums of form. As there was no reference point to begin with, we just had to keep an open mind and imbibe whatever learning we gather in the journey ahead.

What have been the challenges on the show and how do you fuse the two art forms i.e. visuals and music into one cohesive unit?

The main challenge is to filter the ideas and concepts that the collaborators come up with and synchronize them in order to make the final product look as though it has come out of one mind. Since both visuals and music are highly energetic forms, one tends to be overwhelmed with the results. That’s why it is essential that the collaborators stay in tune, both emotionally and conceptually. Only then, the final piece would turn out to be something, which is true and personal to their field of work. Most of the times, the collaborators get inspired by each other’s work and challenge themselves by coming up with visuals or music compositions that is very unlike them and out of their comfort zone. This basically helps them break boundaries and evolve as artists and human beings.

Shiv Ahuja_DSC9400How is it collaborating with the visual artists and musicians from the different parts of the world?

I love the collaboration process of this season as it makes me apprehend the artist’s own struggle and journey to stay true to themselves plus their art.  Thereby, it inspires me to push the boundaries and explore newer avenues that I usually wouldn’t have ventured on my own. Also, understanding the cultures that most of the artists come from helps me fathom my own culture and personal journey into this field.