On 11th February, 2016, the iconic music band from the late ’90s, BOMBAY BLACK, regrouped on a stage at Blue Frog. They belted out a criminally catchy new single called BOING BOING, in tandem with its video launch – their first song to have one. The 4-minute video is directed by Megha Ramaswamy, a well-known independent writer and filmmaker (both her films have made it to TIFF), and most importantly, a long-time fan of the gang.
Here, we speak to Megha, with singer Paresh Kamath, about their big occasion:
Tell us a bit about Bombay Black and its time back in the day.
PARESH: Bombay Black is comprised of a bunch of musicians that played in various different bands all through the ’90s…lots of different combinations that ultimately split up and the ones left standing became BB. In the year 2000, we made our self-titled album and Rock Street Journal (the only indie music magazine back then) decided to release the album along with its December issue…this thing caught on like wild fire! At parties, people were playing our music not knowing it was us that made it…in random conversations, I’d get asked if I had heard this band ‘Bombay Black’. No one knew it was us – kids from Juhu and Vile Parle. I’d date girls who didn’t know me from Adam, but would hum some song of ours. It all peaked when we got to open for Aerosmith in 2001 in LA. We also opened at ‘Indie Invasion’, a rock music festival in LA, for bands like the Incubus, The Offspring, The Beastie Boys etc.
MEGHA: I second this. I heard of them in Pune in 2001, and I was like I can’t believe this is happening in India!
There must have been a tussle between the dewy-eyed fan and consummate professional in you – considering you’re providing imagery to the band you’ve always admired? Could have easily turned into a tribute/homage video…
MEGHA: I wouldn’t call it a tussle, but it was a bit overwhelming. I mean its “Bombay Black”; they have a legacy of years and they’re so beloved in underground & mainstream circuits. Paresh, Randolph and me have met at gigs before, and share an understanding and a love for music & the music video genre — especially the 80s & the 90s. So when Paresh did come to me with the project, I squealed!! I loved the laid-backness of the track & the fact that they didn’t go full retard packaging it as a “comeback” track.
I know enough to not go the hommage way. I know Bombay Black! I’d never misrepresent their sensibilities. (Right, Paresh!?? RIGHT?)
PARESH: Megha had a clear vision from the start…the video is all her. And there was no dewy eyed ness at all. She was a consummate professional on the set. The hardest working person there, and as a director when you have that, the rest of the team has no choice but to follow. She kicked our asses!
Rs. 12 and some biscuits? What’s the story behind that?
MEGHA: That’s the pathetic scene of independent music in India. It is alarming as hell. But we had no money to put this together & we came through pretty well, didn’t we?
PARESH: We sure did, Megha. A lot of very busy and super talented people came together to make this video happen. Editors, post production people, actors…all pro gratis. I think they all did it for Megha and the goodwill she generates. But really, we’ve never made a lot of money doing this Indie thing. It’s something of a pet project. It’s all purely for the love of art. Somehow that makes this project more exciting. No one is putting money on the table and buying parts of your soul from you. This is us – raw!
Did you shoot in tandem with the music being produced, and who conceptualised it? Tell us a bit about the process and timeline.
MEGHA: Paresh sheepishly asked through a common friend Priyanka Bose, who produced the video for us. I had been meaning to do a music video forever, but somehow never loved a band enough to know their music. Also the genre in India is a bit boring. With BB, I had the freedom to conceptualise & be playful. Go vintage B-W & yet have kooks stomping the show. It all happened so inhumanely fast – Did we even have a process other than let’s go with the flow? I think what’s amazing about them as a band is their sense of humour. I haven’t laughed so hard in years. Their reactions to my treatments & scenarios were golden. I mean there are times I’ve just rolled the camera on Paresh emoting to something outlandish I’ve asked him to do. As far as structure, we arrived at the basic visual language of the video in a day & then kept building on it. I think the band really trusted me. That’s more than anything I could have asked for.
The use of “animals”, similar to your short film ‘Bunny’ – a conscious recurring theme? Is making a music video a natural extension or a different ball-game from designing a surrealistic short or hybrid doc?
MEGHA: Yes. It’s a conscious recurring theme. I’m deeply fascinated by the kookiness & otherness I can evoke from performers in animal costumes. I also think to have them mingle with this particular band was a perfect fit. I have had big stuffed people in both Newborns & Bunny & have loved what the performers in these scenes have been able to get out of each other. It is all very grim and hyper real, and yet watching a head banging zebra in a gentleman’s suit is so soothing & meditative. Just to capture all this is performance art being presented via music video is fun. It’s a curious cross pollination style – it’s mine. And I feel safe doing it!
I have always seen myself making music videos. Imagine getting to work with music & visuals – it’s perfect. The ball game is very different because a music video is the representation of someone else’s spirit, lyrics, song & rhythm. It’s a collaboration of form & effort from two very instinctive sides. It can go very wrong.
Culture of music videos for singles/albums far lesser than back in the 90s. No budgets, indie bands making their own videos. More of a marketing tool or artistic expression these days?
MEGHA: Yeah the 80’s & 90’s were the golden age of this gorgeous genre. I learnt so much from just observing the videos of Sophie Mullen, Marcus Nispel, Jonathan glazer, Michel Gondry, Spike Jones, Dom & Nick, Sofia Coppola — it was something else. I don’t know about the business aspect of it, but I feel directors in India don’t do justice to the artists they represent — barring a very few. I remember the video for Trapped by Indus creed was insane, so was Johnny Joker by Shweta Shetty. There was also Shivaraj Santhakumar who dazzled the music video scene in India with the DJ Aqeel videos.
PARESH: This is our band’s first music video. Back in the day, we couldn’t have been able to pull this off. Everything was always prohibitively expensive. Today, the style has evolved and so has technology. You could make a music video from your smart phone if you used it correctly. It’s all HD anyway. Also, the audience has seen enough music videos to be able to tell the difference between someone faking it and the real thing. The difference between a good director and an average one is to be able to capture something true about the subject, so that when the audience sees the video, there’s a connect. The moment Megha came onboard and explained what she wanted to do with the Boing Boing Boing video, I was like “Yes! She’s the one!” She has a natural flair for this medium. I still can’t believe that this is her first ever music video. I guess it comes from all those years of watching and loving music on television.
Finally, any message to the older fans and loyalists?
PARESH: “Hey, miss us yet?!”
MEGHA: Oh, man! Get an album out already!