‘WE ASKED, WHO’S THE BAS***D OF THE ROCK WORLD?’

The coolest cats of in­die rock, Uday Bene­gal and Sid­dharth Bas­rur, on their act­ing de­but with Aadyam’s #SingIn­di­aSing

Mid Day - - FRONT PAGE - »P15

Why rock’s big­gest names would agree to voice train and at­tend dance class, only the Lord knows. And Rahul daCunha

ROCK­ERS are the luck­i­est sods in the world. They get the scream­ing fans, the hall of fame, the women. So, when ac­tor Su­chi­tra Pil­lai asks this writer, “I want to know why only th­ese two are be­ing in­ter­viewed,” in­di­cat­ing In­dus Creed front­man Uday Bene­gal and prog rocker Sid­dharth Bas­rur, play­wright (and mid-day colum­nist) Rahul daCunha cuts in, “They’re rock­ers, yaar.”

Pil­lai, Bene­gal, Bas­rur and a few other ac­tors are re­hears­ing in Khar for #SingIn­di­aSing, an up­com­ing mu­si­cal to be staged in Oc­to­ber, which has been writ­ten by DaCunha and ‘Bugs’ Bhar­gava Kr­ishna, and di­rected by Nadir Khan (12 An­gry Ju­rors). The plot fol­lows a bunch of singers com­pet­ing against each other to win a tele­vised singing con­test. The writ­ers had con­ceived the play eight years ago. “There’s a rea­son why it took so long,” says DaCunha. “Be­cause ev­ery three years, some­thing came into the sys­tem that made it richer. In 2010, re­al­ity shows weren’t that big. Bigg Boss came in, and be­came an as­set to the mu­si­cal. The power of the In­ter­net wasn’t there in its Twit­ter and troll form. Each phase in In­dia’s growth has added to the story. It needed the last eight years for the ur­gency, for the coun­try to change, for the In­ter­net to get more vi­cious.”

As a mu­si­cal, #SingIn­di­aSing crosses gen­res — rock, pop, Bol­ly­wood, Car­natic and hip-hop. There’s no lip-sync­ing and no spo­ken di­a­logue: it is a nar­ra­tive, but in song form. Bene­gal and Bas­rur, who were ap­proached to play the leads last year, are aware that they aren’t ac­tors. Bene­gal ad­mits as much to Bas­rur, “I’m prob­a­bly a shi***er ac­tor than you are.”

But the op­por­tu­nity was too good, and too rare, to pass up. “In prin­ci­ple, I said yes, be­cause I’m al­ways up for some­thing new,” says Bene­gal. “Of course, Clin­ton [Cerejo] be­ing the mu­sic com­poser was very re­as­sur­ing be­cause the mu­sic will be of a cer­tain stan­dard.”

Bran­son meets Am­bani

Bas­rur plays Vishnu, “this quin­tes­sen­tial, an­gry rocker, who’s try­ing to use his anger for the greater good,” says Bas­rur. “He is ex­tremely right­eous. A lit­tle too right­eous.” Bene­gal plays Chan­nel, a me­dia baron, along the lines of Richard Bran­son. DaCunha says, “He’s the younger Am­bani. He’s not Mukesh, look­ing at [only those] busi­nesses that will 100 per cent make money. He’s Anil who thinks of him­self as a lit­tle sexy.” DaCunha had locked Bas­rur in his mind eight years ago, but Chan­nel took some time to cast. “Chan­nel be­came truly in­ter­est­ing be­cause we didn’t have a genre of mu­sic sorted for him,” he says. “We wrote this song called Ching Ching, where Chan­nel needs help and he sings to god. We see his roots as it were. So even though in life he is quite a so­phis­ti­cated guy, even­tu­ally he is Tiru­pati. When Clin­ton com­posed it, we knew there’s only one guy in this city who could play the part.”

Bene­gal has another the­ory on his cast­ing. “The first time they played the mu­sic, [DaCunha told us], ‘We kept in mind your per­son­al­i­ties and cre­ated th­ese char­ac­ters around them.’ Sud­denly, a rev­e­la­tion hap­pened: Rahul thinks I’m a ba **** d, be­cause that’s what my char­ac­ter is.” DaCunha wise­cracks, “We thought a lot: who’s a ba **** d in the rock world?”

To give them due credit, Bene­gal and Bas­rur have stepped out of their com­fort zone for #SingIn­di­aSing. They’ve been through a few es­sen­tial move­ment and char­ac­ter work­shops, and inessen­tial — ac­cord­ing to me — vo­cal train­ing. But, Bas­rur cor­rects us, “Af­ter I started com­ing to Mar­i­anne [D’Cruz Ai­man, vo­cal coach], I re­alised that my tech­nique is ex­tremely wrong. I have been putting un­nec­es­sary strain on my vo­cal chords. There are so many mus­cles you can use to pro­pel sound.” Bene­gal says, “Mar­i­anne has cer­tainly in­tro­duced me to a whole new uni­verse. With each of us, she’s analysing our voices and fig­ur­ing out where our strengths and weak­nesses are, and em­ploy­ing tech­niques to smoothen those things. It’s help­ing me in my reg­u­lar stuff. I felt it very much at my gig in Delhi re­cently. Ev­ery time I would slip back into the pat­tern of the old ways, I would con­sciously bring back Mar­i­anne’s tech­nique about tak­ing the pres­sure off the lar­ynx.”

Hor­ror of hor­rors, Bas­rur also had to take dance les­sons. Bene­gal says, sup­port­ively, “Arre, he’s be­come a champ.” Bas­rur adds, “I have two left feet. It took me a while to loosen up. On [a song called] City­lights, I was do­ing al­most every­thing the dancers were do­ing, but I just could not keep up with them. So, they stripped, stripped away and now it’s barely like 20 per cent of what it was. I’m ac­tu­ally en­joy­ing it.”

The wish­list

DaCunha got his dream cast, be­cause be­fore be­ing their leader, he’s their fan. “When I hear th­ese two guys sing, I can’t ex­plain it,” he says. “All my favourite rock­ers, like Chris Cor­nell, their abil­ity to scream, they’re go­ing into some foghorn situation, and then they go bal­lad. You think that can’t be the same voice. It’s another level of con­trol, where you’re go­ing up five oc­taves and then you [climb down]. Sid has that. He has two songs, one where he goes in­sane with scream­ing, and then he sings the most poignant song. The rock voice when it goes into bal­lad mode, it kills me.”

‘The first time they played the mu­sic, [DaCunha told us], ‘We kept in mind your per­son­al­i­ties and cre­ated th­ese char­ac­ters around them.’ Sud­denly, a rev­e­la­tion hap­pened: Rahul thinks I’m a ba **** d, be­cause that’s what my char­ac­ter is’ Uday Bene­gal

‘I have two left feet. It took me a while to loosen up. On one song, I was do­ing al­most every­thing the dancers were do­ing, but I just could not keep up with them. So, they stripped away...now it’s barely 20 per cent of what it was’ Sid­dharth Bas­rur

PIC/SATEJ SHINDE

The cast of #SingIn­di­aSing in­cludes 11 ac­tors and 18 dancers

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