Expanding Horizons- Anand Bhaskar’s Journey From Independent Music To Bollywood

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Anand Bhaskar, of Anand Bhaskar Collective, is now known more than just the guitarist and vocalist of the band. He is now known as being the music composer of many TV series and songs, Mirzapur being the most famous one.  

We, at The Indian Music Diaries, caught up with him at the Bollywood Music Project in Mumbai where Anand Bhaskar Collective was the only indie band performing amongst Bollywood musicians.

 “My wife was my support and she encouraged me to start recording and quit my job’’ says Anand as he recalled his initial days in the industry. However, things weren’t rosy for him as he was diagnosed with tuberculosis after recording just two songs. A year and a half later of not being able to sing, he finally got around to finish his album. Just like every artist, he too was not confident about his music but eventually, his album won the Radio City Freedom Rock award for the Best Rock Album and that’s when he thought that maybe his work had merit. Thus, even though he was hesitant to quit his job as the Vice President at an advertising agency, he still did it with his wife’s support and started pursuing music as a full-time career.

Anand started off with his band, slowly getting into commercial music and advertisements until he finally made his Bollywood debut in the film ‘Baaghi 2’ as a playback singer. From working with Amit Trivedi, being recommended by Ankur Tewari as the music composer for ‘Mirzapur’, to also working on movies such as ‘Mission Mangal,’ Anand has come a long way! Besides his Bollywood career, he and his band will also release their 3rd EP and Anand is also working on his solo projects.

We asked Anand about his journey as an independent musician and about working in Bollywood.

Transition to commercial and Bollywood music:

For Anand, working with his band has always been easier because they follow a similar vision and taste in music. It’s easier to work with your own band because you know those people well and things are in your control. You record, release and promote the music and it’s done, whereas, in Bollywood, there are 20 other singers singing the same song and the best one is chosen. Hence, there is a lot of competition in Bollywood. “The biggest transition I’ve faced is the competitiveness in Bollywood. But again, Bollywood also teaches how music can be sold,’’ says Anand. In Bollywood, the client has many options to choose from and you can be replaced very easily. As an artist, it is imperative to grow according to your audience and yet have a sense of originality when making music. When it comes to Bollywood, you sometimes have to change your visions and your style to fit the director’s needs and that can often be challenging for a few musicians.

While some directors may give you the freedom to experiment with whatever you want and how you want to do things, most of them won’t because after all, at the end of the day, it is their film. Hence, it is totally up to the director, because if a director has some music knowledge, they would sit with you, give you suggestions and be more helpful.

Reason to deviate:

“I personally think Bollywood is very interesting in spite of all hate it gets from the independent scene. Bollywood is the most sold original form of music so if Bollywood can make it big, so can independent music,’’ says Anand. For a musician or any creative person, growth is very important. Albeit, as a musician, growth isn’t just packing venues, but also satisfying your own creative needs as well as the audience or your clients’ needs too.

It is no surprise that not all indie artists make it big. It takes a lot of time and hard work and on these lines, Anand says, “The reason I want to do Bollywood is because of its mass appeal. Once I become a popular name through Bollywood, my band, Anand Bhaskar Collective will become popular too because anyone who searches for me will also come across my band as well.’’

Difference between producing music for a movie, TV series, and an ad?

Anand repeatedly mentioned how the freedom to experiment and try new things solely depends on the director because after all, it is the director’s film and his decision. But, a lot of directors give the music composers the space and freedom to experiment and do what seems the best according to them which is a good thing. So far, all the directors Anand has worked with have had some music knowledge so it has been good for him. It also depends on how good you get along with the director and if your music taste matches with the director because the director has the final say. “I would rather work with someone who has a similar music taste to mine as opposed to someone who is purely and extremely into commercial music, something which I’m not that into,’’ says Anand.

Besides the director, the channel of the film or where your work will be put up also makes a difference. Web series are more eccentric as they are mostly put up on the internet, whereas in films, you are more restricted. Bollywood is supposed to be commercial or else your fans won’t like it and your music won’t sell and that in turn affects the popularity of the film. These days songs are released way before a movie, thus creating hype and if the song is popular, chances are that the movie will be popular too.  

Band v/s Bollywood v/s Solo career:

“I can sing RnB, rock, jazz, pop, even hip hop and with Anand Bhaskar Collective, I’m able to showcase only one style of singing and I want to experiment with other styles too on my solo album,’’ explains Anand as to why he is pursuing a solo career as well. He describes his band as pop music with distorted guitars. He consciously writes in Hindi and his melodies are super pop, with extremely relatable lyrics that are inspired by everything around. This is because Anand wanted his fans to enjoy the most.

Bhaskar doesn’t seem to be prioritising one over the other as he wants all of them; his band, his solo career as well as his Bollywood career to grow simultaneously.  “It’s like managing two separate businesses,’’ says Anand. “The band and I practice every week so we don’t have to rehearse a lot if a sudden gig pops up and my solo and Bollywood projects are such which can be done at home from my home studio.’’ The band and the Bollywood career for Anand are co-dependent on each other because the band gets more fame through his solo and Bollywood projects and vice versa as he plans to take his music outside of India as well.

Anand Bhaskar Collective performing at Bollywood Music Project in Mumbai

Should new independent musicians get into Bollywood?

Anand is of the belief that both, your band and your commercial needs can be fulfilled simultaneously. There are musicians who do jobs as well as practice music at the side. But, for full-time musicians, the job can be replaced by commercial work such as weddings and corporate shows. Bollywood, corporate shows and commercial acts are where the money is and thus working in these fields to earn enough to support your independent music and band is the trick! “Be focused, and be smart about your passion and your job. If you are smart, you can easily earn a lot through your passion, if you know how to balance it well. You can even do your day job and pursue your music at the side and eventually, it can be a full-fledged career,’’ says Anand to all those young aspiring musicians. However, a musician should be firm when it comes to what they stand for. For instance, Anand says how he declines any project which is about working on remixes because he believes in creating something original all the time.

In spite of the ever-increasing Bollywood, the indie scene is also progressing and has potential. According to Anand, “This is the best time to be alive if you are an indie musician.’’ There are quite affordable resources such as venues, producers, and a better reach to the audience through the internet. If indie bands and artists like Parvaaz, Prateek Kuhad, Ankur Tewari, The Local Train, and others can make it big, so can other indie musicians. If Bollywood can make it big, so can the independent community!

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