A Touch of Surrealism for Sanjeeta Bhattacharya’s Ballad on Climate Change

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Animator Vinod Ravindranathan and hula-hoop flow artist, Eshna Kutty, virtually collaborate to lend an enigmatic music video for Sanjeeta Bhattacharya’s single, Everything’s Fine.

Earlier last year, Vinod Ravindranathan, who works on art direction for an advertising agency in Mumbai found himself restless to dabble in a long-held ambition – directing music videos. As he started connecting and collaborating with musicians and artists, he stumbled upon hula-hoop flow artist, Eshna Kutty’s Instagram page. The two brainstormed ways to work up a music video which combined hoop-flow and animation but were waiting for the right song to come along. 

In June, when Sanjeeta Bhattacharya released her single, Everything’s Fine, a song that laments over rampant urbanisation, deforestation and economic disparity, she hadn’t imagined how such complex issues could be portrayed on a video. “I thought the lyrics speak for itself. So, I’m just gonna have a lyric video,” she recalls. Ravindranathan, on the other hand, begged to differ. 

During one of her practice sessions on the terrace, Kutty had recorded her hoop flow with the backdrop of a beautiful sunset. “I thought it was a great canvas to play around with,” reflects Ravindranathan. After hearing Everything’s Fine, he decided to juxtapose the cynicism of its lyrics with the serenity of the setting Sun; blending it in with Kutty’s graceful movement. Over a month’s time, he added subtle illustrations to the video that pictorially represent Bhattacharya’s songwriting using frame by frame animation.

Upon seeing his work in progress, Bhattacharya was left awestruck. To help him, she decided to share the story behind her song. “In Vasant Kunj, where I went to school, there used to be green hillocks that were destroyed and made into shopping malls. Years later, I found myself playing a gig at one of those malls and getting paid for it. The song is a reminder to myself to acknowledge that everything is in fact, not fine,” she explained. The artwork for the single by Labonie Roy intricately illustrates the flora and fauna of the Arravalli range, which the hillocks used to be a part of. Moved by Ravindranathan and Kutty’s work, Bhattacharya released it as the song’s official music video in September. “I cried a little when I saw the video for the first time. Thats why I love music. It can touch someone so that it inspires art,” she says. 

Not long after, Kutty turned into a social media sensation with a video of her hooping to A.R. Rehman’s Genda Phool in sari. Meanwhile, Ravindranathan, who started out as a mechanical engineer and pursued photography while bunking office, worked as the visual designer for Kayan’s Cool Kids and Netflix’s AK vs AK off late. As his next step, the 31-year-old hopes to merge his two passions, music and visual design, by directing music videos with his brand of aesthetics. “Treatment styles have evolved a lot. People are trying a lot of experimental stuff. I’d like to bring in a surreal context to the most ordinary situations through visual effects and motion graphics,” he muses.