Shot single-handedly by photographer and visual artist, Arsh Grewal, in her bedroom during the lockdown, the music video for Kamakshi Khanna’s latest single, Qareeb, flips the narrative on the love song.
After college, Arsh Grewal, a mass communication graduate from Delhi University pushed aside her aspirations to attend a film school in exchange for freelancing as a photographer and videographer. An ardent music lover, she cold-messaged Delhi-based rock band, The Local Train, on Instagram with hopes of covering them in concert. To her surprise, the band responded. It was two hours before one of their gigs and their photographer didn’t show up. “That never happens,” Grewal chuckles. She covered the performance only to never turn in the pictures. “I really enjoyed covering that gig but I wasn’t satisfied. I wasn’t confident,” she explains.
In October, this year, Grewal debuted as a director and animator on the music video for singer-songwriter Kamakshi Khanna’s single, Qareeb. She lends a whimsical, dreamlike stop-motion video to the love song that follows the journey of a girl into self-discovery. “I had already been working with stop motion and always had in mind this girl in red going through her life. So, when I heard the song I knew that I wanted to do an animated character.” The song, Khanna’s first in Hindi, describes the rush of falling in love with a partner. The visual narrative, however, offers a slightly different perspective.
Grewal with inputs from Kamakshi developed the story out of a one line brief – a girl learning through all the relationships she’s been in and falling in love with herself. She explains, “The flower and the flag are two key elements. In the beginning, the girl throws a flower in the air and a guy appears. Then she throws a flag in the air and her clothes change denoting that she is changing herself for the guy. Towards the end, she finally throws all the red flags she has collected, makes a cape out of it, flies out and enjoys by herself. She’s the one growing Qareeb to herself.”
For Grewal, the challenge was whether these sequences could be animated like they were written. She used felt cloth to create characters and objects, cutting several pieces to animate the movement of limbs, hands and neck. “There were about twenty pieces for each character,” she recalls. What she had not expected was that the woollen strands of the material would cling to each other and disturb her entire scene each time she moved a piece. The process was getting tedious. Soon enough, she found a way,“I put a glass on top of my background. So, I got two layers. The background remained intact as a base and I animated on top of the glass.”
The stop-motion alone took upto a month but the results were astounding. The video was accepted without a single change. “I instantly fell in love with all her ideas. Everyone who saw the video was shocked to know that it’s her first,” Khanna says of her collaboration with Grewal. The video has crossed over one million views on Youtube and given Khanna the confidence to experiment more, try different things and think outside the box.
One year after her failed attempt at covering The Local Train, Grewal had worked massively on her portfolio and the band took notice. They invited her on their Vaaqif Tour to cover them in 2018. Since then, she photographed and created after-movies for artists like Sid Sriram and DIVINE. However, it was music videos that she really wanted to work on. “I thought it was something I could only do after going to film school and then working in ad films,” she says. Currently working on her next music video and in talks for more, she believes her love for music comes from within, “It is something I always wanted to be a part of. If am not a musician, I would like to be visually present,” she adds.