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-interview with Sanjay Pendse, Times of India, Pune

You are credited with literally 'rocking' Marathi theatre with its first ever taste of western music. What prompted you to take on that challenge?
Rock music has always had a great tradition of experimentation. The free spirit of Rock made a rocker like me take on a "challenge" like this like a duck takes to water. Rock music itself is an amalgamation of so many influences i.e. blues, jazz, country, hip hop and it is always ready to accept any new influence. I was also keen to relate to the people of my country in their own language, with the language that I understood best.

Did it ever seem like an up-hill task or even worse, a far-fetched exercise?
I do not enter an artistic project with pre-conceived notions of results. I can only be sincere to what I have to do and try and do it to the best of my ability. The creative process cannot be viewed as "up-hill" or "down-hill" as it is do with your entire being. It is a most enjoyable process that can take years or could be over in minutes. In my experience, my greatest creations have taken moments! It is just adorning these creations with frills that take time!

Or was it an unexpectedly wonderful experience?
It was exciting as I was working with people who were very different from me. The place, language, culture differences brought about so many changes in the way that they and I perceived things. It was a constant journey of exploration and discovery. It helped the project that we were working on greatly and served to be an enormous vehicle of personal growth.

Did you feel people did not appreciate or were not capable of appreciating your effort for its worth? Did you ever feel despair on the project? If so, what kept you ticking?
One always hopes that your work would be appreciated by one and all! This plays a very important role in motivating you in the future.
In the case of "Teen Paisacha Tamasha" I was amazed at the passion with which our work was both loved and hated. Passion is at the root of all creativity so I respect it immensely. I respect the opinions of my audience in whatever I do, as it is their own personal truth. However it does not necessarily change the way that I feel about my work. I was surrounded by people who respected and loved me for what I was doing and probably protected me from the animosity that I may have created among some. Being optimistic by nature, I fortunately reacted to the Positivity.
Appreciation for the work that I did so many years ago continues till date and it was years ahead of its time! As an artiste, I can only create my art. The rest I leave to the Almighty!

How do you relate that experience with to-day's fusion projects... Marathi pop, Marathi country songs etc. Do you think, it is possible to have a genuine Marathi rock band, or will it always remain an exception? Or do you agree every music is a prisoner of its own culture?
Music is a reflection of Society and as our world gets more 'westernized', so will the music. In any genuine art movement, the truthfulness of the artiste's feelings will determine the success of any future project. As for the projects dealing with fusion etc., superficial and manipulative strategies cannot work. The answer to the possibility of a genuine Marathi Rock Band rests in my question to you. Would you and your friends buy a ticket to go and see one? Rock is a reflection of the conditions that prevailed in the west during the late fifties. If similar conditions prevail in Maharashtra, then we are bound to see changes in the music. Rock stands for rebellion, freedom, experimentation, power, energy, protest etc. If the society in Maharashtra needs to assert itself than it definitely needs some form of music that addresses this issue.
"In my opinion, the time has long since past, when Maharashtrians have asserted themselves and have been counted as the leading force in the nation. We are perceived only as good servants and unfortunately the Shiv Sena movement, which was the only "proud to be Maharashtrian" movement, has made the rest of India look at us like goondas. The cultured, educated middle class Maharashtrian, like you and me has never asserted himself/herself and in a group, we prefer to be thought of as Indians and either work for somebody else or have small businesses. All the doctors, computer programmers, artistes, engineers, managers etc. of Maharashtrian descent have not been able to change the perception of a Maharashtrian being either a servant or a goonda. As my Millionaire Industrialist Punjabi friend keeps on saying, especially when he has had too much to drink, "You Ghatis are just good for eating tumbaku" Its time to wake up, my friend!"

Besides fusion, some people look at this whole business of cultivating an interest in a foreign music is a bit far-fetched. What is your view? Why are people attracted to a music, which they have to struggle to understand, let alone enjoy? (That is if we leave out career musicologists and absolutely casual listeners) What hurdles do they overcome, before they can actually start enjoying it?
The majority of people view music as recreational activity and hence your question puzzles me. It could only be peer pressure that makes some young people keep up with the Jones! Appreciation of Music is a personal issue and maybe I can highlight some facets. It has been agreed by all music industry people that if there is any genre of music that can crossover boundaries of language and culture, it is Dance Music. This explains the popularity of Spanish, French, Arabic etc songs on western charts. Indian Bhangra Music in Punjabi and Hindi has also achieved this to some degree. Hence, the beat plays an important role and has introduced foreign music to millions of Indians. The rest, like melody, harmony, lyrics etc can follow as interest grows. Motivation can come from diverse sources. It has been said by numerous Rock stars that their initial motivation to learn the guitar was girls, girls girls!

When you set off on a career in music, what were the things you said to yourself that figure in the "I won't do that" list What are the other dos and don'ts you met up with during the long period?
Initially it was such a great thing to do! The first few years, I was walking on a cloud and was really not aware of the hours of rehearsals that we put in. There was no responsibility and the attention we got was taken for granted. There were no goals set, as the thought of doing something that one loved so much and actually make money from it was too good to be true. It was only later; when the responsibilities of adulthood dawned on us that we started looking for other avenues. English Music is really not a great career option in India and somehow, in spite of numerous opportunities, the thought of leaving the country was abhorrent . Fortunately for me, numerous musical opportunities presented themselves, whereby I was able to make a living making music and today I am the owner of a 64 track recording studio," INSYNC Studios, a music production company "MUSIC SOFTWARE" and a TV, Film, Theatre, Radio and Events production company "SPECTRUM MULTIMEDIA". My medium of expression has shifted from live events to other entertainment mediums although it is almost always focused on Music.

What is music to you in life?
After so many years in the music field, I feel that there can be nothing better in the world! Music has given me incredible joy and satisfies my every need. I have been able to give so much happiness to my family, my friends, my countrymen and the world, that the need to continue has been further reinforced in recent years

What excites you about your latest projects?
My involvement in the studio and music production/composing projects had resulted in neglecting my singing for many years. I have decided to come back to it with a vengeance and I am enjoying it tremendously. I have started doing shows again and the reaction of the new audience has been phenomenal. I am in the planning stages of numerous albums/shows and after the loneliness of sequencing and computer music, the interaction with live musicians and audience is greatly satisfying and has succeeded in rejuvenating me.

Nandu Bhende

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