An Introduction To: The Ganesh Talkies
25 September 2014
Whether you love it or hate it, the word will undoubtedly bring forth a host of kaleidoscopic images to most Indian minds. Dramatic, teary close ups, ridiculously co-ordinated dance sequences on train tops and saris fluttering in the crisp winds of the Swiss Alps all while seeking vengeance for the all important 'ma1019000' are only a few visual samples taken from what is now considered one of the largest institutions in International cinema. While the overall quality of its final products is debatable (I’m not here to start a fight), Bollywood is influential in so many ways - representing life in all its shiny, glittery, cheap PVC garbed glory.
But despite its undeniably huge influence on the Indian psyche at large, Bollywood’s cheesy anthems (and I mean that in the best way possible) rarely make it to alternative/indie stages in the country. It might be because of its already ubiquitous status (after all, we often tend to overlook what’s right in front of us) and mainstream commercial success, or if we’re being realistic, because of our indie scene’s musical snobbery – Bollywood, at the end of the day, just doesn’t cut it.
This is where The Ganesh Talkies come in. They disagree. The band lists their greatest inspirations as “Damon Albarn, Radiohead and Bappi Lahiri” – that’s right, they’re talking about India’s black and gold shrouded disco colossus, the Gods from Oxfordshire and the guy who fronted the band that sang the song everyone obnoxiously calls ‘woo hoo’. It’s a combination as unique as the band itself.
Producing a sound best described as ‘kitschy dance pop’, the band has had tongues wagging for years, since the then two piece team of Suyasha Sengupta and Roheet Mukherjee formed the original Ganesh Talkies as a cover band back in 2011, with Ronondeep Bose and Sambit Chatterjee joining in 2012 and 2014 respectively. They’ve been around for a while, releasing videos and bringing their charisma to stages across the country, so by the time their debut album thematically titled ‘In Technicolor’ released on 22 September, The Ganesh Talkies already had a loyal fan base.
I had to get in touch with them after the buzz that followed the release of 'In Technicolor'. “We’ve been playing an almost all-new setlist with a 4-piece lineup, it’s been exciting so far”, the Ganesh Talkies tell me about their busy last month. They say that they named their imprint after a now defunct cinema hall in Kolkata – “It used to be quite popular back in the day. It is our love for Bollywood movies that brought us together and our music, much like Bollywood movies, is loud, OTT and there’s something for everyone.”
The 10 track LP features songs inspired by everyday Indian occurrences we’re all familiar with from “roadside Romeos cat-calling women on the road to the friendly neighbourhood paan-seller”. Its sounds are a brew of contemporary dance pop, old school disco synth and tongue-in-cheek lyrical themes.
Opener ‘Monsters In Your Head’ is a standout on the album with Suyasha’s “oo-wah’s” resonating above catchy beats and synth and a chorus that’s hard to get out of your head. The band brings back a few sounds from their past live performances like ‘Dancing Dancing’ – an energetic track that begins on a bold note and injecting a heavy dose of disco-esq synth and vocals. Despite the fact that it could do with more melodic variation, especially compared to some of their other tracks, ‘Dancing Dancing’ has seen huge popularity with fans at live performances.
‘Fight Club’ follows and is starkly different from the rest of the album. Its sound takes a surprisingly punk(ish) turn with bold percussion, textural string and dominating vocals. Suyasha’s vocal range in this album is a little limited but she makes up for it largely with charisma and character. The electric ‘Item Song’ (video) and ‘Raju Ban Gaya Gentlemen’ come next – the latter inspired by the 1992 Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla film of the same name. ‘Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman’ is among the more relaxed tracks of the album along with ‘The Fan’ – the only track that isn’t obviously dance, taking on a more contemplative approach to sound.
The abrasive vocals in ‘Brother From Another Mother’ took me a few listens to get used to, particularly in the chorus but ‘Disco Daze’ delivers with 80’s style Bappi da inspired heavy synth and a catchy refrain that he’d be proud of. The album ends with the earworm chorus of ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Style’ – a song that (indulgently) mocks Indian bearings and oscillates between Suyasha singing loudly in her regular tone and then in a heavy Indian accent that sounds like it was born in the heartland of Haryana (‘What is your good name?’).
There’s a lot to look forward to with Ganesh Talkies – the team isn’t planning to stop making music till they get everyone up and dancing. The band tells me that the best part about their job is performing live - “It would sound like a terrible cliché but being able to connect with others and meet and play for new audiences and new faces is the best thing about being in a band.”
The comforting but modern sounds of Ganesh Talkies still have a long way to go. ‘In Technicolor’ is a successful first release – one that the band should be proud of. Having said that, there are still imperfections – Suyasha’s voice could use a little refining in certain tracks and more focus could be laid on the fantastic instrumentation, which at times gets lost in too many layers of vocals and sound.
Despite the flaws, Ganesh Talkies has managed to go where few alternative bands have gone before – to the glistening world of Bollywood. Not many imprints have managed to negotiate the genre as successfully in an alternative space (an exception, of course, being Delhi based Lifafa who released what might be the most perfectly executed Bollywood inspired EP earlier this year). The Ganesh Talkies are on their way there – they’ve avoided the strained attempts of ‘fusion music’ completely and hopefully, by the time their next release drops, they will have a stronger identity of their own. As Ganesh Talkies point out - “We would like to believe that this is only the beginning and we still have a long way to go.”
We're eager to see what's next.
Words: Diya Gupta