Are personal aspirations more important than the expectations of your family in India? Is there such a thing as art for art’s sake? These are some of the themes explored in the upcoming Amazon Prime Video series Bandish Bandits, co-creator and director Anand Tiwari told Scroll.in.
Bandish Bandits follows Radhe (Ritwik Bhowmik), an aspiring Hindustani classical singer of the fictional Rathod gharana of Jodhpur, who teams up and falls in love with Tamanna (Shreya Chaudhry), a pop sensation from Mumbai.
Radhe’s entry into the glitzy world of pop incenses his grandfather and teacher Radhemohan Rathod (Naseeruddin Shah). What ensues is Radhe and Tamanna’s fight to stay together as the eponymous pop group they have formed.
Tiwari has created Bandish Bandits along with his producing partner Amritpal Singh Bindra. Adhir Bhat and Lara Chandni are part of the writing team. Also in the cast are Atul Kulkarni, Sheeba Chaddha, Rajesh Tailang and Kunaal Roy Kapur. The series will be streamed from August 4.
“In India, the aspirations of the community are connected with the individual,” Tiwari said. “Every family has a say in what business their children take up, what is best-suited or profitable for them. Individualism versus traditionalism is definitely a theme, but I also wanted to explore what truly represents India: our values or being a go-getter. Primarily, I wanted to explore whether art should be practised for its discipline, or to reach out to people and please them. And at the heart of the show, two different Indias clash, and the question is whether they will help each other out.”
Among the highlights of the series is a soundtrack by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. Fans of the star composers will be pleased to know that “there are tonnes of songs, plus recreation of old bandishes, jamming sessions between Tamanna and Radhe, and riyaaz sessions between Radhe and his grandfather”, Tiwari promised.
The songs will be part of the narrative, Tiwari said, and not something the viewer can miss out on “thinking I can leave for a pee break or a chai break and it will come later on [the Doordarshan channel music programme] Chitrahaar.” Bhowmik and Chaudhry won’t be singing their own songs.
Bandish Bandits was shot primarily in Jodhpur and Bikaner in Rajasthan. Among the shooting locations is the palatial heritage hotel Laxmi Niwas Palace.
A “hidden agenda” for making Bandish Bandits, Tiwari said, was to reassess Indian classical music in the contemporary world and show viewers that the “traditional format” need not be the only way it can be performed or valued.
“The amazing thing about Indian classical music is that it has always been contemporary,” Tiwari said. “It has always evolved with time. I want Generation Z to see this show and consume Indian classical music as something that’s theirs. I look at how Shankar Mahadevan [of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy], or Niladri Kumar, or Kaushiki Chakraborty, are updating Indian classical music today, and I hope that viewers can fall in love with Indian classical as much as I did.”
What’s next in line for the actor-director? Not the film Ticket to Bollywood starring Vicky Kaushal, as reported. “I am making a lot of things but not that,” Tiwari clarified. “Sometimes, there’s so much written on what you’re doing, which you’re actually not doing, I feel like picking up something from the reports and making it.”