Vikas Kohli, artistic director, Zee Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM), straddles two musical worlds— western and masala Bollywood — with ease.
The internationally renowned music producer/composer and his state-of-the-art studio, Fatlabs are pretty well known in this part of the world, but apart from his musical IQ, Vikas has weighty academic credentials as well.
Let’s see, honours degree in math and philosophy as well as business and CFA (chartered financial analyst) degrees. Trust me, in journalistic circles, an intelligent, well-read and successful source can become a coveted and valued asset. It’s he or she that sets the tone of the story.
I digress. When the press release about Vikas’ Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) landed on my inbox, I asked my colleague if I could ‘poach’ on his beat. That’s how much I wanted to write about it.
Unlike most other festivals that cater to desis, BMM attempts to bridge two cultures — Canadian and Indian —with its fantastic fusion offerings. The main stage event on Saturday, Aug. 30 has Vikas’ stamp all over it. One segment will include Indian artists and singers crooning alongside western musicians and mixing melodies to create a heady cocktail of notes.
Rest assured, the show will run as per schedule because Ottawa-born Vikas has zero tolerance for the tardy Indian Standard Time (IST).
Last year, Vikas received a frantic call during the show from his event manager saying they were running three minutes behind, but with some minor tweaking, the concert was set back on track. Most organizers would have dismissed those three minutes as a minor irritant, but not the good folks at BMM. Now, that’s something everyone will appreciate, especially the fans.
Bollywood singer Rajdeep Chatterjee will headline the free concert at Celebration Square in Mississauga. Here’s an exclusive chat Toronto Desi Diaries had with the immensely talented artist.
TDD: Tell us about some of the highlights of your life prior to your fame?
RC: I started learning music from the age of three. My mum was my first guru. I learnt Hindustani classical music for a few years and then started performing live at the age of eight. It has been 15 years now and I have done around 1,500 shows across the world. Before being the 3rd runner up of Indian idol season 4, I was also a part of Zee Lil champs in ‘05-06 where I reached the final 11, but had to quit because of my exams.
TDD: What about your struggles?
RC: Yes, struggle is a part of almost every artist’s journey and it’s not just the physical struggle, but the mental one as well. I was quite an introvert before I actually started performing live. In school, I was somehow not considered a good artist and was never given a chance to perform when all the other singers were given opportunities to prove themselves. But the will was always there. I waited and waited and finally got the television reality shows. That’s when I realized I could entertain people.
TDD: What are your strengths aside from the great voice and a great smile?
RC: Well, I believe my strength is my ability to spread happiness and positive vibes through my music and performances. I really work hard on stage to give everything I can … I have seen people connect to my music when I do it live. I am a very positive soul and I guess, I find it easy to spread smiles and happiness. If your art touches people’s hearts, you’re worth it.
TDD: What are you looking forward to at Bollywood Monster Mashup?
RC: I am extremely excited to be a part of BMM; it is one of the best Bollywood festivals internationally. The audience at BMM is always amazing and it feels like homecoming whenever I come to Canada.
TDD: How did you meet Vikas (Kohli) and why did you agree to perform at BMM?
RC: Vikas is like a buddy, a brother to me. We call each other as bhai. We have known each other for two years. I absolutely love his family, his mum and his cousins. I am always game for everything that Vikas bhai does.
TDD: Playback singing is a competitive environment, are you ready to take it on?
RC: Only true talent gets to shine among so many singers who are trying to make it big in the industry. I have been lucky that my hardwork has paid off and I have been singing for big Bollywood movies. I hope to continue doing that for years to come.
TDD: Your song for Bodyguard was a hit, when did it strike you that you had made it?
RC: It was a great experience to sing the title track of Bodyguard, Khiladi 786, and I also got to sing for the Bengali version of Gunday. I was also a part of Coke Studio season 2 for music director Shantanu Moitra. Recently, I started my own unplugged YouTube channel (IMX unplugged) where we do a lot of melody stuff. We are getting a great response.
TDD: Some quick questions
Favorite all-time movie: I am a hardcore SRK fan, so DDLJ (dil wale dulhaniya le jayenge).
Favorite cuisine: I love Indian food all the way
Philosophy that you stick by: love yourself. Only you know how to do it the best way
Success is: When I have “N” number of reasons to smile and be happy
If not a singer, what then: I would have had to discover an art that no one had ever tried and entertain people because I have always wanted to be a performer (laughs)
The Monster Mashup Double Take will run Saturday, Aug. 30 at Celebration Square Mississauga. Main stage portion will start at 6 p.m. Be sure to catch it.