Stories in a song

Composer Arko Mukherjee raises the pitch with ‘Kapoor & Sons’

The musician got a break in the movies with ‘Jism 2’ and is all set to hit the big league.

Arko Pravo Mukherjee isn’t hankering for an entire film soundtrack. In Kapoor & Sons, which is being released on March 18, Mukherjee has composed and sung “Saathi Rey”. He shares music credits with Badshah, Amaal Malik, Tanishk Bagchi and Nucleya in what is essentially an ensemble album. Each music director gets one song. “It’s a sad song, it comes at a crucial juncture,” Mukherjee told Scroll.in. “I don’t see what’s so great about doing eight songs for a film.”

The dysfunctional family drama, directed by Shakun Batra, marks Mukherjee’s debut as a singer. He will also compose another track for the under-production Baar Baar Dekho, which is being directed by Nitya Mehra for Kapoor & Sons producer Karan Johar.

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‘Saathi Rey’ from ‘Kapoor and Sons’.

Mukherjee moved to Mumbai from Kolkata in 2008 and was signed on by Universal Music for an album with band member Dev Bishwadeb Bhaumik. But the market for pop music had dried up by then. Mukherjee met filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt after three years and played the songs “Abhi Abhi” and “Maula”, which he had written and composed. A ten-minute meeting carried on for over an hour as Bhatt urged him to play the songs repeatedly. Bhatt called his producer brother Mukesh Bhatt and his daughter and filmmaker Pooja Bhatt, and they used the tracks in Jism 2 (2012).

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‘Abhi Abhi’ from ‘Jism 2’.

“I wrote both these songs in the night time, in inebriated jam sessions with friends,” Mukherjee said. They are not ruled autobiographical, he added. “I think I can fake heartbreaks,” he said.

Jism 2 was an ensemble album with musicians from India and Pakistan on the soundtrack. “There is an associated uncertainty with the arts,” Mukerhjee said, recalling his nervous meeting with the Bhatts after a few film projects had fallen through. “Destiny plays an important part.”

The association with the Bhatts goes beyond the call of duty, according to the musician. Mukherjee considers himself very close to the family. “[Mahesh] Bhatt saab has a terrific ear for music, he knows everything from Tagore to western classical to Hindustani,” Mukerhjee said. “He even sings pretty well! Jism 2 did well, people loved the music, and I still get calls from people every time those songs play on radio.”

Mukherjee’s love for music isn’t always expressed in Hindi. He started out writing in English and has been planning to release an English pop album, which he will record later this year in the United States of America. “I see myself more as a songwriter than a musician as I am not trained in music,” he said.

With a working knowledge of Indian raags and an ability to strum a guitar, Mukherjee believes that his skill as a songwriter have worked for him. “I went to a school in Kolkata where besides Bengali, Hindi songs were very popular,” he said. “I learnt Hindi and Urdu through books which carry translations of poems.” A wariness of “cheap lyricists who murder songs” has also helped him fortify his own skills, Mukherjee added.

With his induction into one of India’s leading film production companies, Mukherjee, who is rarely sighted without his sunglasses, has arrived. "Saathi Rey" is a good sound check for his music, vocals and lyrics, and is all set to sweep listeners with its mushy feel.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.