Su Real: ‘Bollywood Has Always Been a Fusion Reactor’
The New Delhi music producer discusses his winning stint on the music reality show ‘The Remix’ where he teamed up with singer Rashmeet Kaur
Earlier this year, New Delhi trap producer Suhrid Manchanda aka Su Real took his music to a very different setting – a reality show – and emerged at the top spot. As part of Amazon Prime Original series The Remix, which launched in March, Su Real and singer Rashmeet Kaur paired up to be adjudged winners after 10 episodes.
While the show leaned heavily on Bollywood music, the live performance aspect of The Remix pushed Su Real to become hard-nosed on his recently concluded #Winning Tour across India. He says, “As an indie artist, doing something a little different, it’s awesome to have this stamp of credibility – on this tour I’ve been able to perform with no compromises, dropping weird stuff, my bootlegs and unreleased material… and graciously, the crowds have been responsive beyond my expectations.”
Judged by desi bass producer Nucleya, film music composer Amit Trivedi and playback singer Sunidhi Chauhan, Su Real and Rashmeet were randomly paired and were more or less the underdogs. The show pitted them against producers such as Nawed Khan, NSG, Candice Redding and singers including Manasi Scott, Akasa Singh, Thomson Andrews and more. Su Real says about his partnership with Kaur, “We had never heard each other’s music or even each other’s names I suppose, but I think we had a mutual respect from the get-go, just as decent human beings. As artists, we both immediately understood and appreciated what each other could contribute to the team.”
Just a few days before his #Winning Tour came to a close earlier this month, Su Real spoke to Rolling Stone India about being part of The Remix, Bollywood music and plans for the rest of the year. Excerpts:
What has it been like getting back on the road after the push you got from The Remix?
It’s been fantastic, very fulfilling. It took three months of filming the show in secret then five more months of secrecy until Episode 1 finally launched on Amazon Prime Video, and then another two months as they released one episode a week… And all that time, I didn’t really get the feeling that we – Rashmeet and I – had a following. For most of the competition, we were the underdogs, almost getting eliminated early on. But once the finale was released, all my social media was flooded, my inbox piled up with messages – all people claiming they’d been watching all along and secretly rooting for us! So now, on this tour it’s been awesome meeting all these new fans and friends and supporters, as well as catching up with old friends who’ve been with me for years, we had something crystal to celebrate.
You mentioned you’ve always loved film music, but was there a perception of Bollywood that changed for you after getting on The Remix?
Well, I’ve loved some filmi music. I have a soft spot for the oldies and retro stuff, the legends. I mean, I don’t think it’s possible to be Indian and not be moved by the weight of all that greatness. But I’m not a Bollywood film buff, and I probably couldn’t name the three latest Bollywood blockbusters if you held a gun to my head. In terms of the music, modern Bollywood is often difficult for me to digest. There’s a constant flow of “superhits” with the 100 million plus views – but so much of that stuff is formulaic and uninspired. Seeing how the TV/film sector operates in Mumbai was definitely eye-opening. I really feel for them, they do it all for the passion, but under severe time constraints and facing all kinds of frustrating hurdles.
However, Bollywood has always been a fusion reactor, a big churning masala curry of radioactive flavors from everywhere. So when the big monster with no head starts swallowing up genres like moombahton, trap, twerk, dancehall and so on that I’ve been involved with pushing in India for a long, long time I gotta be like, “Wait a minute… Maybe, just maybe, I can have a dance or two with the great beast… just gotta mind my toes!”
For those not in the know, how did the pairing up process between producer and singer take place on this show? Had you heard of Rashmeet before this?
It was totally random. Actually, I think I can now reveal that there was some behind-the-scenes jockeying and lobbying by certain peoples to be paired up with certain other peoples. Anyway, my point being that during the casting process, a couple of vocalist contestants did pass on being my partner. But everything happens for a reason, from the moment I first met Rashmeet, within five minutes we were good friends. As artists, we both immediately understood and appreciated what each other could contribute to the team, as both of our backgrounds are quite opposite – she a trained classical Hindi and Punjabi vocalist, and me, um, the Sultan of Twerkistan (laughs).
Rashmeet and I did almost everything together, time permitting. I was with Rashmeet at her dance rehearsals figuring out how we would present ourselves on stages, and she was with me in the mastering studio putting final touches.
What was it like having that equation with some of the other artists on the show, and also with a friend like Nucleya, to see him as a judge?
Nucleya is perhaps the sweetest superstar in the Indian music industry, at least in my books. True, we have quite some history now and I guess we share some special bond; he genuinely believes in paying-it-forward and does so much to support the scene. I would not be here doing what I do, if it weren’t for him blazing the trail ahead. As a judge on the show, I knew he would be fair. I’ve often said that it was like going to music college with the three judges as your professors. I looked forward to their feedback, I learned more about music production in those three months of developing the show than the last 10 years of everything… All in all, it was just awesome to know that once every four or five days I’d get to hang with Udyan [Sagar, Nucleya] for a bit and just try to soak in whatever magic he’s cloaked in.
You’ve played fairly different settings and cities on your tour – including a theme park like Adlabs Imagica.
[That] was mad fun, thanks to VH1 Supersonic who always run a tight ship. It was Imagica’s anniversary party, I was playing immediately before [EDM producers] Zaeden b2b Lost Stories. So a great slot, a great crowd – young and super pumped up after the wacky parade of costume animals and cartoon characters come-to-life down main street just before my set.
I’m definitely much more of a club troll, that’s my pedigree, started DJing in dark, dingy clubs back in 2002, at a time where they still didn’t really put DJs up on a stage, they were usually hidden in a booth somewhere… So it still feels weird to be on a big festival stage with smoke machines and confetti and pyro. That’s actually another way The Remix experience was good for me, it helped me get a lot more comfortable with a busy stage… Now, my dream is to build a Major Lazer – inspired supergroup festival stage show…. Fingers crossed!
What else is coming up through 2018?
As of right now, I’ve already dropped a single with NSG, a remix of Imran Khan’s classic “Amplifier” that goes down hard at my gigs, and a remix for UK-based M.U.M. Music on Tigerstyle’s label. I’m putting the finishing touches on a fresh new Su Real EP. There are a few more unreleased tracks ready to go, including two with Chicago-based MC Zulu, just getting the branding and promotions in gear. If the stars align just right, I might be able to finish this epic party track I been working on with [Punjabi rapper] Hard Kaur for like a year. There’s like so much music going on in my life I got the Excel Sheet open all day, dawg. Check it.