Watch: ‘Chipko Re,’ Maati Baani’s Call to Arms to Save Mumbai’s Aarey
The world music duo’s new music video features lush, verdant scenes in the forested land, which is under threat of being destroyed by a Metro construction project
On world music duo Maati Baani’s latest music video, “Chipko Re,” guitarist-composer Kartik Shah sings “Main toh saala chhup khada hoon, baad mein pachtaaye [I’m standing by quietly, but I’ll regret it later].” The sentiment sums up the video’s overall message, which is designed to drive its viewers into action in order to protect the trees in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony. Over 3,500 trees on the land are currently under threat of being razed to make way for a proposed Metro car shed, which would house trains for one the city’s upcoming Metro rail lines.
The video, which was largely shot in the forest itself, features musicians and concerned samaritans against intensely vibrant, verdant backdrops. In one shot, Hindustani vocalist Nirali Kartik–the other half of the creative duo that makes up Maati Baani–walks through lush green fields as she sings the line, “Phool roya aur kali ka rang gir gaya [The flowers cry and the buds lose their color].”
“Chipko Re”’s intentionally biting lyrics were penned by poet and musician Piyush Mishra. He features extensively in the video himself. Kartik and Shah approached Mishra with only the song’s chorus in mind–“Chipko Re.” The collaboration is not uncharacteristic of the pair, who have previously made music videos that involve artists from all over the world.
Aarey, technically known as Aarey Milk Colony, is colloquially referred to as Mumbai’s “green lung.” “Chipko Re” argues that the trees on the land are crucial in keeping Mumbai’s air pollution levels low. “Oxygen ka tank leke kya karenge kya karenge bhai [What will we do with an oxygen tank]!” sings Mishra. At the end of the video, and in the accompanying description, Shah, Kartik and Mishra urge viewers to sign a petition that requests authorities to “consider other available viable options to build the Metro car shed and save Aarey.”
It could be argued that the Metro system itself, when in place, will reduce air pollution levels in Mumbai by reducing the number of cars on the streets. When pushed to talk about this side of the issue, Kartik is quick to clarify that the purpose of the video is not to oppose the construction of the car shed altogether. “Like all Mumbaikars, we all want the Metro rail,” she says. According to Kartik, authorities behind the project had the option of constructing the car shed in Kalina, Kanjur Marg, Backbay, or four other suburban Mumbai localities. “But why [have] the authorities … selected a forest to build the parking lot for the Metro … [especially] when there are seven other options available?”
“Surprisingly, we were not aware of the beauty of Aarey Forest till we started to make the video ‘Chipko Re,’” says Kartik. The pair found out about the threat to the forest and the efforts to protect the imperiled trees through a friend’s Facebook post. “We called her immediately to know more about it and we were appalled to know the facts,” Kartik says. She and Shah enjoyed “the beauty and tranquility” of the forest for the first time while they were making the “Chipko Re” music video, an experience they fear that others will not be able to have if people don’t take action soon.