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Watch: Delhi band The Jass B’stards Release Performance Film

‘One Night With The Jass B’stards’, directed by Shillong/Delhi-based filmmaker Wanphrang Diengdoh, captures the three-member band at their funniest and grooviest best

Rolling Stone India
Rolling Stone India Sep 06, 2014
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(from left) Stefan Kaye, Nikhil Vasudevan and Tony Guinard. Photo: courtesy of Stiff Kittens Inc.

(from left) Stefan Kaye, Nikhil Vasudevan and Tony Guinard. Photo: courtesy of Stiff Kittens Inc.

When keyboardist Stefan Kaye of Delhi jazz/psychedelic rock band The Jass B’stards grimly [yet plainly] explains that their drummer Nikhil Vasudevan has a nervous disorder at the beginning of their new short film One Night With the Jass B’stards, you almost buy his act. Says Kaye, who, along with Vasudevan and bassist Tony Guinard is also part of reggae/ska group The Ska Vengers, “We have found a way to harness his [Nikhil] illness and portray it as an entertaining feature of our performances.”

The Jass B’stards, formed in 2010, have been known for their compelling and provocative jazz and psychedelic performances. One of their recent gigs held in Gurgaon in August is the subject of a new 20-minute short music film by Shillong/Delhi-based documentary director Wanphrang Diengdoh. The film intertwines elements of drama and music – including a plot that weaves in the band’s vocalists/dancers and actors Ritika Singh as a nurse on-call to aid Vasudevan and Mallika Taneja in the role of an aspiring small-town singer. Says Diengdoh about the band and its characters, “They were interesting characters for a film and I wanted to cover their performance. The story is not meant to tell you anything but for you to watch these people perform – a first-hand experience of what it’s like to be ‘with’ The Jass B’stards on stage.”

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One Night With the Jass B’stards was shot while the band performed at a Gurgaon theater and performance venue. Diengdoh calls the setting “kitsch overdose.” The filmmaker adds, “I guess all that bizarreness (of the venue) became a prop and added  to the entire performance.”

Diengdoh, who has previously worked on documentaries highlighting social and political issues concerning North East’s identity and tribal Khasi folk music as part of his production house red dur, says he first saw the Jass B’stards when he shifted to Delhi in 2010. Says Diengdoh, “I think it was their honesty and their humour that attracted me. Their non-pretentiousness of it all.” While most of the audience was deliberately kept out of the frame during filming of One Night With the Jass B’stards, Kaye says the entire episode of Vasudevan’s “nervous disorder” probably confused the crowd. “I think many people in the audience couldn’t understand if this was supposed to be entertainment or if he was having an epileptic seizure.” Vasudevan’s antics – drumming away uncontrollably until he is forcefully unseated off his drum kit by the other members – has remained a regular feature at the band’s gigs, testing audiences. Says Kaye, “We have had people in the audience react quite strongly, shouting out things like ‘someone call a doctor!’ and security guards crowding around Nikhil while he is on the floor receiving artificial respiration or simply having his faced slapped. He always manages to recover in time to finish the song.”

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As is evident on One Night With the Jass B’stards, Diengdoh says one of his main interests as a filmmaker is “the context and surroundings which nurtures the art form.” Following this film, Diengdoh is on the look out “for anarcho-punk DIY bands to write music for some of the films that I am working on. The director adds, “ I am keen to hear from anyone who thinks this is them. It’s more honest and interesting to work with musicians or artists who internalize what they do.”

The Jass B’stards, similarly, will continue what they do, promoting the film and playing their next gig [usual antics included, according to Kaye] at Sur Taal Open Air Theatre in October as part of a North Eastern music and cuisine festival in Delhi.

Watch One Night With the Jass B’stards below

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