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Hashback Hashish and Filmmaker Surabhi Tandon Decode New Video ‘Danse’

The New Delhi producer’s dark new song takes aim at the daily harassment women face and the story of hitting back

Rolling Stone India Jul 15, 2019

A still from Hashback Hashish's new video 'Danse.'

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Last month, New Delhi electronic music producer Hashback Hashish aka Ashish Sachan released a video for his song “Danse,” off his 2019 album of the same name. Directed by filmmaker Surabhi Tandon, the four-and-a-half minute music video sees performing artist Puneet Jewandah going about everyday life under the unmistakable male gaze at different points – on the streets, at a metro station, in an auto rickshaw.

Currently at over 10,000 views on YouTube, “Danse” was born out of a storyboard created by Tandon, who has previously shot music videos for New Delhi bands such as Peter Cat Recording Co. and Begum. Sachan adds, “When I created the track, it came from a place of intensity. When Surabhi heard it, she knew exactly how to reflect that on screen and it felt perfect.”

To the pulsing track that morphs its synth bassline over and over, we see Jewandah’s internal monologue (dancing in a red-lit room) when she decides to take on every lecherous look, questioning the men who objectify her. Towards the end, as the beat dissipates, the character is seen alone in an empty train compartment. Tandon explains that they did want an open-ended close to the video. “These were symbols that the team itself had different meanings for. It’s a crossover moment between her imagination (the dance sequence), and real life. Or maybe it’s a train of thought going somewhere in her head…”

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One of the criticisms the video faces is about depicting women asserting themselves, challenging men to ensure their safety, whereas it should be the norm to feel secure and not feel threatened in everyday life. Tandon addresses this critique, explaining that anything creative leaves room for “several interpretations.” She adds, “So some people related to it, whilst some felt angry about all the things the video didn’t say. I think that’s fair. At the end of the day, as a music video, it has to negotiate a space between an idea and the visual illustration of it that still remains appealing to a viewer;  it cannot explain or nuance within its scope the entire complexity of a problem, or its solution.”

The filmmaker goes on to explain that the video is made from a woman’s point-of-view, to show what even “the simple act of walking on the streets could feel like with an omnipresent gaze.” She adds that what “Danse” narrates is “only one such way in which women can be active in a situation like that, instead of passive.” She notes, “That certainly doesn’t mean that the video is saying, ‘Hey look, if you react to a man staring at you, the problem of male gaze is over.’ Obviously not – but it certainly means that instead of remaining non-participatory in situations that are causing us distress, one option is to start holding people directly accountable.”

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Sachan for his part, made a new version of “Danse” to enhance the “overall emotional quotient” of the music video. When asked about harassment of women and keeping club spaces safe, the producer said he was unsure if there’s been any improvement. He adds, “My own relatives and friends have had experiences and that has always been a concern. I have been aware of the situation but never been able to express it well. But we have tried with this track and video, thank to Puneet, Surabhi, and her amazing team.”

Hashback Hashish and Audio Pervert perform at Cafe Turquoise, Green Park, New Delhi on July 19th. Event details here.

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