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‘I Don’t Overthink It’: Aastha Atray Banan On Her Creative Journey

Journalist, podcaster and singer, Aastha Atray Banan on what it takes to be a multifarious artist and how she chased all her creative goals

Divyansha Dongre Aug 02, 2021

Journalist, podcaster and author Aastha Atray Banan. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

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For Aastha Atray Banan, the shackles of specialization have never had the upper hand, “I think I have managed to show people that one doesn’t have to live their career in a box. ” explains Banan, “You can do many things as a creative person-even if they are drastically different as journalism, writing, podcasting, music or social media. Creativity knows no bounds.”

A fearless creator that leads by example, Banan’s identity is far from the circles of her career. Some may know her as the powerhouse behind their favorite stories in the Sunday Mid-Day. Many (especially the 56.7 million podcast listeners in India) may know Banan as the voice behind Spotify’s popular podcast, Love Aaj Kal. And those who appreciate the company of a good read on a rainy Sunday afternoon may know Banan for breaking down the world of love and lust with her book, The L Word.

Irrespective of what creative facet reeled you into Banan’s world, the versatile creator has cemented her name as one of the pioneering voices in the Indian creative industry for challenging the norms and leading by example. Case in point,  Banan’s contributions to the Indian podcasting community.  

“Don’t think of numbers, or compare yourself to others. Be as authentic as you can be, and be consistent with that authenticity.” Photo: Courtesy of the artist

While many may be reluctant to test unknown waters, Banan was one of the few to explore podcasting in India. Love Aaj Kal, the brainchild of Banan and her friend and co-host, Ankit Vengurlekar, is one of the few Indian podcasts that dissect relationships intimately. The premise of the podcast perfectly rests on the beam of honesty- honesty with one’s selves and listeners. “I don’t think we even knew what it was that we were trying out,” Banan explains the inspiration behind the podcast, “But to talk about love and relationships in a candid, unedited way, was something we really wanted to do. So we entered without any expectations, but with the intention of having honest chats about the dating, sex, and relationship scene in the time of apps.”

Within the conservative Indian society, Banan and Vengurlekar have worked towards constructing a safe space for those navigating through the rocky terrains of relationships in the 21st century alone. Introducing modern dating challenges through real-life stories on their podcast has humanized the struggles of their listeners, “We [Banan and Vengurlekar ] are not heavy on production or glitz and glamor, and have only gone ahead just on the basis of the easy and relatable conversation. Our chemistry and the fact that the listener feels they’re the third friend in the room has made it a unique podcast.”

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Podcasting is one of the many routes adopted by Banan to express herself. Through her learnings as a journalist, writer, and singer, Banan has birthed a world of stories worth sharing. Stories of innate human emotions, struggles, and triumphs which sets the precedent for the next wave of creators to grow from. 

In an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone India, Banan mapped out her journey thus far as she reflected on the role she plays in the Indian creative community and what it takes to hone skills in multiple disciplines. 

Does your creative process change with every role you assume? 

My creative process is to just do, do and do. I don’t need quiet or music, or time. I wrote my fifth book, The L word, over a month at night, watching Mad Men reruns. But yes, what I do is this—read a lot, make notes on my phone, write every time I am upset, and never say no to anything I feel like doing—be it recording a song, making a dance reel, writing a book—I don’t overthink it. I just get up and decide to do it, and then do it. The good thing is love inspires me, and so does heartbreak, and that I know lots about!

Has your podcasting journey significantly impacted your thought process? Are there any related instances you could share?

I have essentially come to understand that we all feel pain, and dejection and matters of the heart are causing havoc everywhere. But I also have come to know that sharing and finding people who can help you understand what you are going through, and make you believe it only gets better, are important. Most problems about not wanting to move on, and the only advice I give people, is to know your worth, and move on. If you are ready to be with someone who tells you clearly they don’t want to be with you, then you are short-changing yourself. 

Are there any misconceptions around the Indian podcasting ecosystem you often find yourself clarifying to others?

I just feel like asking the question: what kind of podcast will work, is the wrong one. Podcasts are deeply personal, and it depends on how passionate you are about what you are speaking about. So just focus on the content, and don’t worry about anything else. 

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As a multi-facet creator, what are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned so far?

Consistency is the key to everything! Keep doing without looking at numbers for a few years. And don’t compare your growth with anyone else’s as it will just make you disappointed. 

You recently collaborated with singer-songwriter Sahir on “Table For 2.” What was your experience of singing this song? er? How different was this from your past releases? 

I have already released four English originals, so I know my way around the whole recording scene. But I was singing in Hindi, and I learnt how to do that as well. Sahir helped me with very clear instructions for each line—be soft, not whisper, not sing loud. All that helped. For me, singing is an extension of my love for listening to music—I devote time every week to listening to old music, I have since I was a teen. I also write about music and musicians, so this was just my way of being a part of the circuit.

Aastha Atray Banan with singer-songwriter Sahir. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

 You are also one of the artists featured in Spotify India’s AmplifiHer campaign which aims to empower women creators. Does gender inequality exist in the creative spaces you’re associated with? If yes, as an experienced creator, how do you plan on bridging that gap?

Journalism is pretty female-heavy, and I have worked with many female bosses, and never really faced any discrimination, thankfully. Even with podcasting or writing, I have had only good experiences. But as a creator, I make sure I tell young girls and women everywhere that they can do whatever they want—whatever the age or stage they may be at. I do think my books also have strong and ambitious female characters, as I am one. I also write about women’s issues for my newspaper—Sunday mid-day. We were the first ones to do a piece about the state of (actor) Rhea Chakrabarty’s life and the consequences of her media trial (in the Sushant Singh Rajput case). Along with that, all we can do is make our voice so loud that nobody can ever ignore us. Shout it all out.  

Reflecting on your career experience, is there any piece of advice you’d give to young creators of India?

Don’t think of numbers, or compare yourself to others. Be as authentic as you can be, and be consistent with that authenticity. Being yourself apologetically and not being afraid to just do whatever you want is what works. And never give up. Keep moving, keep creating, keep hustling. 

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