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In Vasuda Sharma’s ‘Aashna Bann Jaayein,’ the Women of the Music Industry Call for Creation and Collaboration

The Mumbai-based singer-songwriter’s latest collaborative project features an all-women ensemble from the frontlines and behind the scenes of music

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Jessica Xalxo Mar 07, 2020

A still from the music video for 'Aashna Bann Jaayein.'

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It all began with a poem. Mumbai-based singer-songwriter and playback artist Vasuda Sharma had long envisioned a creative project helmed solely by women, that didn’t take to the trope of being the everyman. And she turned to poet and lyricist Anjali Sharma (who also happens to be her mother) to board her train of thought with penned words. Soon enough, the song “Aashna Bann Jaayein” was born. “I just feel like there was a need to talk about what we can do for each other. To see women supporting each other, encouraging each other and doing something together,” she says.

Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Vasuda Sharma in a still from the music video for ‘Aashna Bann Jaayein.’

To that end, Sharma set about rounding up her collaborators on the deceptively profound pop track that delves into the struggles and solidarity of womanhood. Collaborating with the artist was a team of 12 female vocalists including Shreya Ghoshal, Neeti Mohan, Shashaa Tirupati, Shannon Donald, Suzanne D’mello Misquitta, Akriti Kakkar, Anusha Mani, Shruti Pathak, Warsha Ishwar, Shubhangi Joshi, Aditi Paul and poet Nirmika Singh with composer Merlin D’souza joining Sharma on the arrangement. 

Playback artist Neeti Mohan in a still from the music video for ‘Aashna Bann Jaayein.’

The singer-songwriter hit up all the female musicians she had known or heard at gigs, whether Bollywood powerhouses or indie trailblazers, and they all happened to say yes. “I think I just initiated it, but it was all these women who made it happen in spite of their time constraints. They all wanted to give extra shots, sing extra lines and were very excited about creating this project together. It was magical to see everyone being so involved in it,” she says. The song was recorded in the middle of February at Mumbai’s Island City and Kailasa studios with percussionist Sappna Desai-Mane, bassist Pooja Mazoomdar, violinist Shruti Bhave, Mandolin player Yashashree Uchil and pianist D’souza backing the track. Women were involved on the technical front too with sound engineer Aria Nanji, mixing engineer Marian Gomez Villota and mastering engineer Jett Galindo taking on recording duties.

Violinist Shruti Bhave and Mandolin player Yashashree Uchil in a still from the music video for ‘Aashna Bann Jaayein.’

Sharma found the perfect visual collaborator for “Aashna Bann Jaayein” in city-based Harkat Studios’ co-founder and director Michaela Talwar who shared her vision of celebrating sisterhood on the occasion of International Women’s Day. A spontaneous call from Sharma’s end led to the shoot for the music video which wrapped up in February itself and a huge part of it is owed to the creatives behind it. “It has just so happened that as Harkat expanded, more and more women joined the team, so that now there are only two men in the studio and the rest is all girl power,” says Talwar. The most enjoyable part about working with an all-women team? “The lack of hierarchy,” she says, “Everyone had their department of expertise but pitched in when extra help was needed — without even thinking twice about it.”

Sharma and Talwar wanted “Aashna Bann Jaayein” to be a showcase of not only the faces of music, but also of the women who work behind the scenes. “They don’t really get the credit that they actually deserve and we really wanted to celebrate their work through the video, rather than just listing names in the credits below,” says Sharma. On the video front, Talwar was joined by a team of six women. Nishi Durga served as the DOP while Tanya Dixit and Namrata Sanghani, assisted by Nidhi Shetty, took over art direction. Khyati Joshi coordinated the production and Pooja Golani of Rubious Makeovers supervised hair and makeup for the shoot. “I’ve seen women taking control of their craft and it’s very natural for them to take to their chosen professions. If you’re good at what you do, it shows, and at some point, people will see you as a creative first and then a woman. It was incredible to highlight that through this project,” says Sharma.

Director Michaela Talwar in a still from the music video for ‘Aashna Bann Jaayein.’

Talwar centered the video on the crux of the song which is exemplified in the opening lines borrowed from Singh’s poem “Kuch Aise Badley Duniya”: “Kuch aise badley duniya, ki tum aur main ek ho jaye. Kuch aise badley duniya, ki meri kala meri soorat ban jaye (May the world change in such a way that you and I aren’t divided. May the world change in such a way that my talent becomes my one true identity.)” Sharma wanted to speak about how there is beauty in creation and collaboration, instead of the stereotypical physical form and interestingly, Talwar plays with mirrors in the video, literally taking on the lyrics “raqeeb kyun bane hum, kyun na aashna bana jaayein (why should we be competitors, why don’t we become friends through love?)” to realize a powerful message: “We can all recognize ourselves within each other. We’re all in this together. We’re a reflection of one another.”

The director visually combines the contrasts of the song — the uncompromising lyrics and serene vocals — in the music video, juxtaposing darkness and light through stark backgrounds and blossoms as the artists navigate the planes. “For me, this is the embodiment of what it means to be a woman: it looks delicate but can weather any storm,” she says. 

Watch the music video for “Aashna Bann Jaayein” below:

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