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NH7 Weekender 2014: 100% Indie? Not Really

The fifth edition of the festival was well and truly sold out

Lalitha Suhasini Nov 23, 2014
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Close to 8,000 festival goers showed up at The Dewarists stage for the closing set on Day 2 of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender held at the sprawling Laxmi Lawns in Pune. Hindi film composer Amit Trivedi backed by a band, which included two of my favorite independent musicians including guitarist Warren Mendonsa and drummer Jai Row Kavi, was the headliner for the second day. Trivedi opened his set with “Dilli,” the incendiary track from No One Killed Jessica, which had fans chanting along even when the film’s soundtrack released in 2011.

If anyone ever needed more proof that Bollywood reigns supreme, then it was here ”“ at a festival that began as a 100 percent indie event, as its organizers still like to describe it. But the fact that Vijay Nair, festival organizer and founder of Only Much Louder, one of the best known event management agencies in the country, needed to validate Trivedi’s presence at his festival only means that the composer was an odd fit on the lineup. Nair was up on stage soon after Trivedi wrapped up “Dilli” to announce, “I see rock fans, electronica fans and Bollywood fans at this stage. He’s [Trivedi] is the only one who can bring them together. This man took indie to Bollywood.” A loud cheer followed and the audience was only too eager for Trivedi to continue and sang along to almost every track that the composer performed during his 75-minute set.

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The night wrapped up with celebratory fireworks a la Morani brothers’ Filmfare Awards night. “I’ve never seen such fantastic stage lighting,” said one regular gig goer from Mumbai midway during the show. It was rather obvious that he was struggling to maintain his allegiance to the festival. It was ironic then that Trivedi ended his set with “Emosanal Atyachar,” his first big hit from the film Dev D. There were a few tortured souls on Saturday night, who were emotional about the festival ”“ it’s not as if anyone had a bone to pick with the quality of music that Amit Trivedi brought to stage. The few who questioned his name on the lineup didn’t mind his music ”“ Trivedi is a fantastic composer ”“ what they did mind was the setting. One young fan said, “I don’t usually like Bollywood, but I enjoyed this.” Why did most festival goers who attended Trivedi’s set feel the need to justify their presence there?

Sure, Trivedi might have brought in the crowd and money in Pune and may just help OML get more indie bands to go up on stage next year at the festival, but NH7 Weekender is no place for Hindi film music. Earlier on, the same evening, Mumbai-based composer Mikey McCleary also performed to a packed audience at The Dewarists stage. McCleary known by his stage name The Bartender performs versions of classic Hindi film songs (think Sixties, think OP Nayyar). If Bollywood shows are bringing in the money, organize them by all means, but maybe as standalone shows.

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Yes, Trivedi has performed as part of [email protected] Studio with a group of indie musicians, but there’s no doubt that his set is as mainstream as it gets. Let’s not hear the excuse that the crowd was being shown a good time. Thousands of festival goers will remember being as entertained by The Raghu Dixit Project and Papon & The East India Company. That was also a time when selfie sticks were not being sold at the festival and more eyes were on the stage than at their cameras for the 100th selfie of the evening.

What was most ironic was the tagline for The Dewarists stage: Live True. Those who came in for an “indie” experience may have never felt more cheated.

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