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Poorvi Koutish: ‘Art Allows You to Express Vulnerability As a Superpower’

The versatile singer discusses the ‘Dil Bechara’ soundtrack, her projects with AR Rahman and more

Rolling Stone India Aug 13, 2020

Singer-songwriter Poorvi Koutish. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

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Looking at things purely from the lens of versatility, there’s no one like Poorvi Koutish. The playback singer’s releases from this year — “Jwalamukhi” (99 Songs) and “Mera Naam Kizie” (Dil Bechara) – are testament enough. Koutish, who started her stint in music in 2012 with the TV reality show Indian Idol 6, today counts legends like AR Rahman as a collaborator. The journey has been surreal. “From the recordings in the studio to performing live with him on tours, I still feel like that kid staring at his pictures in the newspaper interviews thinking, ‘If it’s going to be Bollywood for me, then it has to be with this legend. I don’t care how,’” says Koutish.

Congrats on the new Dil Bechara release. The song is brilliant and also has a bittersweet element because of Sushant Singh Rajput. Tell us about the recording process?

Thank you so much! I have been more than excited to be a part of the whole process. It’s been over a year since I recorded demos for almost all the songs in the album around the initial lyrics and production stage. I experienced every song evolving so beautifully and ARR sir somehow makes it all seem so easy. Collaborating with the team that includes industry’s bests like ARR sir, Mukesh Chhabra, Amitabh Bhattacharya has been quite an experience! I was actually looking forward to the movie premiere to finally meet Sushant and congratulate him on his performances (I got to see the edited scenes during the background music production). It’s heart-wrenching how every single element of the movie changed context overnight. I guess destiny has its own mysterious ways to unfold. Dil Bechara has remarkably portrayed the fault in the stars of this generation. But Kizie will keep Manny alive in the hearts of many. Bittersweet indeed. 

You have been a frequent collaborator of Mr Rahman. How is the experience of teaming up with one of India’s most dynamic music legend?

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I still have to pinch myself to realise that IT IS infact, THE TRUTH. Post my Indian Idol journey and the graduation from KM Conservatory, I got to intern as a vocalist and a producer at Sir’s Panchathan studios in Chennai. He basically gave a stupid kid an open field to make her understand the importance of playing! I mean he didn’t literally say it but since he leaves everything open for interpretation, I got this message! 🙂 From the recordings in the studio to performing live with him on tours, I still feel like that kid staring at his pictures in the newspaper interviews thinking, ‘If it’s going to be Bollywood for me, then it has to be with this legend. I don’t care how.’ I kid you not. Especially during the the “Jwalamukhi’ recording, after every retake, every lyric correction redub, every language version, every improv, every mixing/ mastering eavesdropping moment, I had chills. I don’t think I’d ever have the vocabulary to express my gratitude towards him. 

As someone who has worked across industries and within dives we music styles, what are the biggest changes you’ve noticed in the scene in the past year or so?
As a kid who’s grown up blasting Dil Chahta Hai songs, music today with respect to Bollywood is losing perspective. I completely respect the fact that it’s business at the end of the day, but it doesn’t need to ‘shout’ business in the faces of the masses as they can point it out since the ‘experience’ part of it is slowly escaping, hence the forgetfulness. There’s a reason why we still remember movies like Rockstar, Devdas, Lagaan or Taare Zameen Par etc.

But at the same time, social media has opened doors for self-promotion, encouraging artists to express themselves, produce their own music, write their own stories, connect with their tribe and create an intimate space with their followers. I think you’re about to rediscover some artists and understand how they’re much more than what they’re known for! Art allows you to embrace and express vulnerability as a superpower, which has been underestimated in the industry for a long long time… but I think it’s time! 🙂 

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How has the lockdown been for you, as a creative person?

A difficult question! I’m currently recording from home for projects, my Wicked Wednesday cover productions, video edits etc keep me busy (Wicked Wednesdays turns two years old now btw!! ). Zoom meetings still don’t get me excited but well! I took a theatre workshop on Zoom, imagine!  

I believe for a majority of the artists, or at least for me, lockdown was a way of life, locked inside the studio, trying to compose and produce, create content, binge watch shows, looking for inspiration, rarely out to party, captioning sunrise as sunset etc. but now, all of this goes parallel with you analyzing your personal emotional and mental bubble with respect to the tragic incidents around the globe. There’s so much pain in the world and I believe what transforms pain into love is the sense of relatability, so I’m allowing emotions to come, take their time and leave, this might help evolve the ‘compassion department’ of my heart helping me heal myself and others through music. If anything triggers, I try to write or compose….or do nothing — that’s an art too haha! 

Are you working on your own music too? Tell us more

Yes! I have procrastinated this enough now. I’m finishing producing my EP. Two songs down, three more to go! Hopefully [it should be out] by the end of this year. I wish to create videos too but let’s see how that works out considering the pandemic. Can’t wait to share!

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