At a promotional photo shoot for his EP Din Gaye, singer Namit Das, better known for his acting prowess in movies such as Wake Up Sid and Ghanchakkar, was supposed to wear a kurta. His collaborator on the album, Anurag Shankar was having none of it. “We’re trying to create an audience for a form of music that has lost many listeners over time. It needs an image makeover,” says Das, who took Shankar’s advice seriously.
A collection of light classical music tunes with a modern twist, Din Gaye is an attempt to get these genres accepted by the growing “cool” indie wave. The five-track EP has Das taking on vocal duties, where his voice floats in and out of the compositions that have been arranged by Shankar. In trying to make it accessible, the duo, which goes by the name Namit Das +Anurag Shankar, never goes over the top with the arrangement, and stays true to the music being promoted.
“Most of the compositions on the album have been in my family for decades,” says Das, whose family has produced talented musicians for many generations. Three of the five tracks were composed by his grandfather, K Pannalal, who was a prolific composer but whose talent was never recognised. “This album is a dedication to him and his genius. His compositions are so good, there is something different you notice every time. They can be interpreted differently with each rendition,” says Das. The other two have been composed by Das, but the lyrics are from Amir Khusrau poems.
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The actor-singer talks about how dinner table conversations as a child would end up in discussions about music from movies and which ragas they are based on. Das has learnt music formally, but like with many who learn the form, life got in the way. Acting superseded his love for music, and between ad shoots and movies, music was turned down over the years.
It was during the play Stories In a Song, that theatre director Sunil Shanbag spotted his talent. That’s also where he met Shankar for the first time, and this collaboration took off. “I am fully aware that I have a tough fight ahead of me,” says Das, talking about popularising his music in the indie space. He is hoping that this “spoilt-for-music” generation, will give something new a chance. “I didn’t want to make safe music. I could have put out a straight up ghazal album, and the usual crowd would have liked it. The idea was that, 40 years later, when someone stumbles upon this, they would know that I tried to do something different,” says Das. For now, he is looking at getting a video out for each of the tracks, and tour with the album. “The tune has died, I’m just trying to revive it,” he says.