Filmmaker Arjun Kamath, Dancer Ashwini Kaikini, and Musician Bryden Lewis are doing everything right
Frozen in the moment, crimson kites caught in a dark and feral woodland set a rather sombre and unsettling tone in Coming Out. A fictional story spun, shot and directed by 28-year-old Arjun Kamath on the outskirts of Bengaluru, the series has become a widely-shared sensation with a tale that talks about ‘forbidden love’ between two young Indian women. “Movies like Deepa Mehta’s Fire have been great, but we still haven’t explored a lot of issues in our society, mainly because people get caught up with the box office success of a movie,” says Kamath, who’s studying to be a filmmaker at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, LA.
|“I didn’t have to lead any protest, nor block roads or set an effigy on fire, and yet, the series has reached out to so many people”|
Kamath, an enthusiast of Bollywood films, is an engineer by degree who didn’t want to do coding 9-to-5, and started attending theatre workshops while in college. “We can’t enter different worlds at will, but photography, theatre and films give us the ability to base a story in space, or in a dark and brooding forest,” he says. Elaborating on the series, Kamath talks of how he saw his gay friends feel stifled. “This isn’t a one or two-day affair, but something for a lifetime. We are never going to progress as a nation if we continue to have primitive mindsets. Here, I didn’t have to lead any protest, nor block any roads or set an effigy on fire, and yet,the series has reached out to so many people because art makes that connect. You just need to know what you have to say and how to say it,” he shares. “I want to make films that have soul. I want to entertain people and get them emotionally invested,” says Kamath. His next is a documentary shot in LA, which attempts to understand where one draws the line between nudity and art.
Ashwini Kaikini, 27
For 27-year old Ashwini Kaikini, who runs Kathak school, Nrityanidhi on Bannerghatta Road, her recent visit to the United States was an eye opener of sorts. “Our troupe was invited to perform for the founders of IIT at San Francisco as part of their annual conference. We presented the journey of IIT through a dance ballet and also showcased a few Kathak numbers,” she shares. But what really struck her, she tells us, is the respect people have for art and culture. “That is something that Bengaluru has in common with San Francisco,” explains the dancer, who has also spent a fair amount of time in Mumbai, where the main branch of Nrityanidhi, run by her sister Shoma, is located.
“In Mumbai, the audience claps for everything and people tend to look at everything from a commercial angle. But down South, especially in Bengaluru, the audience savours art for the sake of art itself,” she explains, adding that it’s this attitude that has helped her hone her skills and push herself to do better, because, “Bengalureans know their classical art forms and you can’t fool them.” What sets the dance school apart is the fusion of contemporary and classical moves with familiar music to make it relevant. “We simplify Kathak by using movie songs with a classical base and combining it with semi-classical steps to cater to students who are strapped for time and can’t dedicate their lives to learning it in its purest form,” Ashwini, says, adding, “But we maintain the respect that comes with Indian classical dance and don’t overdo the contemporary aspect.” The Kaikinis and their troupe will next be seen in action at their yearly showcase, Dhwani, in November.
Bryden Lewis, 26
There was a point in my life when I was seriously considering dropping out of college, because I wanted to focus on my music,” begins former Raghu Dixit Project guitarist, Bryden Lewis. Eventually however, he did complete his education, and has also had a fairly successful musical career so far, though he regrets his decision of getting his degree. “The amount of time I spent outside class, I’m surprised I have a degree,” shares Lewis, who is influenced by church music, Bollywood, progressive rock and heavy metal — an interesting combination.
It was after a few years with city band, Slain that Lewis got a call from Raghu Dixit to be his guitarist. “That call completely changed the course for me. I was barely 22 and it was really encouraging to get such a platform at such a young age,” says Lewis. Over the next few years, he would tour the globe as part of Dixit’s band. “We’d be hopping from the US to the UK to Australia. It was a wonderful learning experience and quite a fun ride,” he recalls. Having recently left the band, Lewis plans to concentrate on his own music and has teamed up with Dixit’s flautist Partha to form the outfit Bryden Parth. The duo is currently working on a world music album that will be a fusion of saxophone, guitar and flute. The 26-year-old is also releasing a solo album that explores urban folk sounds. With dates yet to be set for the launch dates of both albums, Lewis is busy with other projects like the recently staged musical Ghost, based on the film of the same name.
— Rashmi Rajagopal & Nikita Puri