The independent music video scene has really taken off with releases like Lutt Gaye, Vaaste, and Dil Hai Deewana. The songs are topping the charts and the videos are clocking up large number of YouTube views. Helming most of these popular videos is the director duo Radhika Rao and Vinay Sapru. Radhika and Vinay started their careers working with acclaimed singers like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle, and smoothly transitioned to the current stars like Arijit Singh, Neha Kakkar and Jubin Nautiyal.
In their career of over two decades, the duo has churned out over 100 music videos, most of which, including Kinna Sohna, Gud Nalon Ishq Mitha and Yaad Piya Ki Aane Lagi have been back-to-back hits. They have also ventured into film-making with productions like Lucky: No Time for Love, I Love NY and the most recent Sanam Teri Kasam. Currently, they are basking in the success of their most recent music video Dil Hai Deewana, featuring actors Arjun Kapoor and Rakul Preet Singh.
Vinay and Radhika spoke to us about their recent music video, how this is the perfect time for non-film and indie music to flourish, its future in the country and the success of their recent works.
How was the experience of working with Arjun Kapoor and Rakul Preet Singh?
Vinay: It’s such a joy working with Arjun because he is such an interested actor. He is bubbling with energy on the set and participating in everything- from setting up a shot to choreography. He’s always full of questions and ideas so it was an absolute delight to have him on the set. Rakul is what you call a director’s actor. She wants perfection to the T. She comes on the set mostly before everybody arrives and also she’s so punctual and always delivering whatever the director asks her to and it’s amazing.
Many film stars are appearing in music videos these days, why?
Radhika: I just think the shift has happened because there has been a big surge of non-film music over the past 3-4 years consistently which has been doing really well. A lot of non-film songs have done well and there is a huge market that has opened up, and with the Covid situation, not many movies are releasing. So, the actors like to reach out to the public through any platform that they think is resonating with them. As an artist how long will you sit at home and not be seen by your audience? This is a good medium to explore your talent and interact with the audience and do something creative.
Are singers restoring the independent music video scene despite Bollywood having taken over the music industry?
Vinay: There couldn’t have been a better time for indie music and non-film music. The market has opened up, the Indian audience is exposed to various types of cinema. You find very concept based and concept-driven films like Uri or Saina, and these kinds of films have got very limited scope of music. So, the audience’s desire for hearing indie music is there, and also the audience has matured and at this point, they want to see the person who is actually singing the song and the people who are behind the songs, unlike playback singing. So that shift is happening and non-film is surging on a very big range.
Your song Lutt Gaye was supposed to be a part of a film but was released as a standalone.
Vinay: Whenever we do non-film music, it’s a complete story in itself. When we started it, it was always supposed to be a story of a character based on Emraan Hashmi’s character in the film. So we did a song which was a prequel to how and why he became an encounter cop in the film but having said that our videos are always a complete story in itself. So, if it is in a movie, you don’t have a complete story with a beginning, middle and end. A music video has got a complete story. As I said, the audience’s taste has changed and they like to see a song that is complete on its own rather than just having a hero lip-sync to it. Right now Lutt Gaye is a complete song by itself.
What role does YouTube play in the success of your videos, and how well do they perform on the platform?
Vinay: I think they do better than anything else. Last year our song Vaaste became the biggest song in India. It was right there in the top 10 list of music worldwide. And this was non-film music. YouTube is actually THE platform right now. Earlier songs used to release on CDs and cassettes, similarly, everybody watches it on YouTube now, so the fate of the song is decided on that platform. Last year it was Vaaste and this year Lutt Gaye is supposed to be the biggest song. It already crossed 500 million views in the first 50 days of its release and indie music getting these numbers are way way ahead of film music numbers.
And how important is social media for making a music video popular?
Radhika: It is very important because it’s the medium that reaches out to the youth, and music is the vaccine of young people. Even in movies, you can find viewers from different age groups but music videos inherently become successful only if it becomes a rage among the youth, and they are all on social media. The response is very quick; something like Lutt Gaye, within a day or two it spread so quickly. You don’t need to wait like the old days where it would play on TV for 2-3 weeks and then it will slowly pick the pace and then it will penetrate to the rest of the country. So it (SM) can either sink a song or make it the biggest hit of the year. Apart from that, things like Reels really helps in popularizing a song, so it is a big game-changer.
Are Indian music videos comparable to K-pop or American singers?
Vinay: I think the qualities of our videos are not less than them. Number wise, too, we have a pretty good reach globally.
Radhika: I also find no difference in quality. The only difference is in budget. They have multi-million dollar campaigns for their music videos. Their campaigns are as expensive as feature films over here so that is the only difference in terms of whatever difference people would see. But even with the kind of budgets we get and the kinds of facility we have, I think what the Indian market throws up is very good compared to what they make, considering the kind of money they have.
You have worked with legends like Asha Bhonsle, Lata Mangeshkar and also with upcoming musicians of our times. What difference did you notice?
Vinay: We started our career with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Asha Ji, and Lata Ji. So after our sabbatical when we decided to come back to music videos, we had the same question that we have worked with these legends, so how will we work with these youngsters? But we were really surprised by the kind of commitment everybody had and the kind of desire for excellence they had. They also don’t want to do the same thing every time and want to do something fresh. Nowadays we have technology so voices can be autotuned and made to sound better but these people are rising above technology and becoming stars.
You have directed numerous music videos, but very few films, any particular reason for that?
Radhika: We don’t know, we don’t plan our lives like that. Whenever we get a good story and are mentally prepared for it, we do it - be it a music video or a film. There is no conscious effort. In our mind, there is no difference in the way we approach a film or a song. For us, both of them are equally important and we put an equal amount of love and passion into what we do.
Vinay: We are now actually working on a feature movie which is with Bhushan Ji (Bhushan Kumar). It is scheduled for a September/ October shoot, and we are now deeply into that.