Mrittika, a Bengali rock band, adds zing to Malayalam film Masala Republic

Madhubanti Bagchi’s earthy, full-throated rendition of a popular Baul (Bengali) ‘Nodi Bhora Dheu…’ (the river is full of tides...) for Masala Republic, captures the ebb and flow of life where man is hapless in this journey.

A Bengali rock band doing the title song for a Malayalam film is fitting, ironically. Kerala is after all home to a considerable population of Bengali migrants. Kolkata-based band Mrittika was, however, clueless about this fact when they were asked to do the film’s title track.

The only exposure the band had had to Malayalam and Kerala until then was a television show on Kappa TV. Playing mostly in Bengal, the suggestion that they could play for a TV show in Kerala was a surprise. “Someone from Kerala who was familiar with our music told us about the show. We got in touch with the channel and we were on,” says Madhubanti, one of the band’s vocalists, over phone from Kolkata.

The trip to Kerala, and the recording, was an adventure. She says they just wanted to ‘see’ how people took to their brand of music.

The seven-member fusion band comprises, besides Madhubanti, Suchal Chakraborthy (vocals), Diptangshu Chakraborthy (guitar), Zafar Ansari (keyboards), Nilanjan Ghosh (drums), Sudipto Sarkar (bass) Shouvik Mukherjee (zitar) and Suomojyoti Ghosh (flute).

It counts among its influences musicians as diverse as Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, A.R. Rahman, Trilok Gurtu, Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. ‘Nodi Bhora Dheu…’ is a popular Baul song.

The band, which does covers and originals, presented a combination of Bangla and Hindi numbers and was surprised by the response. That show led them to the film.

One of the editors of the film put them in touch with the director, G.S. Vishakh. Philosophy in a satire might appear misplaced, but the director disagrees, “The film is about a journey, and the song is the score for the journey – literally and metaphorically.”

Why a Bengali band for a Malayalam film was the question that even Mrittika wondered about. For authenticity’s sake, says the director. “We were told about the film’s Bengali context and then everything fell into place,” she says.

A rough video of the filming also helped. The choice of song fell on the band. The philosophy-laden Baul song combined with one of the band’s Sufi original, was zeroed in on and approved.