What does a live singer do in a city like Bangalore in times like this, Avril Q asks BHUMIKA K.
When a young girl from Bangalore boldly croons “Want my chocolate”, a lot of people are bound to sit up and take notice. More so since she sings at a time when women are being targeted for just about breathing.
If you get past Avril Q’s eye-catching mass of auburn curly hair, you’ll get through to a singer, performer, MC, music composer, budding guitarist (a self-taught novice taking tutorials online), daredevil, outspoken woman — all bundled into that petite frame. Her music video has been running now on the channel VH1 and Avril, quite popular with Bangalore’s music lovers who’ve witnessed her ‘Avril Live’ gigs in pubs before, says it is such coincidence her video is so perfectly timed with the disgraceful acts of the Sri Rama Sene.
Incidentally, Avril is from Mangalore, though she was raised mostly in Mumbai before her family settled down in Bangalore. “Music is a good way of putting your thoughts across. At the end of the day everything is a personal choice,” she says, talking of the recent spate of attacks on women in the State. She believes her music addresses these same issues and is her retort to the SRS view of culture.
“My music album is about womanhood, equality and responsibility. Women are sexual beings and I’ve used chocolate synonymously with sex. Sexuality can be used as a weapon responsibly. Relationships unfortunately these days are redundant. Nothing is sincere anymore,” she grieves, almost sounding like someone from an entirely different generation. “The SRS view of things is a dinosaur point of view, so pre-historic. Women can go to the moon, so why not to a pub? And drink responsibly?” she fumes.
Avril has a lot to fume about. “Live singing has been banned in the State. My government won’t give me employment! So I’m even contemplating leaving Bangalore. It does not give me freedom of expression. I am told if I’m a singer I’m a loose woman,” says Avril. The multi-linguist has been doing radio jingles in Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam. She’s been performing in shows in India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Dubai since she was 16 and has done over 500 of them. Singing right through her school and college days, she formed a band “Gangamma’s Pleasure” on her 19th birthday. She can sing in Spanish and her Hindi rock album is awaiting its release in August. She’s trained for five years in Hindustani classical and in western music. Jazz and rock are her strengths, says Avril. “I also have a band in my name. We are a team of three, where I write all the lyrics and I also do the music for some of the songs.” Singing comes easily to Avril, though singing live is a challenge, she says. “You have to get it right the first time and you’re feeding off the audience energy. You’ve got the attention of so many people…it’s an adrenaline rush.” At the moment, composing music is her priority.
Going alone isn’t a song in the music industry. It has not been easy getting her independent enterprise — her music video — on air, a platform she must have to move on further. She has been living off her savings since live singing was banned. Her manager sponsored the video. “I just walked into the channel office with my video. But before that I had to get a censor certificate, for which I had to shell out a hefty bribe…in Mumbai you have to bribe everybody,” she concludes in exasperation. “Mumbai is a great place for work. You have to have guts to stand on your own. I’ve spent sleepless nights crying, not knowing what’s going to happen next,” she admits candidly. “I don’t have the publicist’s arsenal because I haven’t been signed on by a record company.”
But with a music video in her kitty, won’t Bollywood be her next obvious step? “I don’t mean to sound vain and say I’m not going to take the Bollywood route. I will take it after it suits me. We are living in a predominantly Hindi-speaking society and what I say now will come to bite me back!” she laughs.
Is Mumbai’s casting couch a reality? Avril categorically states that the casting couch does exist. And that all those actresses denying it are lying. “I have been propositioned so many times; it happens to everybody. In Mumbai there’s a famous phrase for it: ‘Will you compromise?’ It literally means ‘Will you go to bed?’. And I’ve been so often advised that if I don’t compromise, I won’t ‘go ahead’,” she says in disgust. “I respect people like Mallika Sherawat and Rakhi Sawant because they’ve been through this grind, made no bones of it, and have come up trumps.”
Holding on to her sanity and her values that her Christian upbringing has fortified her with, she says she believes that good things come to those who wait. “I’m waiting.”