Friday, September 19, 2008

Suraj Jagan: The resurgence of a rock star - an exclusive Drift interview

Not so long ago, Suraj Jagan was part of Chakraview and at the forefront of India's burgeoning rock scene. Chakraview didn't last and the rock scene in India petered out. But years later, Suraj is enjoying a huge mid-career resurgence thanks to Bollywood's recent embracing of rock as a way of reaching a more urban audience.

Suraj has delivered some bravura singing on terrific songs this year: lending a soulful purr to the power ballad No Big Deal from Money Hai To Honey Hai and then bringing the party to The Theme of Hijack with his slow slung growl.

But it was Suraj's crazy snarl on Zehreelay (Rock On!!) that got him a lot of attention this year. And while performing the song, the production team noted (among other things) that he had his tattoo in the right place (neck) and hired him to act in the movie.

Thus it was that Suraj sang his own song in Rock On!! in a face off with Farhan Akhtar and Arjun Rampal's fictional band Magik in the movie.

Sure he later got pummeled by Arjun, but he walked off with the hottest chick in the movie and he should have won that competition too if you ask me. But since no one is asking me, I'll let Suraj do the talking.

Aspi: Suraj, thanks to your recent fireworks in Bollywood you are one of India’s most well known rock stars now. All that hard work is paying off! Can I take a guess as to who your favorite singer might be: Ian Gillan from Deep Purple?

Suraj: Actually my all time favorites are Robert Plant and Chris Cornell

Aspi: So what plays on your CD changer most of the time these days?

Suraj: Metallica

Aspi: You’ve mentioned before that you’ve been through ups and downs. More downs than up. What’s the worst down you’ve been through – the one that put you down the most? And how did you come out of it?

Suraj: When I look back, everything's been a learning experience. So nothing's bad in that sense.

Aspi: Chakraview was probably the biggest band you were in before it went south. When did you get the feeling that that band wouldn’t last?

Suraj: Never got that feeling. It was just over one day!

Aspi: You formed Dream Out Loud with Chandresh and released Human Race sometime last year. I loved Desire! How’s DOL doing these days?

Suraj: The second album is almost ready but we are not going to spend any money on it. Probably we will put it up for download at some point.

Aspi: Let’s talk about the independent rock scene in India. It’s never taken off as much as one expected at the turn of the millennium. We know Bollywood swallows a major share of the music market in India. But do you think there were rays of hope that might have led somewhere if they had been capitalized on?

Suraj: Definitely, but we live in a country of Greed NOT Passion.

Aspi: Speaking of Bollywood, I would never have heard of you if you hadn’t rocked those songs in the filmi duniya. How did you engage with Bollywood?

Suraj: Never ran after it. Life has a strange way of working out.

Aspi: Do you think Bollywood now has place for rock songs?

Suraj: I think so.

Aspi: One of your songs I loved was “No Big Deal” from Money Hai to Honey Hai. Please, please tell us a little bit about it.

Suraj: Ya, loved singing it! The song was recorded in one of the best studio's I've ever sung in - Yash Raj. Great experience.

Aspi: You also sang a couple of songs on Hijack. Could you tell us a little bit about the composers Justin and Uday? I don’t know anything about them!

Suraj: They are old friends of mine. Great guys, superb sense of humor and they can keep you in splits for hours.

Aspi: Last Bollywood question: is there a non-rock song that you’ve heard recently that you wish you could have sung?

Suraj: I actually sang Khuda Jaane for Vishal-Shekar but at the last moment they decided to go with KK. That's one of my fave songs.

Aspi: Ok, hypothetical situation: let’s say you are scheduled to deliver a major rock performance at India Gate that will be telecast live across the world. Unfortunately you ate some really bad pau bhaji the previous day and can barely croak. The rock izzat of India is at stake. Who would you pick to sing in your place?

Suraj: Vernon Abraham from Bangalore.

Aspi: My 9 year old who I call MotorSandal can’t stop listening to Zehreelay. He doesn’t know a lick of Hindi but can sing the whole song – probably backwards if you asked. He has a question for you: Suraj sir, how did you prepare for the song? Did you eat a lot of spicy food like Kurkures so that you could put out that crazy, loud growl?

Suraj: Yes I did!

Aspi: Finally, please indulge us – this is a mandatory question on my blog for everyone. Can you fold a fitted bed sheet?

Suraj: No!


Anonymous said...

hmm he isn't a man of many words is he..teehee your questions are like 3 times longer than his answers..

Anonymous said...

wow... Aspi uve done it again...i likd tis blog n Zehreelay ofcrse....

n thx my tests r going good so not a prob.....

buh bye

Anonymous said...

Superb , Mindblowing , Excellent , History

Pitu said...

Haha well done Aspi G!

Kanan said...

Nice read. Suraj indeed is a man of few words. Liked his to-the-point answers. Thanks Aspi. I'll have to listen to all of his songs now.

Anonymous said...

Mindbowing, JMLR.

Just curious, has anybody ever admitted that they have been able to fold a fitted sheet!

Anonymous said...

Hey Aspi, nice job tracking down Suraj. Great to hear from all these singers and of course Zehreelay rocks.

..although its uphill task for you when the interviewee is the strong silent type :) wish we got to hear more of Suraj's worldview.

Anonymous said...

This is the worst film that i have ever seen in theater ,,,please please I beg u don't watch it in the theater,please...

___the reviews & ratings & all that ,,actually there is no story at all neither the songs....they all suck big time....

Picture me Hijade ki fauj hai..jisaka(ki) leader munnibhai election jitati hai...Come on guys grow up...


I paid 180/- for movie and it isn't worth 1.8/- paisa also..
Shreyas is ok,no scope for amrita,,,, rest of the crew can go to hell....I would be pleased..

While watching the movie u don't know what is gonna happen next as nothing happens next....

i don't wanna tell the story and all that but if u have any sense of hindi cinema please wait till BMB or DUS releases it and then surely u can watch of cost..

Even if million dollars would have offered me again to watch this one..... no way I would watch it again...

I made a huge mistake by spending on this _____film...U wanna do the same?

Anonymous said...

The above is a review of Welcome to Sajjanpur

Unknown said...

All right! Its great to finally have Suraj with us.

m I write questions so that if people don't have long answers its still reasonably entertaining. I'm not doing this well now - but that is the intent. The next two I've got are more verbose. But I should say that once Suraj loosens up he is very verbose - but that wasn't part of the interview.

Anon, thanks for clarifying - I was wondering if you had walked into the wrong movie. And its happened to me multiple times BTW which will make an autoricksha confession some day.

Anonymous said...

Great interview. I am amazed with your background knowledge on these artists.

Anonymous said...

zehreelay was my fave in the movie. so thanx for this intro and interview. suraj, rock on!!

Anonymous said...

So that crazy rock singer in the movie was Suraj Jagan? Superb.

Anonymous said...

Can we have a close up of the tatoo, please? It flitted by too quickly in the movie.

Suraj, loved your song in Rock on! Loved your role as the mature husband even more.

Anonymous said...

The above comment was me.

Anonymous said...

omg..he speaks less than me..thats soo rare u know:P

dhritiman said...

nice =)

Ritwick said...

Suraj Jagan is a talented singer. I like almost all his songs. Suraj Jagan Rocks.