Monday, February 02, 2015

Beyond the crowds

"This thing is a Wembley concert now, but this place can only accommodate a warehouse gig crowd," said a Nigerian writer, who is now a London transplant. The "thing" he was referring to was the just-concluded ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival and the "place" is the venue, Diggi Palace. His appraisal wasn't far off the mark considering this year the festival had a record number of visitors: 245,000. Here's some heartburn for doomsayers of the printed word: the festival has seen a doubling of international visitors from 50 countries, and a 40 per cent increase in students attending it.

As much as the numbers were comforting, the venue, which has been inextricably linked with the event for eight years, was groaning under the weight of that many visitors. That said, the festival was a smorgasbord of marvellousness for whoever braved the teeming swarms of humanity. My personal highlight has been the one where Paul Theroux, Hanif Kureishi and Amit Chaudhuri spoke to Farrukh Dhondy on the cultural importance of V S Naipaul's A House for Mr Biswas. The writers were waxing eloquent about the sprawling novel set in Port of Spain with the Nobel laureate himself among the audience. Mr Kureishi said that this was the novel that broke the stigma against what used to be pejoratively termed as "Commonwealth writing" in the 1960s; Mr Theroux went a step further: "What I was reading was a book which described an entire world. A family on an island where nothing was left out, every cultural artefact, the food, the way of speaking, the weather and houses, everything was there. It was the most complete novel I had read since, I suppose, Dickens." That statement moved Mr Naipaul to tears and the hatchet between the two was resoundingly buried on stage.

Another incredible session had Eimear McBride and Eleanor Catton in conversation with Razia Iqbal. The Irish writer, who wrote the throat-clenchingly haunting novel A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, said that she had to wait for a harrowing nine years to get her debut novel published. Its inventive staccato prose, stream of consciousness narrative and genuinely shocking plot apparently was rejected by three publishers because they didn't know how to "market" it. Booker winner Ms Catton, on the other hand, who tasted success at 28 for her second novel The Luminaries, said that she liked to essentially think of herself as a mystery novelist and that a cellphone is the worst thing that could have happened to that kind of a writer. "The essence of a mystery novel is that people go in the wrong directions and a cellphone is sort of killing that," she said.

On Day Two, as rain lashed the Pink City, American-Indian poet Vijay Seshadri's soul-edifying session titled "A Passage to America" with Sadaf Saaz Siddiqi provided the much-needed warmth. Mr Seshadri spoke about growing up in the 1960s and his whole immigrant experience. He said that "the sixties were America's most energetic decade since Civil War". He was feisty, funny, meditative during the 40 minutes that he held court at the venue. Speaking about the Pulitzer honour he said, "It's a nice award. I recommend it to everyone."

Optimism over an Indo-Pak truce was all-pervasive at a talk on Pakistan that involved Ahmed Rashid, Anatol Lieven, G Parthasarathy and the country's former foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri. "If Vladimir Putin can talk to Obama, why not India and Pakistan," Mr Rashid asked. All the speakers said that with a new government in place in Kabul, the leaders should tackle the Taliban menace together and not depend on the United States too much.

The purpose of literature was best described by Will Self, British letters' enfant terrible with an old quote: as something that "afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted". He was a massive hit with the audience. Be it his dismissal of the British establishment, his maverick antics onstage or hilariously controversial statements, he was the talk of the event. Another writer to whom the crowd took an instant liking was the Chinese-American writer Anchee Min. Once a Red Guard in Mao's army, she permitted the audience a glimpse into the unremitting bleakness of the early years of her life - leavened with an impromptu performance of a Chinese opera song.

And these are the kind of reasons that even those issuing a drone of contempt at the massive crowds will be returning next year. Did I tell you that next year Noam Chomsky, Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro will be speaking?

The A-Z of Jaipur Literature Festival 2015

A for Anchee Min: The Chinese American author left the audience in turns haunted and entertained by recalling her days of working for Mao in the Red Guards. When she broke out in a Chinese opera song, it turned out to be the talk of the festival.

B for Baithak: My favourite part of the venue this year was located in a safe corner. Some of the most intimate conversations happened here and they involved Vijay Seshadri, Will Self, Hisham Matar among others.

C for CIA: One of the most stimulating conversations was on the intelligence gathering organisation of the United States. Kai Bird, Scott Anderson, Charles Glass spoke to Guardian’s Long Reads’ editor Jonathan Shainin about the pitfalls of CIA and the kind of wreckage it can cause on the fabric of any nation.

D for Devdutt Pattanaik: Right from talking about Indian mythology to homosexuality in India, the master spinner of beautiful tales held fort at every session he was at.

E for Eleanor Catton: The Booker winner of 2013 was a textbook example of how a young author should deal with success. Here is someone who won the Booker at 28 and yet she said that “War and Peace can be written only after one turns 40”. She was a major draw at the event and for all the right reasons.

F for Farrukh Dhondy: He had the biggest task at hand: steer a conversation on VS Naipaul when the writer was in the audience; and in another session, he was talking to the writer himself. Must say, he handled both the sessions really well and managed to give a slice of the great writer to the audience that thronged to see him.

G for Girish Karnad: The playwright and actor was an absolute delight both when talking to Naseeruddin Shah about their early days of acting and then in another session making a compelling case as to why a Library of Classic Indian literature is of immediate necessity.

H for Hisham Matar: The Libyan-American writer spoke about exile, post-Gaddafi Libya, his love for Proust , the anguish of his father in the most stirring manner possible.

I for In Exile: A lovely array of writers discussed about what it is to write about a country they will never be able to visit again or will be severely restricted within it. Chinese writer Ma Jian said that language (in his case Mandarin) keeps him alive in London but that someday he hopes to return to China. Hisham Matar spoke about how he had to flee Libya as a kid because his father was standing up to the Gaddafi regime.

J for Joanna Rakoff: The winsome writer of a memoir on handling JD Salinger’s fan mail was wonderful at all the sessions she attended. She spoke at length about what it was like to be a literary agency in 90s’ New York before the e-mail and endemic computerisation had hit the industry.

 K for Kalam: The former President of India, a darling from schoolchildren, got a rockstar welcome at Diggi Palace. Every syllable he uttered was hung on to by his young fans. Both his talks, where he delved into his ‘Vision 2020’, were the most-attended ones probably in the history of the festival.

L for Llewlyn Morgan: The classicist at Oxford University was a treasure trove of illuminating information on Buddhist artworks at Bamiyan in Central Afghanistan. His book on the same subject is a rare hybrid of Buddhism and architecture.

M for Mihir Sharma: Business Standard’s Opinion editor was arguably at two of the biggest talks: one involved Shashi Tharoor and the other with Rajdeep Sardesai. He spoke with great erudition on what ails the Indian economy (subject matter of his just-released book, Restart) and what Modi government should get right about its politics.

N for Naipaul: The octogenarian wordsmith spoke at what might just be his last public talk. Despite his physical discomfort and slight inability to recall the right words during the interview, the audience listened to him in rapt attention. He spoke about his early days of writing, India and Africa. His wife Nadira said that after his book, India: Land of Darkness, was released, his mother told him, “Beta, leave India to the Indians.”

 O for Overcrowded: Every year, there’s a drone of contempt among the regulars that the venue should be changed and that Diggi is bursting at seams but this year that drone became really audible. As much as the event takes pride in being free for all, the maddening crowds that descended to witness Kalam and Sonam Kapoor might just make the organisers think again.

P for Paris Attacks: With the barbaric act on Charlie Hebdo still fresh in the minds, JLF was a perfect place for writers to denounce the attack. Almost everyone, with a sole exception of Will Self, uttered “Je Suis Charlie”.

Q for Queer: A fascinating talk at JLF centred around homosexual literature. Sarah Water, Christos Tsiolkas, Mark Gevisser, Sandip Roy spoke about what it was to be a homosexual before it was the new normal like today. Another thing that struck the foreign visitors is that Indian visa application has Other in the ‘sex’ option, something they found quite progressive.

R for Ram Jethmalani: The eminent lawyer, who is 92-year-old, gave the packed audience a peek into his life right from Emergency to Indira Gandhi to the controversial cases that he handles. He said that even today 90% of the cases that he takes up are all pro bono. His feisty talk was a reminder that age is just a number.

S for Shashi Tharoor: The Congress MP finally did show up after intense speculations if he will be able to make it after latest revelations on his wife’s death. He didn’t mince words about the Modi government, was skeptical about Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, and was scathing about ghar waapsi.

T for Theroux: The acclaimed travel writer spoke about his craft at the event but the thing that he will be remembered for is his patch up with friend-turned-foe VS Naipaul. Paul Theroux said that A House for Mr Biswas is the most complete novel he read after Dickens, which moved the Nobel laureate to tears.

U for Ummeed: The Hindi word for hope was the reigning sentiment among those speaking about India. Everyone thought, even the hawks, that India has a decent chance at making it big on the world stage with a new government at the helm of affairs.

V for Vijay Seshadri: The American-Indian poet, who won a Pulitzer, was absolutely brilliant in his meditative, cerebral sessions. He was articulate about every subject he was asked about: his life as a kid in America, his growing up years, why he decided to work for five years in commercial fishing industry, the seventies of America, his favourite poets.

W for Will Self: The British letters’ enfant terrible was the toast of JLF 2015. All his sessions were sidesplittingly funny and the reading that he did from his Booker-nominated Umbrella in a gorgeously animated tone was the best I ever saw in the five years that I have been to the fest.

 X for Xanadu: The title of the debut book of the fest director William Dalrymple needs to be evoked because JLF is nothing less than a parallel universe’s idea of heaven. The 2016 line-up has Noam Chomsky, Patti Smith, Margaret Atwood, Thomas Piketty among the big names slated to speak. How does this man do that?

Y for Young Readers: In Dalrymple’s words, “The average age of a literary festival in England, like Cheltenham is 70, while in JLF it’s 21.” That says it all that the fest has cracked the demographic code. Despite the crowding problems, it was a nice sight to see young readers jostling for space to see writers they have either read or intend to.

Z for Zia Haider Rehman: This British novelist of Bangladeshi origin who, quite possibly, wrote the best South Asian novel of the last 10 years was beyond amazing at JLF. He spoke passionately about his early days in UK, how his teachers refused to believe that his English can be so good, how we was bullied at school for showing a drive towards gaining knowledge. If there’s one novel that you should read from 2014, it’s In The Light of What We Know. Prepare to be floored by its vertigo-inducing magnificence.

Poetry and truth at the Mumbai Film Festival

Any piece of art should aim to live up to the two ideals that German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe preferred: Dichtung und Wahrheit (poetry and truth). At the just-concluded Mumbai Film Festival there were quite a few movies that showed these traits in spades.

The gold standard was set by Chaitanya Tamhane's Marathi movie Court, which won two prizes at the Venice Film Festival. Court is a critique of India's arcane laws that continue to be "relevant" much to the dismay of the affected parties. It tells the story of a reactionary Mumbai folk singer being brought to his knees in a court of law - because, allegedly, the words that he used were taken to heart by a sewage cleaner who ended up killing himself. The singer is pushed further and further down the abyss that is the Indian judicial system. Mr Tamhane's biggest triumph is that the laugh-out-loud moments - for example, a scene where the judge refuses to hear a case because the defendant is wearing a sleeveless dress - are both side-splittingly funny, and created with an intimate knowledge of how ordinary people think. The pitch-perfect casting, the lingering close-ups and the seamless narrative make Court one of the best movies of 2014. This movie ought to be a constant reminder to our new prime minister who has promised to cut the flab out of Indian laws.

Another potent amalgam of poetry and truth was the Malayalam movie Perariyathavar (Names Unknown). Directed by Bijukumar Damodaran (commonly called "Dr Biju"), it is a deeply affecting story about a road sweeper who is a mute spectator to how modern-day Kerala is battling the twin forces of capitalism and communism. The lead actor, Suraj Venjaramoodu, won the National Award for Best Actor this year for his outing in a deglamourised role that's a radical departure from what is usually his bread and butter: comic roles where pratfalls are written with him in mind.

Another movie that I loved is Benjamín Naishtat's Argentinean film History of Fear, a take on constant gentrification, and how it could lead only to more paranoia. Set in a near-future Buenos Aires, this stripped-down dystopian drama is about a bunch of vaguely interconnected characters who keep coming across their fears in the unlikeliest of situations. Some of the film's images are quite hallucinogenic; they continue to be embedded in my brain. The best part about History of Fear is that it's not a childish rant against the bourgeoisie - it actually delves deeper, in an effort to make sense of society's demands for increased surveillance and security.

One of my most satisfying movie-watching experiences also turned out to be a disappointment turnout wise. Only nine people landed up for the French movie Girlhood, directed by Celine Sciamma. It's about a group of four inseparable black girls in a banlieue in Paris who come to terms with the harsh realities of life and dead-end prospects that it has to offer. Most of the story revolves around Marieme (played by a magnetic Karidja Toure) who is the most distraught of the lot, as she fears settling down, getting married and managing kids for the rest of her life. The earlier parts of the movie move along in an admirably frenetic manner - especially one sequence, where the girls dance to Rihanna's Diamonds in a neon-lit room.

By the near end of the festival I was in a bind: whether to watch the Brad Pitt-starrer Fury or '71, a British historical action movie set in Northern Ireland. I chose the latter and it turned out to be a wonderful gamble. This 90-minute nail-biting thriller about a missing British soldier amid "The Troubles", as Northern Ireland prefers to refer to its bloody past, left me hooked. Director Yann Demange walked the tightrope really well and never passed judgement; instead, he concentrated on delivering the maximum chills when least expected. The background score deserves special mention.

The only thing that left a bad taste in my mouth during an otherwise insuperably satisfying festival was when Bollywood actor Imran Khan was booed off stage by an audience who thought he was taking too much time to introduce Two Days, One Night. In the heat of the moment people forgot that Bollywood had an active role in funding the festival, which was in doldrums after its main sponsor pulled out. In Toronto, a movie festival pass costs around Rs 20,000; here it was Rs 1,500. The least people could have done was listen to whatever he had to say, interesting or boring notwithstanding. But then, unlike art, life rarely pays much heed to either poetry or truth.

Great MFF Expectations

Here's a pitch for a short film: A multi-billion dollar conglomerate pulls out of a film festival, leaves it almost asphyxiated for the sake of Rs 5 crore in a land where every second week one movie earns Rs 100 crore, before crowdfunding revives it. We are talking about the 16th edition of Mumbai Film Festival (MFF), which had to endure an almost cinematic roller-coaster ride. This is supposed to be a preview article, but considering its recent past just go watch anything to support this wonderful event. Thanks to the kind hearts who donated generously, the line-up is anything but watered down. Here are a few films that are absolutely not to be missed. They have been divided into two categories inspired by Donald Rumsfeld-speak.

The known knowns

These are movies that have been acclaimed across the festival circuit. Topping this list is Richard Linklater's Boyhood, a cinematic bildungsroman that painstakingly chronicles the life of a five-year-old boy until he turned 18. As unremarkable as it might sound, here's the kicker: Mr Linklater shot the whole movie intermittently over 11 years (yes, during the boy's lifetime); and from whatever little I could glean from online clips and reviews, not a single shot of this 165-minute long movie is wasted. Next up is the Belgian drama Two Days, One Night by the Dardenne Brothers, the Coen Brothers of European cinema. A simple drama about a to-be sacked worker (Marion Cotillard) trying to win over her colleagues over the weekend to avoid the inevitable is already being hailed as one of the best movies of 2014.

Also getting top billing is Pride, the real-life story of a group of homosexuals in London in 1984 trying to support the miners of a tiny Welsh village who are ravaged by Maggie Thatcher's crackdown on the National Union of Mineworkers. This riotously funny movie about how the mining elders get over their homophobia and look at the Londoners' good intentions has been garnering rave reviews across the globe. And those of us who are willing to watch Jean-Luc Godard film every page of a dictionary will also have to make time for the Frenchman's latest feature, Goodbye to Language (3D).

Among documentaries, the prima donna is Martin Scorsese's The 50 Year Argument, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of what was for the longest time the enfant terrible of American letters, The New York Review of Books. With extensive quotes from its founder Robert Silvers and other talking heads, including Colm Tóibín and Michael Chabon, Mr Scorsese ensures this documentary is a must-watch for everyone who wants to try and recapture the seductive power of the printed word in this age of BuzzFeed.

The unknown unknowns

This category is for movies that are little known as yet but might just make a splash. This year's Mumbai Film Festival is celebrating French cinema in a big way - and what will bolster this effort will be the presence of Catherine Deneuve, who will be given a lifetime achievement award. Her latest film, In the Courtyard, an indie feature about a depressed rock-star-turned-janitor developing romantic feelings for a female retiree, looks eminently watchable. By the way, the Deneuve retrospective at the Mumbai Film Festival is incontestably awesome as well. Another French film that ought to give everyone chills is Mathieu Amalric's (the snarling anti-hero of Casino Royale) The Blue Room. A lushly romantic film, inspired by a Georges Simenon book, it promises to further embellish Mr Amalric's already diverse oeuvre.

Last month when the baby-faced Chaitanya Tamhane won two awards at the Venice Film Festival for his movie Court, a trenchant analysis of Indian judiciary, people back home noticed. Without even a YouTube clip doing rounds on the internet and with an India release months away, the Mumbai Film Festival auditoriums will be filled to the brim with people who at least want to see what the fuss is all about. Court is competing in the "International Competition" section along with other 2014 movie festival stalwarts, such as History of Fear and Macondo.

If you are the kind who swears by Russian literature, the Mumbai Film Festival is catering to you as well, showcasing the best of Russian cinema, including Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev and Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace.

Last but not the least, the opening and closing movies are both from Hollywood. The former being the period romance flick Serena (Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper) and the latter being the Brad Pitt-starrer Fury, the story of a tank crew in World War II that promises to reinvent the war movie.

See you on the flip side.

In pursuit of unhappiness

Within a span of three years (2009-11), Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard wrote a 3,600-page, six-volume series of books that catapulted him into literary immortality at the age of 43. These books chronicle his life right from his childhood to adulthood, all the while retaining the names of everyone involved in it. If the subject matter of the books wasn't sensitive enough, he named them, collectively, Min Kamp (My Struggle), a Hitleresque reference that only Mr Knausgaard deserved to evoke. The first three instalments have been translated - quite ably so - into English by Don Bartlett. The latest, the third in the series, titled Boyhood Island, was released in English this summer.

As someone who has read all the three books that have been translated into English, I would implore everyone to read this brilliant writer. The first in the series, A Death in the Family, is a heart-rending account of how Mr Knausgaard dealt with his father's death. Of particular note is his unflinchingly honest description of the filth that pervades the house where his father died: "When the last item of clothing had been carried out, I sprinkled the Klorin over the floor, using half of the bottle, and then I scrubbed it with the broom before hosing it all down the drain. Then I emptied the rest of the green soap all over it, and scrubbed it again, this time with a cloth."

In the second book, A Man in Love, Mr Knausgaard is strikingly unsparing in his gripe about his second wife and the three children that she bore him. For example, read this: "When I look at a beautiful painting I have tears in my eyes, but not when I look at my children. That does not mean I do not love them, because I do, with all my heart, it simply means that the meaning they produce is not sufficient to fulfil a whole life. Not mine, at any rate." The fourth child, born after the book was published, escaped his father's vexation.

The third book, Boyhood Island, describes his stifling childhood, spent under the grim shadow of his father, a martinet in every sense of the word.

Writing a series of books out of one's own largely unremarkable life is no mean feat; the Western media has rightly dubbed Mr Knausgaard the "Norwegian Proust". There are, for example, minutely detailed descriptions of adolescent life (as many as 60 pages on Mr Knausgaard, as a teenager, procuring beer for a New Year's party), heavy dependence on memory (Book Three has the writer recollecting all the bands his elder brother ever introduced him to), and philosophising about morbid tasks (buying a coffin, Mr Knausgaard writes, is "a bit like buying wine in a restaurant. If you're not a connoisseur, I mean. If you've got a lot of money you take the second-most-expensive. If you haven't, you take the second-cheapest. Never the most expensive, nor the cheapest").

Having said that, Mr Knausgaard lacks the emotional and intellectual depth of Marcel Proust's magnum opus, Remembrance of Things Past. Nevertheless, as James Wood wrote in The New Yorker, "There is something ceaselessly compelling about Knausgaard's book [A Death in the Family]: even when I was bored, I was interested." It's not for nothing, after all, that a quarter of Norway's population has read his books; what's more, some firms are reported to observe "Knausgaard-free" days, when talking about him is off-limits. It's not surprising, then, that the redoubtable Zadie Smith had this to say on Twitter about A Death in the Family: "It's unbelievable. I just read 200 pages of it and I need the next volume like crack. It's completely blown my mind." Novelist Katie Kimamura told The New York Times that “every time we have a small family drama, we’re like, ‘Karl Ove would get 200 pages out of this.’”

It's not hard to see why these writers are fawning over the Norwegian literary sensation. It is a widely held belief that writers thrive on unhappiness; Mr Knausgaard takes this writerly quirk to another level. Nothing seems to make him happy. The magnetic presence of kids, a mostly understanding wife, a unanimously praised work, an enviably close-knit bunch of friends - a simpler person couldn't imagine life beyond this. Not Mr Knausgaard, who is in constant, desperate search for an escape, where he doesn't have to attend to kids, take them to school, feed them, pacify them in the middle of the night, or even go picnicking.

To his credit, Mr Knausgaard internalised every event of his life and has spewed it out in an unadorned fashion. Even as he divulges family secrets and reveals the most intimate details about those close to him, the unobtrusive manner in which Mr Knausgaard himself sneaks in and out of the narrative makes him the poster child of a genre that he very well may have spawned - which is sure to make every reader champion the writer's cause for this year's Nobel prize in literature.

For the uninitiated, then, I have three words about Karl Ove Knausgaard: believe the hype.

MTV goes back

 At the cavernous venue of the launch party of Pepsi MTV Indies, a 24-hour Indian independent music channel, the air was palpably different from what you'd expect. No power suits, no wine sipping, no paparazzi - as is the norm at such launches. The warehouse-style party at Mehboob Studio, located in Bandra, the upscale suburb of Mumbai, featured instead an imperiously built stage with six different boxes - three mounted on three - which sent out a message: the Indian indie scene need not be "boxed" into one genre.

With many in the 18-35 age group increasingly listening to markedly different music instead of the usual Bollywood mishmash, a separate channel was always on the anvil - but no one knew when. Until Ankur Tewari, the lead singer of the consistently sparkling Ankur & The Ghalat Family, took on the mantle of programming and content of this sister channel of MTV India. For MTV India, this is something like coming full circle. Ask urban Indians in their late 20s or early 30s about their growing-up years and many would get wistful about MTV Asia, which burst onto the Indian cable TV screens in the 1990s. But, eventually, it was replaced with MTV India - which soon began to play the same old Bollywood music, and finally endless reality shows and contests.

And that evening at Mehboob Studio, the fabulous party was sending out a loud stereophonic sound: this channel is here to stay. It's intriguing that a profit-centric multinational like Pepsi feels it's in its interest to pour anywhere between Rs 40 crore and Rs 50 crore into a channel whose format is indie in every sense of the word. Here are a few salient points:

* It isn't just about independent music with lyrics in English. There will be music from all over the country, in Hindi, Bangla, Oriya, Malayalam.
* Unlike other music channels, there will be no video jockeys hosting shows.
* The channel will play songs, not bunched up together from a single genre, but according to moods.

When I read the release, I wondered how hard it must have been to get such a "radical" manifesto past studio heads who traditionally don't show an excess of interest in out-of-the-box ideas. The resounding success of Coke Studio India might have been one reason, and the packed gigs of indie bands at every watering hole in every metro city must have been another. The NH7 Weekender music festival, the garden-variety electronic dance music concerts that are happening throughout the year, must have contributed to the executives' confidence.

That launch night, bands jammed together without a trace of ego. Karsh Kale happily played drums for Raghu Dixit's band. Vishal Dadlani joined Raghu Dixit and took the band's catchiest tune, Ambar Se, to another level. Ankur & The Ghalat Family's hilarious lyrics sounded great when delivered by Sidd Coutto. The companionship among the musicians that night was hinting that they were really happy for the larger good of the indie scene. Spacious Mehboob Studio, which keeps hosting Live from the Console, Mahindra Blues Festival and once even had an Anish Kapoor show, was packed to the brim.

According to Raghu Dixit, this channel is a great chance for those "who missed out on the train and for those who want to board it now". What will keep the music channel chugging along initially are the 500 music videos that are in its library currently.

Obviously, those 500 videos wouldn't be enough, but it's a good enough start. And with everyone from Dualist Inquiry to Shaa'ir + Func and Swarathma to Sky Rabbit belting out propulsive music (the channel's theme video is a case in point), the channel should grow in days to come. The content will include more than music - it is expected that there will be segments on indie films and the visual arts, as well as on the creation of videos and album art. For starters, there's Open Files on album artwork and design and Indiepedia, a 101 course on popular indie terms. The icing on the cake is Busking, which will place artists on the streets to play five songs; a few of these artists include Raghu Dixit, Indus Creed, Shaa'ir and Func.

And the content will be monetised, too. There will be a Pepsi MTV Indies stage at music festivals and a smartphone app on the lines of Shazam for indie music discovery. The initial agreement on the Pepsi and MTV partnership on this channel is for three years; given the resurgent demand for indie music, this channel, hopefully, won't fade away in a hurry - as MTV Asia did.