In Conversation With Abhimanyu Kukreja, the Indian Film Maker who created ‘Rockumentary’

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Abhimanyu Kukreja is a writer, director and producer, began his career as a music journalist with television stations in India. He has been chronicling the history of music in India since 2006, when Rock n Roll hit him while being a university student in New Delhi. 7 years in the making, Rokumetary is a documentary produced by Abhimanyu that attempts to capture the origin of rock music in India through the eyes of 30 prominent artists in Indian rock music scene including Usha Uthup, Louiz Banks and Moa Subong. Recently, we got the chance to sit down with him and have a candid discussion about Rock music prior to a special screening of the documentary at Max Towers, Noida.

When asked who the target audience for the movie is, he said, “So this movie has been made for someone who doesn’t even understand rock n’ roll. First of all rock n roll has a mass appeal all over the world, not just India and as a matter of fact, we have had more screenings of this movie outside of India than we have had in India and they get shocked you know, everyone thinks India is a land of snake charmers and elephants and then they see that we have some quite decent bands and they’re like ‘wow!'”

Talking about how he got introduced to Rock music, he goes, “I was staying in Indore, I’m from Bhopal and there was no rock n’ roll scene happening there but I did my education in Delhi and I was staying in the hostel and we had a lot of bands in our university who became my friends and that was my introduction to what Rock music is in real life and at the same time I was a big fan of Luke Kenny also, I used to watch his show, The Luke Kenny Show which used to come in the graveyard shift between 12 o clock in the night to 4 o clock and in the university days, we were awake all night. All my friends would gather in one room listening to rock music and having fun and that is how it all started.” Upon asking him if he would change anything about it if he had the chance to, we got to know that he would actually go about it the exact same way if I had to do it all over again.

Speaking on the evolution of Rock Music and its current state, he said, “It took me 7 years of filming and 12 years of extensive research to make this documentary and I would say, the rock scene in India has only expanded. We didn’t really understand what Rock music was and then the movie Rock On came out and then Rockstar came out which popularised Rock n Roll among the masses. The current Rock music scene is really different because for the older generation there were a lot of obstacles, there was no equipment available, it was difficult to catch hold of radio frequencies but now we have the internet and the times have changed, the rock sound keeps changing but the philosophy behind it stays the same.”

Demystifying the myth that “Rock n’ Roll is dead” he mentions how, “Rock bands are now tagged as Jam Bands where they are mixing different kinds of sounds and they are going on stage and they just jam. But Rock will never die, I was in the US right now for 3 months, I was in Colorado and any bar and restaurant I would go to, there would rock music playing. Yes, there has been a decrease in the number of rock bands performing on stage but they’re now tagged as jam bands.”

Sharing a hilarious account of how Rang Bhawan became what it was during the 90s, he says, “Okay, so there was this band called ‘The Police’ and the band came to India in 1980 to Rang Bhawan, and there were some women who were part of the Bombay social circuit who had accidentally booked the band thinking it was a British marching band like an actual police band and it was a sold-out show and they raised 5000 pounds which is pretty hilarious but it changed the fortunes of Rang Bhawan forever, I have never found a venue like that till now.”

Concluding the interview, Abhimanyu talked about what role the movies Rock On and Rockstar played in popularizing the Rock music culture and he said, “These two movies were the first movies that were named after Rock and that has been a big milestone and not to mention, they were a big risk I believe, Luke was a part of Rock On, he played, Rob, the pianist in it and I think it totally helped. There has been an exchange between Bollywood and the rock music scene whether you look at the 70s, the 80s and it’s still happening. The movie Rock On, most of the songs in it had rocky beats and that really helped, that helped me as well because now at least the masses know about the term rock. Those movies were scripted and told a fictional story but this one is a documentary which is one step further.”

The interview was followed by a screening of ‘Rockumentary’ and an interaction session between Mr. Luke Kenny and Mr. Abhimanyu. The movie was absolutely riveting, to say the least and we hope that it manages to reach the masses as soon as possible.

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