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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Gully Boy Ranveer Singh launches music label, calls it IncInk

Gully Boy Ranveer Singh launches music label, calls it IncInk

You could not tell anything from the invitation, except that it was sent by YashRaj Films and had something to do with IncInk. The mystery unravelled on 29th March, at Mumbai’s Four Seasons Hotel, after a 90 minute wait. Suddenly, moviestar Ranveer Singh, who is on a roll after Gully Boy, a film in which he plays a rap-star, rolled-in to a chorus of “Baba, Baba” chants. He kept running around the hall, hugging and kissing people he knew, and seeking their blessings. Shortly afterwards, he took-over the stage, with Navzar Eranee. And then, it was Ranveer all the way—wisecracking, joking, mimicking, anchoring and what have you.

It was soon revealed that Ranveer Singh and film-maker and music evangelist Navzar Eranee have teamed up to launch their passion project, an independent music record label, called IncInk. ‘Inc’ stands for Inclusive, and ‘Ink’ for Inkalab (usually spelt Inquilab), revolution through art. ‘IncInk’ is Inclusive Ink and an Inclusive revolution. The label will look to unearth the future superstars of the music scene in India and present their raw talent to a global audience.

“We are starting with launching some really raw, immensely talented, new rap and hip-hop artistes, who we believe will be the next superstars of the scene. Rap and hip-hop are the biggest thing happening in Indian music today. This poetry is speaking of a revolution, it is speaking of how India is protesting against class structures, injustice, and social atrocities. It is the voice of India, from the streets of India that you just can’t ignore anymore. Hindustani rap/hip hop is telling our nation’s story and reality and we at IncInk want to bring out the real poets of our generation. IncInk literally means writing your own story, and I’m inspired and thrilled to be starting this passion project that aims to affect social change. I hope that we can present some of the strongest, boldest voices of Indian youth to the world,” said Ranveer, who turns a global entrepreneur with his music venture.

He added, “The first three exceptional talents being launched are Kaam Bhari, SlowCheeta and Spitfire, and I’m a huge fan of their music. We intend to sign and promote several more artists, who are exploring various genres of music, in the days to come and showcase their beautiful music to India and the world. As an outsider in Bollywood, I have always wanted to do my bit to bring out and support the outstanding talent that we have in every street of our country. IncInk is my passion and I intend to use this platform to give as many artistes, from across the country, a chance to dazzle India with their talent.” All three talents came on stage and performed, singing/reciting parts in tandem with Ranveer himself

Ranveer’s partner and co-collaborator in IncInk is Navzar Eranee, a film-maker and music lover aiming to nurture, launch and build artistes in India. He too turns an entrepreneur with this company that will give contemporary poets of our generation suitable exposure and reach amongst people.

Co-founder Navzar Eranee said, “Art can comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. Music has always inspired me to think and act beyond my perceived limitations. As an artiste bubbling with a point of view, I grew tired of safe conversations and diplomacy driven by economic interests. I want to connect with people. These connections via truth and authentic expression, though not always agreeable, create a more inclusive conversation. This insight drove Ranveer and I to push our own boundaries and form IncInk. Anushka Manchanda a.k.a. Nuka, and Shikhar Manchanda a.k.a. RĀKHIS, came on board as our Head of Music, because we all agreed on the absolute core of what we envision for IncInk. Where artists can collaborate and express with real freedom. In my view, the haves and the have nots must engage on common ground - through art and music.”

About the decision to start their independent label by launching rap and hip-hop artistes, Navzar added, “Rap allows for a bold and direct approach. We can speak our truths, learn, educate and maybe even inspire somebody outside of ourselves. Oppression must be faced with bravery and creativity. We often face injustice every day. By bringing these subjects to light through art, we can recognise them and take action. Rap lends truth to the idea that art is mightier than the sword.”

On the occasion, IncInk released their first single, titled Zeher written and performed by Kaam Bhaari, produced by Shikhar Yuvraj Manchanda (a.k.a. RĀKHIS). Zeher is a hard-hitting song that challenges the prevalent conforms of the Indian music industry boldly and unapologetically. The video of the song, directed by Navzar, was screened for the audience, and the surprise packet in it was the presence of Ranveer himself, in a cameo.

Ranveer Singh, Shikhar Yuvraj Manchanda, Kaam Bhaari, Navzar Eranee, SlowCheeta, Spitfire, Anushka Manchanda

Kaam Bhaari - Kunal Pandagle

Age: 20 years

Kunal, the youngest of three children, grew up in Kandivali East (a suburb of Mumbai), referring to his humble beginnings ‘Kandivali 101’ frequently in his songs. When Kunal was just nine years old, his family faced a huge setback. His father met with an accident and his left leg was amputated. His mother, who had all this while lived a sheltered life, concentrating only on raising her three children, now had to go out and be the bread-winner of the family. Even though she secured a job, she was unable to earn enough to pay for their basic necessities and fund the education for all three children. Poverty was already a foregone conclusion in his world.

The family finally received some reprieve when Save the Children India Trust (founded by Mrs. Vipula Kadri) agreed to take care of Kunal’s education entirely. Though a blessing, this also was a bane for Kunal, as he was pulled up for not being able to pay his own fees, even though his school was guaranteed the fee for his education by the Trust. The constant humiliation Kunal faced in school because of this, led to a lot of angst and pent up aggression in him. This is when he used writing as a form to express his anger, choosing words over violence. Kunal was careful about involving himself in anything that might reflect poorly on his family. The older he got, the more he attempted to keep his aggression in check. His mother connected him to God early on in his life and had educated him about the seven sins, arming him with the tools to differentiate between what is right and wrong. He received from her what his school education couldn’t give him. What he did get in school though was his exposure to music, through his classmates. When he was in the 6th standard, he listened to songs by Eminem and Lil Wayne and his interest in rap music grew. He started writing rhymes and performing for his classmates during recess. His skill as a performer garnered him a lot of adulation and popularity, and students from different schools would approach him and ask him to rap for them.

He was gifted a phone when he was in the 10th standard and got access to Wi-Fi through a friend, as his family couldn’t afford their own Wi-Fi. Within only four months of gaining access to the digital world, through an online contest by the apparel brand, Jack & Jones, his talent was discovered by Ranveer Singh. This open call had attracted over 1500 entrants across India. The rappers were carefully narrowed down to four, one of whom is now known as the rapper, Kaam Bhaari.

Since being featured with Ranveer Singh in the “Don’t Hold Back” music video (which was directed by Navzar Eranee), Kaam Bhaari has also featured in Zoya Akhtar’s feature film ‘Gully Boy’ as himself, for which he has written two songs, ‘Kaam Bhaari’ (performed by him) & ‘Kab Se Kab Tak’ (performed by Ranveer Singh).

SlowCheeta - Chaitnya Sharma

Age: 28 years

Though most rapper stories are rags to riches stories, Chaitnya’s is far for from one. Most rappers who grow up with nothing, can take the world head-on, because they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. However, in Chaitnya’s case, he grew up in a fairly well-off family. He was raised by the best set of parents anyone could ask for and was protected by an elder brother who is irreplaceable in Cheeta’s life and also responsible for most of Cheeta’s influences. He was shielded by his immediate family from any sort of problems that could come his way and he spent most of his childhood in this protected bubble.

The older he got, the more he realised things weren't as perfect as they looked from afar. Everything his immediately family had strived so hard to shield him from, started slowly revealing itself to Chaitnya. This had a huge impact on his perception of life. Him and his parents dealt with a lot of conflicts with his extended family, which redefined his entire definition of ‘family’; his closest friends whom he now relies on more than his blood relatives.

Living through a constant state of emotional turmoil, the two solaces that Cheeta found for himself were in Rap music and in Football. This too took a toll when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and was diagnosed with malaria, both occurring at the same time, setting him back by a few years.

This is when he strongly needed an outlet, and a source of inspiration that had to come from within. Rap music, for him, has always been the music of rebels. So, here he is. Leading a one-man rebellion against an Empire within his home and outside that everyone asked him not to go against, just because they thought he has "a lot to lose."

An outsider to both, his own world and somewhat a perceived outsider to the street scene, SlowCheeta provides a point of view so unique that it makes him special. He is the sum of every emotion in its extreme, but at his core, he just wants to spread joy.

Spitfire - Nitin Mishra

Age: 20 years

Nitin was born in 1998 in Chhatarpur, a small city in Madhya Pradesh that was not familiar with any kind of hip-hop music. When this genre gained some popularity because of Bollywood songs, rap equaled blasphemy to most of the residents of Chhatarpur, as their exposure to this music was mainly songs about partying, alcohol or women. Nitin early on knew that hip hop and rap music was more than what the other residents of his hometown perceived, and focused his energies on writing poetry and consuming every type of music he could lay his hands on.

Education and learning about subjects in a classroom did not interest him as much as exploring his mind and writing his own poetry or sketching in his book. His father constantly pulled him up for setting a terrible example for his three younger sisters, as his education took a backseat because of his obsession with music and art. No matter how much he tried to quit this fixation and to focus on his education, he always went back to zoning out in class and writing instead. He started uploading some of his verses on YouTube and was satisfied by the attention he got from anyone who engaged with his art. At 17, when he struggled, preparing for his math exam, Nitin received a call to inform him that he was shortlisted for a Jack & Jones music video, among 1500 online entries, with a chance to rap with Ranveer Singh.

After the release of the Jack & Jones music video, Nitin took a permanent break from his education, but this time with the support of his family. He had earned the respect of not only his family but also the residents of his hometown, whom he constantly pays tribute to in his rap, ‘Midzone’.

Spitfire has since, written and composed the track ‘Asli Hip Hop’ (performed by Ranveer Singh) for Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy and has also written verses of Murad’s rap battles for the film.

Navzar Eranee

Age: 34 years

Navzar truly excelled on the tracks and the courts of his school, at the state and national level. Since injuries took their toll on him, he discovered an inner poet through romance and began the practice of writing. Poetry led to insights that led to narratives and eventually to his interest in film. He started out at Genesis Films and then moved through three features and a short film, with Mani Ratnam, Ashok Mehta and Mira Nair - people he admired. Time is his greatest commodity, he thought, so investing it well was of great importance. He then continued to the shortest format in advertising. 11 years and 100 commercials later, one would say that he overstayed his welcome as an assistant. So here he is, director and Founder of WalkaboutFilms

Check out the song, Zeher, here:

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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