We meet Musician Vicky Goswami and learn about life on the fringes of Bollywood.
I saunter into a neoteric studio in one of the rooms of an otherwise avant-garde styled apartment where Vicky Goswami is putting the final touches on the last track of his latest album. He busts out a little impromptu classic keyboard melody when I ask for an introduction to his style of music. Four keyboards surround him like a fortress as he lets out a verse while fiddling with his Coog for layered sound. The track he’s completing is the 9th and is called Walking down the road.
“Did you always live in a house as fancy as this when you came to Mumbai?” I inquire examining state of the art golden lit keys on the 2nd keyboard.
“Funny story actually..I moved here when I was 18 and knew nobody. At the airport I asked the taxi driver where was a cheap but decent hotel…he said he’d take me to a place Rs 400 a night with AC and everything Is “chaka chak”. I couldn’t resist that. The lobby of the humble motel had that marbly feel to it and the room seemed ok. The next morning I realized it’s not such a great place and saw an Arab walking around…the first time I saw an Arab.”
“Which hotel was this?”
“Well it took me two days to figure out that I was staying bang in the centre of the city’s biggest whorehouse district…one of those Kamathipura hotels. It made sense now why the cabbies would scoff at me everytime I asked them if they would go to Kamathipura. And they’d tell me I’m too young or why I wasn’t using my time better. I’d think god these Mumbai cabbies are nosey as hell. ”
Vicky calls out to his domestic help, Mohan, in his native dialect of Assamese and asks for a pack of smokes as his fierce steel grey Weimaraner, Congo, pounces on him and almost spills his beer out of his hand onto the Uganda wall tribal masks hung adjacent to him.
“Weimaraners must be pretty expensive?” I ask him looking into Congo’s silent eyes.
“Yeah pretty expensive. He’s broken the house, brought down paintings, flooded the studio and all sorts of shit…he opened the taps or something…so when the studio got jammed with water, his track record went against him. Although Mohan must have left the taps open and blamed the dog. He must think I’m stupid just because I’m nice.”
“How did your music career pan out like this?”
“When I was in Wilson college studying political science, I was fond of the drums and won a bunch of awards at competitions and stuff. After college I was just faffing around and hanging out with a Parsi jazz musician friend Dinshaw and sort of discovering what I wanted to do. I also met John Coltrane’s wife through him, started listening to severe jazz and fell in love with the genre.”
“I was hanging out with Rock Machine, now known as Indus Creed and ate their food and drink. I stayed at a lot of different places, PGs, hostels. At some point I moved into Bentley hotel in Colaba and never left for 4 years.”
Mohan comes back with a pack of cigarettes laughing at something he was thinking to himself. Congo jumps around nearly hitting over the chief of the tribe sculpture, which Vicky later says he got from Koh Samui during a trip to the quaint little island.
“How did you get into ads and movies then?”
“During that time I met this model and we started dating. Through her I met Mehr Jessia who gave me my first proper gig. Ford’s supermodel came to India for the first time and they needed music for the entire thing like ramp show and an AV. Mehr offered me the gig and I took it. That was a big one for me and then I started getting recognized.”
“I then met national award winning producer Sunil Manchanda at some studio. He heard some of my stuff and gave me a ton of work… things just took off. Now that I think of it, over the span of my career, I must have done music for about 2000 ad films with some features thrown in. For many years I was just working. No one saw me. I was just doing my thing”
I see a ledge lined with awards from Zee Cine, Lowe Lintas and other esteemed titles assorted with random centerpieces for his amusement like a few hand caricatures.
“Then through the same producer, I got an offer to do the background score for the Salman starrer Tere Naam. That turned out to be a big one cause my score won Zee best background score of the year. Now when I hear it on TV I find it so loud. It was my first score so I thought I should put everything in there. Haha. We actually got a Sanskrit woman to write healing shlokas for the part when Salman gets sick (by that I mean he gets beaten up). That was a great year”
“You must have been totally loving life and stoked yeah?”
“Life is strange…I had just won a massive prestigious award and the same time bought a house in Bandstand and yet woke up few days later feeling so down for no apparent reason. A friend at the time told me to go see a psychiatrist where all the models and actors go, supposed to be real good.”
“I walked into this place and there was a room full of people waiting. I’m like what the fuck is this. You know cause psychiatrists are supposed to be about one on one. Anyway he gives me some meds and next day I get up feeling like a king. I’m thinking fuck yes (I should have come to this guy before.) Cut to two days later I’m cleaning everything and going nuts. Super paranoid with some sort of attention disorder…when I went to badger him, he gave me something that slowed everything down…went to another doctor and he says the first doc had given me schizophrenia pills. These guys are dishing out so many pills its crazy”
“What happened after? How did you bounce out of it?”
“I naturally bounced out of it, and then continued work and holidaying. Everybody has some sort of struggle. Some people say stars have it easy. Everybody is going through their own shit man. Met a friend yesterday and he’s doing flawlessy well and all over the place but shattered by some other shit in his life. Even if you have 10 crores doesn’t mean you’re flying. Tomorrow you could get a bad asthma attack and then your health is slammed. Then what?”
He tells me he’s never been overtly ambitious so if he’s on vacation and somebody calls giving him a huge offer he won’t take it. Post Tere Naam success, everybody was calling for big movies but he didn’t take them. He went back to doing stuff for ads. “I’m not really fame oriented, I like working at my own pace which is slow,” he adds.
“How’s your love life been of late?”
“My love life has been a huge question mark. I had some relationships that didn’t reach the rainbow, no marriage and I’m not sure if I want to get into it really” he says with a boyish laugh smoking his cigarette like it’s the last one left.
“If I met a cool chilled out girl I’d marry her for sure or I’d just have a kid with her. Atleast the kid won’t suffer from separation anxiety, that much I can do for him in his life. But its like I don’t need to sleep with 5 chicks a week, I’m not that kind of a guy. I can be a one woman guy if I need to be.”
He tells me that he loves reading eclectic novels that have twisted plots, as he lets out one of his characteristic mid sentence laughs. I join in earlier than expected anticipating the joke in the tone and also make a note to talk about his endearing laugh which ascends in volume every time.
“I love classic literature and a lot of those courtship meets romance sort of novels. I’m a soft person and I don’t have a problem having feminine qualities like colors & shoes. A lot of people have these preconceived notions about women.”
What sort of music are you doing right now?
“I’m actually finishing an album which I’ve been working on. I was thinking of calling it “poetic folk funk”. It has all kinds of things going on, it’s got a sound of its own and a temperament that goes through all songs. I will probably release it in stores in January 2016.”
“How do musicians make money these days by the way?”
“Great question. I wish I knew. Haha. But musicians make money not from sales or like a record but from performing. The Bollywood guys are killing it. If you can’t perform you’re in trouble. You need to travel and perform, that’s how they make money.”
His atypical answer to “how much longer till you reach the pinnacle of success?” defines his ethos: “I’m not sure I really give a fuck about pinnacles.”
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com
By Roshmin Mehandru
Photographs by: Yash Bandi