“I mean what I say and I don’t want to be afraid of you,” says Poojan Sahil

Controversy appears startling as headlines in a newspaper, but what if you hear all about it in a popular song? Humor makes sense when it projects the reality in a certain way that lets the audience connect. Poojan Sahil, a mathematics teacher by profession writes parodies on the socio-political conditions of India that will make you laugh out loud and wonder at the same time.

Here is an excerpt of the interview.

When did you start the journey of writing songs and performing?

Specifically, writing and performing the socio-political parodies began more than a year ago. At that time the Nirav Modi Scam news broke out and while that was happening around us, I could see some sort of sorrow spread on the faces of many but on the other hand, there was also an innate humor in the situation as to how this scam broke out and this person far away from us was served this news on a plate. That’s how it started developing in my head and I thought of the then famous song from the movie Padman titled ‘Aaj SeTeri Galiyan Meri Ho Gayi’ which I made to ‘Aaj Se Mere Saare Kharche Tere Ho Gaye.’

And what were you doing before writing parodies?

It is almost three years now since I am a mathematics teacher in a school. After I graduated as an engineer, I didn’t look for a job (just like half of the engineers) and continued teaching math.

Was there a specific moment that led you to write parodies and perform or you always had an inclination towards music?

I don’t have a formal training in music but it could be genetic, it could be family’s influence but I have been a part of this creative field as long as I could remember. I participated in a number of street plays during my school days and music being the part that I felt most focused to wherein I felt, I could clearly express myself with and put forward a certain narrative with it. I am aesthetically crippled in fine arts and painting. I could sing that’s why music came to me.

Also, melody and rhythm is something that is known to all. They bring out the message in the forefront. The narrative that is being presented becomes the primary focus and the melody becomes secondary. I used the title song from the movie Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander in which the audience didn’t concentrate on the music but on the narrative.

So, you are using the known rhythm and melody and presenting satire or mockery of the socio-political condition of the country.

A number of things that happens in the country deserve a lot of mockery at times. I feel if the mockery is directed towards the foolish decisions that are being made in the center then it totally makes sense.

On one hand, people say that the Freedom of Speech and Expression is being compromised but on the other hand, a number of artists like you and many others are coming forward and giving voice to their opinions on several media today.

The fact that a number of artists and voices are coming upfront is an indication of how much oppression that they are facing. These artists or free people are not only talking about issues but are facing a number of bullies and online trolling constantly. There is an enormous amount of intolerance coming out on social media. I rarely ever talk about being pro-religion or prophesying any religion but somehow I receive some hate comments and that is the actual problem.

We all are governed by our individual biases. Do those biases come in way of your writing or get reflected in some way in the songs that you are persuading people to think in one particular way?

To be certainly honest, if I'm thinking of a certain song, there are few notions at the back of the head regarding people in power. For example, in a song that I wrote about the Statue of Unity, I couldn’t help but bring in the fact that in the same state, Godhra happened in which the current ruling party was allegedly accused in the case as the orchestrator. And on that ground, sadly and ironically the same government is talking about Unity. The matter in hand is not the only problem that we have, the major matter is the idea that people stand for. The idea of not wanting people to stand together and being unconstitutional in your ideology is in fact, the concern and it will come out in certain ways in the open.

Post verdict of General Elections 2019, do you wish to continue observing the political and social system prevailing in the country and write songs about it?

In fact, I am looking forward to see some other party come into rule and give the others a chance to commit mistakes.

Did you ever have second thoughts before writing a parody or thought about going upfront and face any controversy that comes with it?

I have my family around and I tell them that this is the song that I am working on and at times, they suggest me to be careful- that I can’t put few thoughts directly or mention someone’s name. And that’s the basic problem because I know the current situation and the hoopla and everyone knows about it. For example, I wanted to use the name ‘Ambani’ in one of my songs and I was recommended by a number of friends and people around me to not to use it in the song. I twisted it and changed the spelling. It made me feel really bad. I mean what I say and I don’t want to be afraid of you!

This is a learning process that I am going through wherein I have to be practical about the known situation and I have been told to understand the implications. When you listen to the song on Statue of Unity, you will understand what I'm trying to say.

Do you think art has the power to change this scenario and express things as they are-raw, true and unabashed?

I am a person of mathematics and an advocate of the Butterfly effect- the effect of the chaos theory which talks about small change that exponentially changes the entire equation altogether. All these small alterations are extremely important for the big picture. I may be a small iota of the great equation that we are talking about. Not just the music, but the talks, the poems, the art and even a small column talking about the current issues end up being the force in how we see certain situations and take decision as the citizen of the country, then I think it is useful.

What are you working on currently?

There are a few songs that I have come across which are really old songs, written by Sahir Ludhianvi or a ghazal by Habib which haven’t reached out to the masses due to the explosion of pop music. In my own way, I am trying to make cover of the songs and gather attention of the audience. Also, I am working on few original songs that I hope will come out soon.

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