Anannya Birla

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Q1. You launched the official Olympic Anthem with AR Rahman which is something that has not gone on any single resume, tell us more about the experience.

It was a beautiful experience working with AR Sir, I learned so much, I think there is so much that I can say about this, it was a song that the Sports Ministry of India had actually mandated for me to sing for our country and for our athletes at the Olympics, so that was a huge deal for me. It was also a lot of fun, we shot the music video in Dubai together. I flew into Dubai because he was in Dubai. While recording, we did everything virtually as he was in Chennai and I was in London.

Most importantly, working and collaborating with AR Sir itself is just very special. I think at the end of the day it left me with a really great mentor in AR Sir, and that is something that I will always be grateful for. It was a very humbling experience for me.

Q2. Your Debut Album, Bombay Basement is something that is very close to your heart. In one of your interviews you mentioned that it was your Covid baby, so was it different in terms of the space it goes into emotionally.

I think it was very special for me because during Covid I was in LA and I got stuck there for a year and a half and even though I was releasing music and growing as an artist, it was just a time where nothing was moving and I felt quite stagnated in terms of my releases. So finally, when things started opening up and I flew back to India, I found myself in a place where I felt like I had to release my work and that’s how Bombay Basement came about. But even when I returned the Covid scare was still very much there and we couldn’t go out anywhere. So the basement became our jam space .. and we spent hours there composing, writing and recording. 

One of the songs When I am Alone in the album Bombay Basement is very close to my heart. Mainly because during the pandemic I think a lot of us realised what is truly important in life and I think I had the time to look within and begin to heal that inner child – which is basically what ‘When I am Alone’ is about. Can I actually find solace in independence…? It is something I am still working on. 

Q3. Would you say that you are an unconditional champion of love? And your song ‘Let There Be Love’  is a testament to that. 

A couple of years ago, I came to realise that love is what makes the world go round, and when I say love I don’t only mean romantic love. I mean the intention of love; so that could be if you wake up in the morning intending to do your work with a lot of love, or to give a hug to your mother with a lot of love. I think that’s what transcends. So, I think yes, I think unconditional and equal love, in all its forms, is what makes the world go round. Nonetheless, it is definitely easier said than done because unconditional love does not come easily, we’re very layered as human beings. 

The lyrics of ‘Let There Be Love’ portray that I was missing my family because I was away from home for a long time, and the verses are basically, ‘Pray for your father, cry for your mother, be there for your brother’ and by saying that let there be love in a world when so many people are horribly suffering because of the pandemic at that time. I guess it is a fragment of my overarching belief in love. Love for faith is another one. 

Q4. The title track of the Ajay Devgn Starrer TV Rudra Inaam was a huge hit. What was the process behind it?

Yes, I really enjoyed that because it was my first title track for an OTT series. It was different because I am someone who is very used to writing from my own emotions, so, with Inaam I really had to get in Rudra’s character and see the world through his eyes, then write and then sing. The vibe was mysterious and dark, so I sang in my lower register, which I always love doing. I worked with Salvage Audio Collective, and I am extremely happy with the way the song sounds. It didn’t get the numbers unfortunately but it’s one of those songs that I’ll always be very proud of. I think the texture of my voice pops up. The music video was shot in London and it has footage of the show as well. So we had to sort of dig into my experiences to see where and what we can showcase in the music video that’s similar to what Rudra is showcasing. Overall it was an interesting experience and I am very happy with the end product. 

Q5. What does fashion mean to someone like you who is superbly creative and a successful entrepreneur?

Thank you for being so kind. Fashion for me is an expression of who I am. And a lot of times that is just comfort. That’s pretty much it. What I wear is an expression of who I am. So sometimes you will see that I am wearing baggy clothes and that’s how I feel that day, and on another day I am wearing a short black dress, so it’s a complete direct function of how I am feeling on a particular day.

Q6. You spoke about mental health and finding strength in the transient nature of life in one of your social media posts. Do you think India is somewhat in a Schizophrenic space where on one hand mental health is doubted as the most important aspect of being and yet the taboo remains?

The first misstep we are taking is using mental health issues so casually in our conversations, so I would like to point out that this question itself using ‘schizophrenic’ is incorrect. And we all do that, I always say, ‘Oh my god, that cake was crazy!’ or ‘oh my god that sounds psycho!’ or we say, ‘Oh my god I feel so depressed’ when actually it’s just been a tough day. Firstly, we must be more conscious of the language that we are using, so that is number one. This is something I am still working on. It’s an ongoing process. 

This is a very interesting question. I think what’s happening is, that ‘Log kya kahenge’ is still there in our society. So, I think within each household and within closer groups, where people are not afraid of being judged, mental health is being talked about and of course, people who are championing mental health and are brave enough to talk about it, are talking about it. But then when it comes to these smaller circles talking to their larger circles and being afraid of being judged, that’s when the ‘Log kya kahenge’ happens, and that’s when the taboo comes back. The stigma comes back. So, is this stigma actually authentic to how we think? No. It’s just based on fear of what the people may think. 

So, the fact is that I think two things need to happen, first is that people need to start taking care of themselves more. And I think as people start taking care of themselves, and accept and address it, the stigma will automatically start reducing. I think we are on the right track. 

Q7. Name an artist whose journey has been inspirational to you Indian or International and why?

Alia Bhatt’s journey has been extremely inspirational for me. And I don’t think I really need to mention why, we’ve all seen it happen in front of our eyes. Seeing her grow as an actor, such a beautiful actor and hone her skill set under so much pressure, kudos. And in the music industry, I think Lady Gaga. You know, she stayed true to herself through it all. Even the persona of ‘Lady Gaga’ was authentic! Basically, the artists who have the potential to stay true to themselves and voice what they actually want in this world when everyone around them is trying to change them, I think that’s what inspires me. 

Q8. You are what we call …. Of life, with your art and your businesses … What is your secret source? Speak to us all.

There is no secret recipe. It does get very tough, and it does take a toll on my mental health for sure. I think the most important thing is to have fun, enjoy the journey, not obsess about the outcome and results and take care of your mind, because at the end of the day if you don’t have good health, physical or mental and you don’t have loved ones around you then nothing is worth it. I try to love myself a little bit more every day. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t. I think that’s what a 360-degree life is when you can love yourself without external validation and you can live a happy life with peace of mind. That’s truly a 360-degree life. Everything else is just transient. It’s very important to keep going, but no matter what we do, big or small, at the end of the day, we really don’t know whether it even matters in the bigger picture. So, the point is just to do it because you love to do it and focus on your own happiness. 

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