How Mumbai’s Mosambi Juice Productions is building distinct visual identities for indie artists

Mumbai’s Mosambi Juice Productions is helping create indie artists' visual identities defined through precise aesthetics.

Anurag Tagat September 04, 2019 10:45:05 IST
How Mumbai’s Mosambi Juice Productions is building distinct visual identities for indie artists
  • Mosambi Juice has produced music videos and shot live performance videos for various indie artists.

  • Most recently, three striking music videos – for Short Round’s 'Up & Down,' Mali’s 'Mango Showers' and Smalltalk’s 'Tired' – were out in the span of a month.

  • There’s not necessarily a Mosambi Juice trademark or signature style associated with any of their releases, at least not yet.

In 2015, Mumbai instrumental blues/rock act Blackstratblues released an astonishingly badass video for the song 'Renaissance Mission,' featuring video-game-level VFX set to the age-old story of Chor Police. The minds behind it included visual effects designers and animators Plexus Post and Mumbai-based photographer/filmmaker Krish Makhija’s production company Mosambi Juice Productions.

How Mumbais Mosambi Juice Productions is building distinct visual identities for indie artists

Still from Smalltalk’s new video 'Tired'.

Makhija counts 'Renaissance Mission' – which featured additional VFX assistance from Mosambi Juice’s Jishnu Guha – as the starting point for creating more music videos with a distinct identity. “We were super fresh and we didn’t really know what we were doing but it gave us a platform to experiment and to just learn.”

In the years since, Mosambi Juice has produced music videos and shot live performance videos for artists ranging from Dhruv Visvanath to The Local Train, as well as Skyharbor, The Koniac Net and Guha’s own project, Short Round. Most recently, three striking music videos – for Short Round’s 'Up & Down,' Mali’s 'Mango Showers' and Smalltalk’s 'Tired' – were out in the span of a month.

Released in June, Short Round’s 'Up & Down' allowed Makhija to shoot on an 8mm Kodak camera, but it was just the previous day that his team (along with Guha, whose music video they would shoot) was up until 3 am to shoot Mumbai band Smalltalk’s downbeat soul/jazz-influenced song 'Tired'. While the video was directed by Guha after a while of brainstorming, Makhija handled duties as director of photography. Guha recalls how the band originally came to them with a very well-told story, but it didn’t fit their aesthetic or the song. Vocalist and guitarist Samarth Bahl tells us, “The band went through many narratives and iterations of narratives before we approached Jishnu. All of them centred around us being tired of some aspect of life or society. I think it was in our third or fourth meeting with Jishnu when we came up with the idea of the video depicting the band taking a day off and just playing games at home. We shared our ideas with Jishnu for a visual aesthetic, which he understood right away and executed so well!”

The video puts together several fun moments, offering relief from the monotony that often sets in, while also providing quick visual cues to keep audiences watching, and listening. Where 'Up & Down' was partly shot on an 8mm camera, 'Tired' was shot on a 4K definition camera, a model of which was used for films such as Blade Runner 2049. Yet, this is where Guha’s background as an artist also helps talk to bands and musicians about what they want to do with a music video, which he terms as a “calling card” for many. Guha says that the music is quite important too. “I think, five or 10 years down the line, I'm not going to remember you because of your 4K music video. I might remember you because of your music more likely. Yes, the video is super important But it's just as, if not a little less, important than actually touring,” he says.

Makhija says that previously, musicians weren’t too hung up on having a particular image and an “overall aesthetic”. He explains, “It would be quite a khichdi – the album sounds like something, the album art is something else and the music video is different. Recently, people are more conscious of that, which is great. It’s something Jishnu pushes for. He understands the importance of creating a brand or almost like an aesthetic for the musician or the band.”

On the same day that 'Tired' was out, Mumbai singer-songwriter Mali aka Maalavika Manoj’s new single 'Mango Showers' was premiered as well. Although Mosambi Juice also worked on the video for her previous single 'Play,' this was a much darker song, tied in to the death of a close friend who was exploited by a record label executive. The video is a strikingly dark, dramatic narrative featuring three dancers (Aarati Divanji, Sasha Shetty, Alisha Lazarus) and Mali’s emotive pop on display. While the video idea started from Mali connecting with Divanji over dance lessons, Mali says Mosambi Juice was “always on board.” She adds, “We only had 9 to 12 hours in Jishnu’s house to shoot it all. I was surprised by the end of it. Everybody pulled their weight. Everybody really killed it.”

While Mali came to Makhija and Guha with a specific idea for a video, the film-making duo note that the real thrill is never having it figured out to start with. Makhija says, “I don’t think you hear a song and think, ‘Boom, this is the video’. I would say it’s been a struggle, because we like to keep it as a very collaborative process with the musician as well as within the team.”

While they’ve worked on several videos, there’s not necessarily a Mosambi Juice trademark or signature style associated with any of their releases, at least not yet. Makhija explains, “A signature is a tough thing to have especially in the music video space, where every track and the kind of musicians we’ve worked with in the past have varied from all over the place. Good vibes is a general life motto that helps me at least.”

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