Music, Photography And Magic: In Conversation With Srijan Mahajan
Srijan Mahajan is one of the best-known drummers in the country, currently playing with Parikrama, FuzzCulture and Shubha Mudgal’s fusion band. What many don’t know, however, is that in addition to music, Srijan has several other talents -- one of which is photography. We speak to Srijan about what inspires him, the creative process, and what it takes to follow your dreams.
Q. We know you as a musician. You play with Parikrama, FuzzCulture and Shubha Mudgal's fusion band, Koshish -- and that's what most people have known you for. Recently however, we've gotten to know one of your other talents: photography. Tell us about your relationship with music and photography?
A. I’ve been playing piano since I was 9, started playing drums when I was 14 and finally decided to play professionally when I was in my final year of college. I try to fill my life with things that I enjoy doing the most be it playing music or making photographs, hence I try and devote most of my time to these things. I don’t feel I’m particularly talented or creative, be it in terms of making music or photographs, but over the years I’ve learnt to trust my eyes and ears with what I do and rely mostly on my instincts and the inability to not be occupied which is both a good thing and bad.
Q. In addition to playing with these bands, you create/produce music. Tell us a little about that process.
A. I along with two friends, Arsh and Nikhil run a studio called Studio Fuzz where we produce music for films and television and also produce independent artists. The process is very similar to pretty much all that I do where I have learnt to trust my instincts instead of using my head. I’m not much of a songwriter and am blessed to work with people who write great songs, so I just try to bring out the best of what I feel the song should be.
Q. Is there any commonality in creative impulses or processes in terms of your approach to both music and photography?
A. Absolutely! The processes are the same for me, just the medium is different. When writing music, I wait for that “fizz”, that special something that makes a piece of music great. It’s the same with making photographs. I drive/walk around places that inspire me and wait for that special something that I try and capture.
Q. Tell us a little about your passion for photography. What subjects interest you? What stories do your photos tell?
A. I started shooting when I was 3 or 4, when my father handed me his film camera and taught me how to use it. I was shooting on and off till I was about 18 and then stopped for a few years when I got busy playing music. I picked up a camera again a few years ago on the insistence of my mother and started shooting. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve found a particular niche yet and am quite fascinated by most things around me. I usually end up shooting a lot at night and when I travel for work so most of my pictures are landscapes. That being said, I love making photographs with interesting people who have stories to tell.
Q. Can you give our readers a couple of tips on taking a good photo?
A. Walk. Walk a lot and when you see a scene that you like, wait till you feel the moment is right. If you’re inspired and feel the “fizz” when you make a photograph, for some reason it translates to the viewer too.
Q. While music clearly is your professional career, is photography more of a hobby -- or do you see yourself turning photography into a career of sorts as well?
A. As I’d said earlier, my ideal life would be lived doing the things that I enjoy the most. Music takes up a lot of that time and headspace but I’m also accepting and doing a lot of photography assignments as and when they come to me.
Q. Name five people (living or dead) who inspire you.
A. Rick Rubin, Kanye West, Jimmy Page, Nikolai Tesla and Pablo Picasso.
Q. Going to be mean here. If you had to choose between music and photography (let's say that for the rest of your life, you could do only one)... which would it be?
A. Hahah, most definitely playing music!
Q. We hear you're quite the magician. How did your interest in magic come about?
A. Haha, magic caught my eye a few years ago when I saw a huge magic production done in Vegas. The itch drove me crazy and I started trying to learn magic. I unfortunately don’t get much time to take it further as of now, but hopefully I will soon!
Q. Any other hidden talents we don't know about?
A. You’ll know when the time is right!
Q. What are your future plans? Out of all these hats that you wear -- drummer, producer, photographer, magician -- which one will be accorded the most priority in the near future?
A. I think all of what I do is interlinked in some way or the other, and I end up giving more priority to different things at different points in time. That said, my first priority will always be music, whether it’s composing/producing music or playing drums.
Q. You've chosen quite an unconventional career path. Any advice for young people reading this who are struggling with following their dreams?
A. Do whatever you want to because you love doing it, not for the frills that come along with it.
All photos by SRIJAN MAHAJAN.