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It was the speech by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Madison Square Gardens in September 2015 that inspired Srikrishna Mohan and Ramkumar Mohan, popularly known as the Trichur Brothers, to create a music video to raise awareness on cleaning river Ganga. While the creative direction and conceptualisation of the video has been by the brothers, the direction has been handled by city-based filmmaker Deepika Chandrasekaran. Today, National Mission for Clean Ganga has chosen the video as the official
Namami Gange Anthem
.

“We have never seen any other prime minister talk so proudly about river Ganga on an international platform like Modiji did. We were bowled over and we realised that just like an army man has a national duty, every citizen should identify his duty to the country. Being musicians and creative people, we decided to do this by way of an awareness campaign for river Ganga,” begin the Trichur Brothers on the origins of the project.

That was when the Namami Gange movement had been launched, and they decided that once they had the ideas, they would pitch it to government as well, and started discussing ideas on the very same day.

“There are two kinds of views that the world has on the Ganga — one, it is an extremely spiritual river, and the other, it is a very polluted river. But there are many more facets to the river. Ganga affects the life and livelihood of almost 40% of India’s population. It is important to the economy, agriculture, biodiversity, tourism, etc. Rather than depress people with something that makes them say ‘Oh god, we can’t do anything to save the river’, we wanted to show people what they are missing out, so that the next time when they go to the river, they don’t litter the place and do whatever is possible to keep it clean,” say the brothers.

Though Ganga was the central subject, they felt the message had to be relevant in today’s world where everybody is talking about water conservation, climate change and environment. “We wanted to tell people now is the time to start treating our rivers and natural wealth better, unlike what we have been doing over the past century,’ the add.

Talking about conceptualising the song, they say they broke the song into three parts. “We decided the first part should be about the glory and the beauty of the Ganga. The second stanza would tell how Ganga is important for humanity, and what we are giving her in return. The third stanza is the heart and soul of the anthem — that now is the time to give the respect that the river truly deserves,” they reveal.

In the six-minute song, they say they have kept the pollution aspect to just eight seconds, because that is something everyone knows.

But they had to put what they had in mind to an inspiring tune. Since they wanted people to realise there is a movement called Namami Gange, they decided to use that phrase as the chorus. They brought in Prashanth Techno (whom they had known since their days on AR Rahman’s Oo La La show) to be part of this project because they felt he would be the ideal person to put their musical ideas together and arrange the song.

For the lyrics part, Srikrishna had a brainwave that Adi Shankara must have written something about the Ganga, and felt that the ancient beauty of his Sanskrit verse might fit well with the divinity associated with the Ganga and also their music. They googled and found that Adi Shankara had written the Gangashtakam!

“To our surprise, his lines fit exactly into the tune that we had in mind. For the other two stanzas, they got a scratch tune ready, and decided to use Hindi lyrics. The usage of Hindi was for a logical reason because the song is going to be played in about 3,500 movie theatres in the Ganga belt. So, we needed to target that particular audience. We have got English subtitles for the video so that even those who do not know Hindi can get the message of the video,” they explain. To stress the point of national integration, they also decided to have a 40-second choreography in the middle of the video that includes eight different dance forms from our country.

For the video, they needed someone who was really good with filmmaking and had the technical brilliance that the project required. So, they roped in Deepika Chandrasekaran. “We are good friends and have been planning a music video for some time. We met her and narrated the concept and she was bowled over,” they say. Deepika introduced them to Vayu Srivatsav, a Hindi lyric writer. “We told Vayu that the first stanza is going to be by Adi Shankara, so his lines need to be equally good. Three days later, when he gave us the lyrics, everybody loved it, as the language was both classic and hard-hitting.”

But to convert their ideas into something visually impressive, they needed money. So, before approaching the government, they decided to shoot a mock video. Deepika and a couple of friends went to Varanasi to shoot some footage, and they cut a music video, and sent this to the government. “Within 10 days, we got a reply from the National Mission for Clean Ganga saying that they loved this concept and would like to discuss how it could be developed further as they wanted to use this as the primary campaign material for the Clean Ganga movement. We also got State Bank of India to sponsor us, as the scale at which we wanted to do this video required a lot of money. Then, NFDC also came on board,” they gush.

The next step was to get their crew and schedules sorted. They got Dinesh Krishnan B (of Soodhu Kavvum fame) as the cinematographer, and Premal Rawal, a specialist in aerial cinematography, to shoot in places where they couldn’t get too close to the river. Abhinav Sunder Nayak, who edited the recent Uriyadi, was the editor. The shoot lasted to about 45 days, and was done over two schedules — Dec-Jan and Mar-Apr. “We travelled the entire length and breadth of the Ganga, all 2,500km of it, starting from Gomukh, where the river originates, and ending with Ganga Sagar, where the river joins the sea,” say the Trichur Brothers.

On July 7, the Namami Gange Anthem was launched during an event in Haridwar, and over the past week, the video has got over 1.5 million views. The brothers are that AR Rahman and MS Dhoni have sent good luck wishes to the team.

They are hopeful that cleaning up the Ganga will be an achievement that will act as a boost to the entire nation. “The Ganga is our national river, and it is the biggest river in our country. Once we clean up Ganga, we will get the confidence to clean up all the other rivers, as we would have crossed the biggest obstacle,” they sign off.