New Delhi: If unplugged, unleashed and undeterred is what defines a rockstar then Mohan fits the can as tightly as a robust fist plunged into it. The lead vocalist of the only Hindi rock band in India, it does not come as a surprise when he discloses, music was not the means of earning bread and butter for him seven years ago. Rather it was a lucrative job of a banker in Deutcshe bank. After all, rockstars are meant to act in a way as least expected from them.

It was ‘music calling’ for Mohan when he impulsively gave up the secured seat of a banker to stand on a shaky stage holding a mike in his hand and making the world swoon with his voice. And as they say, there was no looking back for him. But pausing for a second, at the request of Jagranpost he did click the refresh button of his memory to recall how the ‘agnee’ within him got transformed into ‘Agnee’ the band. In an exclusive interview with Nuzhat Nasreen of Jagranpost, Mohan reveals his passion, priority and plans…

Q. The obvious question always asked is- what prompted you to take the risky step of denouncing a coveted job of Deutsche Bank and go after your passion-music.

A. Well, yes…actually.

Q. Sorry to interrupt you, but that is not my question.

A. (laughs)…Thank God.

Q. My question to you is, why the delay in taking the risk considering your interest in music since childhood.

A. See, I believe that things get materialised only when they are meant to be. I used to play mridangam as a child but I never thought about singing. I started learning mridangan when I was five. My mother (Smt Vasanta Kannan) is a Carnatic musician, she sings and plays the violin. My sister (K Srividya) also plays the violin ad sings. My father (Sri S Kannan) runs a musical organisation dedicated to Carnatic music. So, music kind of runs in my family but it was never considered as a means of earning, as a career. My family believed that one should first study and get a secured job, that is the main priority. That was my aim also. Although I was into music but I had never thought that I can earn through music. Everyone in my family is a musician, and it is not that music is just a hobby for them…it is much more, but not career. For example, my sister who is with TCS working as a senior manager does 30-40 concerts in a year. But she does not want to take it up full-time. She is happy balancing both her career ad music which for surely I cannot.

I left my banking job in 2005 to pursue my passion, music. But within three months all my savings ended. It was then that once thought crossed my mind that I will have to go back to my job. And that was the realization point for me. I felt that I was so much into music that money is no longer a priority for me. And then there was no looking back.

Q. Was Agnee your first musical initiative? How did things fall into place and how was the band formed?

A. As I have said, I was a percussionist but never took up singing. It was only after I met Koko, my Agnee band member, that the idea of singing came to my mind. We are a Hindi rock band and I sing in Hindi because I feel I can express myself the best in this language.

‘Change of Plans’ was the first band I joined after quitting job. Koko, Arijit, Monica Dogra, ace guitarist Randolph Correa. Monica and Randolp then went on to continue as ‘Shaiir and Func’. That was an English band. Then came ‘Sankara’ which was a band of guys from Pune who were all part timers in music but brilliant composers and musicians. Anoop, the chief composer of the band, Sid on bass and c-composer and Varun on drums formed the band and Koko joined and roped me in too. In fact, Sadho Re, Kabira and Ujale Baaz were all part of the ‘Sankara’ repertoire. I left banking to join this band. After that, Agnee was formed with me, Koko and Arijit and we went on to release out first album.

When we started composing, we were done with our first song in one and half days. And within a month we were ready with our album. After that, which wert music company we went to, they were ready to strike a contract. And before we knew Sony BMG was ready with a contract. We were lucky for being there at the right time and right place. We were just in time as after that the scene in the music industry turned sour.

Q. You have mentioned about Koko more than anything else in this interview. So, how did you meet him and where?

A. (Laughs). Yes, yes, he is my necessary evil. I met him at a friend’s wedding. That was the only time I saw him wearing formals…(says with a grin). At that time he was heading an event management company and also working in sound production company. As I could sing, my friend called me on stage. It was then that Koko was also asked to play the guitar while I sing. This was four years before Agnee was formed. That was the first time we met and after that we had no contact but again as fate has its own way, we collaborated and Agnee was formed.

Q. What is your take on the rock scene in India?

A. Of course the rock scene in India is yet to reach the international level. It is lagging much behind. But a good thing happening is band music. A lot of bands are being formed.

Q. What are the challenges that private bands face in popularizing their music amongst the masses?

A. That is a thoughtful question. Well, the biggest problem faced by private bands in India is the lack of a platform. Here undoubtedly Bollywood music rules. That is the music you will hear in music channels, radio stations, just everywhere which is so unlike the international scene. In international music channels, it’s not film music which is played but artists and their albums. But here, fortunately or unfortunately as music being the USP of Hindi films is used to market the movies.

And the private bands are the ones who have to pay for this. They suffer due to this. We, as an established band, are trying to promote musicians, collaborate with them. We have even started on stage collaborations. Here internet penetration is not so much that you can popularise your music through it and use it as a medium. Also, if you are using internet you have to do proper marketing because it’s not like you turn on the net and your music will be heard. Hoping that mass media will look beyond Bollywood films.

Q. So, you consider Bollywood films as the main hindrance?

A. No and yes. I believe it depends on how you take it. Bollywood can also be used to the best of our advantage. Given their popularity, private bands can go to filmmakers with their music and videos instead of going to music channels and ask them to consider their music and incorporate in their films. If even once the effort is successful, rich benefits can be harvested. Now-a-days, a lot of filmmakers are keen to sign newcomers. So, Bollywood in fact, can be a boon for us. It all depends on how we cash on the opportunity.

Q. What is Agnee to you?

A. (with a sigh) That is a heavy one. Let me think…hmmm…it is a way of life…it is everything. See basically we are a bunch of boring people who have nothing to do but play music. Even when we go to parties, we take a guitar and start playing it. I do not mind working 18 hours a day because for me it is work but pursuing my passion. Rather I am happy to do it. But if I were working in a bank I would not have said the same thing. Now I have got all my dreams in one place.

Q. What is the USP of Agnee?

A. I would like to put it this way…it is the only band in India to be able to do Hindi rock. It is very rock in terms of instrumentation. We make music which you can play in your car while travelling, also we make music which people would love to see us perform.

Q. What is your ambition for your  musical career, say, 5 years from now? Where do the members of Agnee see it 5 years from now?

A. I want Agnee to be the biggest band that India has given to the world. You know what Koko says, if possible he wants to spend everyday of his life on stage playing music. That is the passion we have. We just don’t want to cash in on the Indianness and become famous, we do not want to say that ‘we are from India so look at us’ rather we want to carve a niche for Agnee for what we play, what we believe in.

Q. Your three favourite international bands or individuals, and why those.

A. Sting- for the kind of music he makes and the way he makes it sound different every time he plays it. Also he collaborates with different people for his music, something which we also do.

Peter Gabriel-as he gives the best production value. His shows are planned meticulously. It is as if every second of his shows are planned. His performances are just out of this world. It is a great feeling to watch his shows.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan- I consider him as my idol, my God in terms of composition. My all time favourite composition is Saware from Bandit Queen. Once when I was just strumming the song in guitar one of my friends said to me, ‘hey is that your composition, it’s wonderful, you will go a long way’. I wished I could say yes at that time. You see, such are Nusrat Saab’s compositions that as musicians when we hear those we can’t help but say, wow kaise banate hain aise dhun yaar. Why can’t we do anything like this.

Another person from the Indian music industry whom I idolize is Shankar Mahadevan. I get to learn a lot from him. He is so cool yet so professional.

Q. Your upcoming projects?

A. We have composed music in two films. One is Shala which is a Marathi film and the other is Alaap. Also by December or January we will be releasing our album compiling all singles together tentatively titled ‘Create with Agnee’.

Q. What comes to your mind when you hear the following:

Rock music- Shamelessly I would say Agnee

Agnee- Life

Koko-Necessary evil

Life to you is-Music

Before I die I want to- make at least one composition as good as like Nusrat saab’s

I was born to-have fun

Q. Apart from music, what is the love your life?

A. I love making friends. I love people.

Q. Describe Mohan in one sentence?

A. I am slightly mad, very impulsive but glad that all the wrong decisions taken by me have made my life better.