Multi-platinum artiste and businesswoman Ananya Birla, who recently worked with A.R. Rahman, has forged a creative alliance with one of the finest singer-songwriters in the music business, Ankur Tewari, in an independent release titled 'Kya Karein.' Performed by them, the track is produced by Jehangir Jehangir and Stuart D'Costa.
‘Kya Karein’ is an upbeat Hindi pop-rock track that simply asks, what to do when it comes to love and Ananya says that most of her songs are reflections of what she is feeling at that time. We spoke to Ananya, who is the eldest child of t Kumar Mangalam Birla (Chairman of Aditya Birla Group) and Neerja Birla, to know more about the track, how supportive were her family during her musical journey and more.
Q. Lets start by talking about Kya Karein with Ankur Tewari. When and how did the idea generate and how did this collaboration happen?
Ankur and I met casually just to have a chat about where we are at in life, he reached out to me saying that he wanted to get to know me a bit more, and I actually found it a bit funny and commendable at the same time. Funnily enough, as soon as we started talking it felt like we had been friends forever because I opened up completely and we spoke about everything from my existential anxiety to what we think about time, and to our song writing process, to why we both love music, to our upcoming projects and then we stumbled upon the topic of Love. I mentioned to him that I am unsure about being capable of falling in love like before anymore and that I have a love-hate relationship with love, even though I know that love, in all its forms, makes the world go round. I think that stuck with Ankur, he said to me that for the next 10 days he was walking around with Ananya in his head. We met again at my home studio 2 weeks later and he said he wanted to play something for me. He had written the entire song! It was all ready. It’s almost like, what I wanted to say just came out through him and he was the instrument for that message. It was very inspiring and I always wanted to work with Ankur it finally happened and now it is number 1 on all the radio stations.
Q. What is the USP of this track and how is this different from your past releases?
With my current Hindi music, there hasn’t been just one soundscape. I purposely haven’t kept it so that I can experiment a bit to see what I think feels right to me, and how the audience relates with me. Kya Karein has a singer-songwriter vibe compared to Bemaniyaan, which is more produced with beats, and Teri Meri Kahani which has a very commercial Punjabi vibe. The USP of Kya Karein would be that it has been written straight from the heart. How can a well-written guitar track ever go wrong? It is one of those timeless pieces that will remain.
Q. The track beautifully captures the importance and relevance of love in our lives and we usually see the songs take inspiration from our personal life experiences. Is it right in this case too? Is the song about your life?
Yes, absolutely! I write or co-write all my songs and most of my songs are a reflection of how I feel at a particular time. I see my songs as time capsules. At this moment if you ask me if I can relate to my song Meant to be my answer would be no. But at that time, it was true for my life. When I dropped Teri Meri Kahani, that was my life at the time. Similarly, when I dropped Kya Karein, that’s how I felt at that time. Perhaps I may relate to Meant to be at some point in my life again. But they are all very honest pieces of my art put in a time capsule. And yes, I a 100% inspired by my own personal experiences.
Q. Your musical journey started at an age of 13 and that’s too young an age to make a career choice. How was the reaction of your family then and now when you have achieved so much?
My first exposure to music was at the age of 8 years when I started learning the Santoor from Master ji. My mom used to play the Santoor and I used to be around her so I picked up the sticks and started learning. However, my musical journey didn’t start till much later when I dropped out of the University of Oxford. I was learning economics in management which is very different yet very similar to music in many ways. I realized that life is too short to not do what you really want to do. I always had this dream of recording my own music and putting out my own album and reaching out to people through my music. But I think I was too scared about the repercussions given my background, because nobody has done what I am doing. When I was at Oxford, it actually helped me come out of this bubble, take a step back, and to see the world as it is. That’s when I took the plunge because I realized that the only thing stopping me from achieving my dreams was myself. I dropped out and began my music career. Initially, I was signed with Universal Music, but then I decided to become independent.
My family is a close knit one.. my parents never encouraged any of us kids to keep things from them, be it our dreams and aspirations or our friends and experiences. I, like most kids, look for their approval on things that I do, as I want to make them proud of me. I am blessed with parents who allow me to be and support me in spite of what society deems appropriate or not. They were as supportive when I began my journey, as much as they are now, seeing the fruits of the journey. I am sure no matter what ups and downs come my way, they will be with me always. They are the ones who have taught me that success and failure are two sides of the same coin. The most important thing is to stick to our morals and values, which I always strive to do.
Q. You also spoke about mental health and its importance but do you think in the time and age when the pressure of social media is immense, a popular face like you has to struggle even more to be right all the time?
Mental health is a serious conversation. Taking ill is not restricted to the physical aspects only. Especially in recent times, isolation in Covid was something all of us hopefully experience once in our lifetimes. This hasn't helped most of us in a country where even speaking about illness is taboo. The struggle is real for each one of us, to understand the signs and help ourselves become better.
Even though the Covid-19 pandemic, brought so much suffering, it also helped bring the conversation of mental health to the forefront because so many people were suffering with their mental health in isolation.
I don’t believe there’s anything right or wrong when it comes to mental health, I feel it just is what it is. Everyone has these experiences, you should just want to make sure that you are expressing yourself correctly at the right time with the right people so that it can have an impact. I speak out to let others know that they are not alone.
Q. Do you believe in the power of social media, especially for music artists?
Absolutely. Social media helps us reach larger audiences, to allows us to share our music beyond the boundaries of language and geography. Social media is almost like a weapon, where we can put out our own work with a click of a button. So many pictures, videos, and audio. We can be very creative through many different platforms. It’s a great way to interact with your audience and your fans. It must be used appropriately. However, I would like to remind everyone that it is a curated reality, so please take everything with a pinch of salt.