When hip hop met gaana for Rajinikanth’s ‘Kaala’

Tony Sebastian clearly remembers the day his band was called for an audition in Mumbai. “We knew we were selected for a movie, directed by Pa Ranjith. But, we had no clue who the hero was. Ranjith sir explained to us that the film’s subject revolved around the Tamil diaspora in the Dharavi slum in Mumbai. And, then he casually said the film’s name is Kaala and that it would star Rajinikanth. We did not know what to say for a minute. We were shocked.”

Sebastian (aka Stony Psyko) is one of the members of the rap collective, Dopeadelicz, a Dharavi-based band. Their videos, which blend hip hop music with street dance moves, such as ‘Legalise It’, has over a lakh views on YouTube. They have been roped into the Kaala project to work with Santhosh Narayanan and come up with a few rap video tracks. “These numbers will appeal to all age groups. When I was in Chennai, I was curious to find an organic gaana culture here. Their lyrics are catchy and funky. We have infused hip-hop with gaana in the album. It has a country feeling with a Western touch to it.”

They have also written these songs in Hindi. Writing rap verses in two languages was challenging, says Sebastian. “We had to make sure of the rhyme scheme, and convey the same message in both the languages. That was a task.” Working with the superstar on the sets was fascinating, he recalls. “We were nervous. But, the first day, he told us to feel free and act. But, every shoot you see him, you tend to fall back on the same mute mode,” Sebastian says with a smile. “It is the first time we are performing for a Kollywood film. And, we’re lucky that we got to act with the greatest man in the industry.”

Finding a voice

The collective that started off with three to four members, now has two rappers, Sebastian and Rajesh Radhakrishnan. “We could identify with Kaala’s premise —it is about the struggle of the Tamilians living outside the state. We have experienced that first hand, the economic struggle, low job opportunities and the regional cultural struggle as well.”

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