“समयले त छोडिदिए, सपनालाई तोडिदिए; सोचेको जस्तै यहाँ हुँदैन”- “Time has given up, crushed dreams; It is never as one expects it to be”, the lyrics from Tribal Rain’s Sunyata. These lyrics portray what can only be considered as a despondent truth in the hearts of the fans and well-wishers of Rahul Rai. Late Rahul Rai, a name that personifies ‘genius’ to people who followed his work and relished in his music, was arguably the best musician that the state of Sikkim has ever produced, an ephemeral prodigy who left too soon.
Born as the first son to Padma Rai and Nayan Kumar Rai on 14th October 1989, the Sikkimese gem ended his life on the 14th of February 2018. Rahul was born in Kolkata as a stock ordinary kid. He started his schooling at Mount Carmel School, Namchi, where he studied from nursery till the 4th standard. Successively, he moved to his maternal uncle in Bangalore for further studies, and it is said that it was there where he developed his endearment with music, which in time turned into passion unparalleled. The inheritance of his musical prowess came from his grandfather who played the violin, and gave lessons at Singithang, Namchi. The rest as they say, is history, one that will be engraved in one of the cornerstones of Sikkimese music for eons to come.
There are probably only a few people in the Nepali speaking community who like listening to music who aren’t at least acquainted with, let alone be admirers of Tribal Rain and Rahul Rai’s music. The rest miss the solitaire engraved in Sikkim’s musical history. Everyone who loved Rahul’s music surely miss his authentic style and his profound lyrics some of which were written with the help of his peers, and definitely miss the gem himself. A few such people who miss Rahul and take immense inspiration from his life and music are Vishwa V Limbu and the team that he put together to come up with a documentary that ‘celebrates the life of Rahul Rai’.
A documentary on the Life of Rahul Rai which is set to premiere on April 14 at 8:00 PM on “Rahul Rai” YouTube channel.
The film conceptualized by Vishwa and realized after toiling for 4 years since its conception in 2018. Hailing from Darjeeling, a professional musician, teacher in Gangtok, started this project in 2018 without much to go about. Vishwa is also a music teacher, and one of the founders of the music school Great Stave, branches of which are still functional at PNG and Saint Thomas schools. With the help of his student Sailesh Sharma Vishwa laboured for 4 years, interviewing, researching, filming, and setting up inventory for the documentary that revolves around Rahul Rai’s life and his music.
“What I wanted to do was in this project was portray that we (the nepali speaking musical fraternity) won’t ever get such talent ever, his musical prowess, his versatility, its uncommon and extraordinary, and it is something if not really rejoiced would be a loss to humanity, that is what I felt, and hence conceptualized the documentary,” says Vishwa.
“Not going onto the darkness that ensued, and whatever that happened that took Rahul away, what I wanted this project to be was a celebration of Rahul’s life and to showcase his musical expertise which was uncommon. There was a quality to his western classical, ‘a trademark’ originality you can say, that whoever listens to his music can make out that ‘this is Rahul” he adds while pulling in comparisons to great musicians who had their own trademark.
“Another thing we wanted to emphasize on was the language that he chose, Nepali, which is often taken for granted by our own. It was the language that Rahul chose and united the Nepali speaking community all over the world through his music. His music was something which felt relatable, and his lyrics portrayed something that was mundane and related to our day-to-day life. We wanted to highlight these things more than the negative.” He adds.
The making of this documentary wasn’t any walk in the park, the challenges that came with it, the first being financial and then the logistics were tumultuous to say the least. Viswa shares how he being ensconced in his little bubble of his livelihood after giving up playing music had to get back on the horse, practicing with like minded musicians and playing at restaurants to collect funds for the documentary.
“I am not a rich person, and if I was, I guess the making of this documentary would have gone smoothly. I was doing however I was doing in my life since I had taken a break from playing music publicly, but I had to get back to it so as to collect funds to travel to Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong etc., to take interviews. One of the interviewees was Bipul Chettri, whose segment ins in the documentary,” Viswha shares.
“It was an ordeal to create this documentary. It took me four years; I faced threats while doing this, and it was a sensitive-police case. As I went through it, I realized that there wasn’t a tangible planning to all this but I had to do this, even if I had to labour hard,” he adds.
After making a loose blueprint, Vishwa shares that was the first person to ask for a permission from Rahul’s parents with the help of his students Sailesh and Andrew. The plans were murky, the funds little, the integrants scarce, however the objective to for doing this documentary was as clear as day: “To create an environment to remember Rahul Rai, to promote the (Nepali) language, to promote musical education, and to let artists especially struggling artists know that even if you don’t get where you wanted to and even if you don’t earn money through your art, if you’re happy within it works as a beacon of hope.”
“There aren’t many artists who click and blow up, like Bipul Chettri or Mantra and such artists who made it, there are more who haven’t, I am one of those and Rahul gave us a huge inspiration, he used to practice and play all day and all night, whenever he got time, he practiced, as we came to know while doing this. It was a way of his life and that was something we really wanted to share, that whatever an artist does he does out of love for his art,” Vishwa adds.
The documentary, made to be lowkey, as opposed to flamboyant, sees the major aspect of Rahul’s way of life, staying low-key, and has been promoted to be so. Hence there isn’t any big premier but a humble YouTube Premier that has been scheduled. This documentary mainly focuses on the way Rahul led his life, how his idiosyncrasies worked, how he liked to do the same thing, play in a certain way, practice in a certain same way, eat home-cooked meal, sleep at his house no-matter how late it would be while he was out, and how hardworking and humble Rahul was.
“What we expect from the reception is for people to see what an extraordinary man he was and how his way of life could bring inspiration to other artists,” Viswa sums up while answering the question on how he expected the reception to be.
The description of the documentary itself speaks volumes
“Late Rahul Rai, former frontman for the Namchi-based experimental band Tribal Rain was a virtuoso guitarist, singer-songwriter, and above all a compassionate and humble human being.
This is a documentary film based on true accounts narrated by parents, friends, music artists, sound engineers, band members of Tribal Rain (Past & Present) and Kastiyal (Former Band) about the life and idiosyncracies of Late Rahul Rai, singer-songwriter, composer, virtuoso guitarist and a former member of Dream Diabolic and Kastiyal, and a founding member of Tribal Rain.
This film celebrates the life of Late Rahul Rai and his contribution to music. It encourages young artists and individuals in the field of education and art in any form.
This film produced solely in the name of Rahul Rai with the permission of his parents and does not encourage any individual or company to take any benefits.”
The editing work was done by Pagel Lepcha, a Sikkimese film-maker who helped in this project because of the veneration he holds for late Rahul Rai. After shooting, collecting footages and sounds were done by Vishwa and his team, the final gallimaufry came to Pagel who did the editing.
“They had a bunch of footages that were taken over a long time and they were trying to edit them for a long time. There were a lot of footages shot on many devices, the audio quality wasn’t good, and there were a lot of things that were challenging. The first thing that I had in my mind while patching them together was to create a storyline, unlike other documentaries,” says Pagel.
“I tried my best and put in a good amount of work to compile the footages and put a structure to it visually and also trying to establish a connection with the audience, whilst having less amount of time,” he adds.
The project, as shared by the team members has been worked on tremendously hard, and was all in all a jugaad of the highest degree.
The premier has been scheduled to be a low-key YouTube premier whose trailer is linked below. The documentary film has been copyrighted to prevent any unnecessary infringements.