Variously described as 'the best Internet discovery of the year', 'I begin my day by listening music at bombayproduction' and 'OH MY 330000000 GODS I LOVE IT', Bombay Production has established itself as the Bollywood internet radio station par excellence. Via its uniquely simple and attractive interface, Bombay Production allows you to immerse yourself in Bollywood music of almost any kind and from virtually any era you choose. Since it hit the tubes in early 2010, it's been shared and discussed online almost as much as it's been used by thousands of avid Gulzar, Kishore Kumar and A. R. Rahman fans.
The people behind Bombay Production are Chirag Ahir and Priyanka Sah, a husband-and-wife design team with a background in advertising – not surprising given the immediately attention-grabbing nature of the site. During a spell overseas, they started thinking about creating a better experience for enthusiastic listeners of Indian music. Chirag and Priyanka were kind enough to answer a few questions for The NRI about the Bombay Production site and philosophy.
How did the idea for Bombay Production come about? Why did you make the site?
Well, it started a few years back when we were out of the country and entertainment was one of the things that made us feel close to home. But when we looked around, we were surprised with the bad experience the music sites offered. With busy schedules and lack of resources it wasn’t until last year that we were able to bring the idea to fruition. Our background in design and communication helped us create a vision for the site and so Bombay Production was born.
Can you remember the moment, song or artist that triggered your interest in music? As an individual, what sort of a relationship have you had with music throughout your lives?
It has to be Binaca Geetmala, hosted by none other than Ameen Sayani over Radio Ceylon, which introduced many of us to Bollywood music early on. This weekly radio count down show was the ?most popular program on radio and made music from Bollywood something to look forward to.
I also believe music is a powerful tool. Though I am not an 'always carrying my iPod' kind of a person, music always makes my day. I love to stumble upon new genre of music – something I haven't heard before – and be moved by it. It has always been an emotional experience.
How did you come up with the name 'Bombay Production'? Why that name and not, for example, 'Mumbai Production'?
Bombay Production has a sort of nostalgia to its name, and we associate Bollywood with that. There is something really magical about Bollywood’s history, the bygone era of the old production studios and the talented artists who made the industry such an integral part of our lives. Also, 'Mumbai' doesn’t evoke the same feeling as 'Bombay' does. The city’s residents still call it Bombay, its former name, which speaks to how closely associated the name is to all things Bombay.
The site design is minimalist, yet classy and immediately appealing. It's also interactive in a very simple and pleasing way. How did that design take shape?
We believe good design evokes, inspires and pulls you in. Good design is often about keeping things simple and functional. We have great appreciation for minimalist and the modern design movement and draw inspiration from Charles & Ray Eames, Frank Lloyd Wright, Alexander Gerard, Charley Harper and Saul Bass.
When we started Bombay Production we had a clear direction in terms of what we did and didn’t want to do. Our belief that design is about solutions and not just aesthetics guided the overall design and we hope to continue in that direction in the coming months. We do pay close attention to the design of a particular station, which usually starts by looking at the landscape for inspiration, taking cues from them and then translating them visually into a design concept. We have a lot of fun during that process.
The site's tagline is 'A new kind of music listening experience for Indian music enthusiasts.' What makes Bombay Production new, and what sort of experience do you hope listeners will have?
What makes Bombay Production new is the experience on the site, which starts with an easy to use interface. Listeners can listen to music with just one click. The site has pre-created stations which have been carefully selected to highlight music by genre, decade, artist and also movies. These stations are meant to delight through surprise. Our interface is almost like a candy store where you could try out different candies and be surprised by its flavors or how they remind you of childhood. There could be a kind of music one hasn’t heard in a long time and then when you do, you realize how much you loved it. It’s a very nostalgic and almost an emotional experience.
On the other hand, if you are looking for something specific, our 'type and play' feature helps you find the music and play it just like you would in the pre-created stations.
What's your opinion on music piracy in India? Does Bombay Production operate 'above board'?
It is unfortunate because it's so widespread. One doesn't think about it when listening to pirated music; in fact, some may not even be aware of it. Bombay Production is a BMI licensed website, which means that we pay royalties to BMI for music that ?we carry and stream on our site.
What's the strangest feedback you've had regarding the site?
We get lot of emails a from our fans, mostly to express their joy upon finding the site or requesting to add their favorite music. But recently we received an email asking how to use Bombay Production! We were surprised and amused by the email, but then realized that we are so different from the usual interface and experiences that perhaps it could be puzzling at first.
What role do you think music plays in today's Indian society? Do you think that role has changed at all over the decades?
The role of music, especially Bollywood music, has always been about providing entertainment. Although the music has changed and evolved over the years, its role has not. Bollywood music is about singing and dancing, and lots of it, which is why for us Indians it's a part of so many celebrations. Also its appeal is relevant across demographics and geographies. We have so many languages that we speak but Bollywood music is a common language amongst us.
Do you have any plans to develop Bombay Production further in the future?
Yes – we are in the process of redesigning the interface of the site to make it more user friendly. We are also working to make the site accessible through a mobile app and also have a blog in the future.
So what are you waiting for, yaar? Get to Bombay Production and listen off!