Shayan’s rendition of the Indian National anthem has broken records to become the most viewed anthem of any country.

Meet Shayan Italia Hyd man whose rendition of Jana Gana Mana is a YouTube hit
Features Music Monday, September 10, 2018 - 18:58

When musician Shayan Italia came back to India after 13 years, he was surprised to find himself standing up for the National Anthem with a bucketful of popcorn in his hands at a theatre in Mumbai. “The rendition they played wasn’t even melodious, with a pixelated flag on screen and it didn’t imbibe respect. I wouldn’t have stood for it,” says Shayan, a pianist and entrepreneur.

8 years later, Shayan went live with his rendition of 'Jana Gana Mana' on YouTube with the hashtag #Iwouldstandforthis. “I wanted to create a thought process where people could decide if they really wanted to stand up for this. So the video was an indirect question asking the viewers ‘Will you stand for this’?” Shayan explains.

Directed by Farhad Vijay Arora, the video instantly went viral, making it the most viewed rendition of the National Anthem on YouTube till date.

“Initially, our aim was to garner 71 million views on YouTube as India was celebrating its 71st Independence Day this year. But now the count is unfathomable. We have even broken the record that the French National Anthem previously held,” Shayan says.

Shayan’s rendition of the Indian national anthem is simple yet soulful, played on a Steinway Model D piano, devoid of any lyrics. 

“India is not about the flag being waved in every frame or the national anthem being recorded in 52 seconds. There is no such rule. It can be presented in a hundred different ways and I am sure Tagore didn’t want it this way,” Shayan says.

“It’s our social conditioning that has enveloped us in a cocoon to render the national anthem in a record 52 seconds, and that too in a monotone version. The national anthem is a timeless musical piece which we shortened to a minute just because it becomes easy for the public to sing,” the singer opines.

Shayan’s video of the national anthem is shot in an empty room with just the artist and the piano, an instrument quite majestic in itself. The piano was a parting away gift from his mother, who lost her life to cancer in 1998. Originally from Secunderabad, Shayan lost both his parents in a year’s gap.

It was during the filming of the video that Shayan came across the famous Canadian guitarist, Anthony Gomes in Britain. “A few minutes into the conversation, I realised that the piano I was playing was actually bought by my mother from Anthony’s shop years ago. It sounded unbelievable but later I decided to make it a background story to my video, which now I realise has made the viewers watch through the entire song without skipping,” Shayan exclaims.

Shayan’s passion for the song is visible towards the end of the video, when he places the national flag on the piano and touches the fall board after shutting the keys. “My intention was never to show the flag. I thought they had stopped filming but they chose to keep it in the final cut.”

“When I embarked on the project, I ensured that the video was shot in 8K. We wanted that clarity and crispness in sound and visuals. So we worked with a lot of countries to make this accessible to viewers internationally because that was the goal with this video,” the singer adds.

So what has made Shayan’s version of the National Anthem hit an instant chord with the audience?

The singer says that it is the purity in sentiments and respect for music.

“Indian music is beautiful but what we see now are all commissioned pieces of work built around notes. No one is writing a song from the heart. When I make a Hindi song, the listener should want to cry, laugh or hug the person who has sung it. What the singer does should not be quantifiable,” Shayan says.

“I would like to make Bollywood music but not in this country. The market here tries influencing you. In fact, the first 8 million views we got for our video was from the viewers abroad. It’s only after three days that we launched it in India. Just because something is Indian doesn’t mean it has to be in India,” he adds.

One will also notice that the comments are disabled for this video and upon asking Shayan why, he responds, “One thing I have always noticed is that when something political comes up, Indians don’t play well. I didn’t want an argument to crop up in the comments section which would distract from the music. The video is a gift to my mother who couldn’t see me playing when alive and I would like it to be that way,” the singer signs off.

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