If there’s one thing that unites all Indians, it’s a broken heart, says Aayush Mann. His debut single, “Sajna”, is based on that premise, at least.
He and others, including composer Nisha Dhan and the female lead Felicia, filmed part of it at the Oriental Pantry on Moore Street, he said, pointing over the street.
We’re sat at BB’s Bakers and Baristas in the ILAC Centre, which is emptying out on a Thursday evening.
He has put up a teaser online, and the video is just being polished up by a post-production team in India, he says. “This is my first song, my first, kind of, official song.”
“I never sing in any of the functions. […] Maybe a couple of school functions, or maybe some cultural events in India,” he says.
It’s also the first project produced by a company he has with a handful of other people: Aayush Mann Productions.
They have 20 or so projects lined up, at the moment from different people – other singers from Punjab, and some from Nigeria and the UK too – who want them to shoot their video, record them, choose their music, that kind of thing.
His own track is the prequel to that in a way. “Before we take any work from anybody else, I want to try, does it work here, you know?” he says.
Mann works by day in tech support. He came to Dublin to study in 2013, after watching Ek Tha Tiger, the Bollywood spy-romance shot partly in the city.
Like many who move country, he found the first year or so trying to get settled a bit tough, he says. “The first year was very basic and a bit of a struggle.”
Now, though, he has a lot going on. He runs a Bollywood night at Club M in Temple Bar, and they bring international DJs from the UK and from Germany. He DJs himself, too.
Existing nights seemed outdated, he said. “I was not happy with the music. Because mostly, if you are from here, what do you know about Indian music? Mainly Punjabi MC. You don’t know anything else.”
“Sajna” is a simple track, with ample dollops of drama. “It’s a Bollywood song,” he said. “It’s a Hindi song, so it can be heard anywhere in India.”
The feedback has been great, Mann says. “I never thought it was going to be so good.”
A couple of Indian newspapers and radio channels have been onto him: Jag Bani and 92.5 FM here in Dublin, a day before we meet.
“Sajna” is being promoted by Leinster Productions, a company set up in October 2016 by two friends, Jagjeet Singh and Manish Sadana.
Singh helped Mann out back when he was starting to run events. He bought a pile of tickets, and told him he would get people there, says Mann.
“Sajna” is the first Hindi track that they’ve put out, says Singh. (Others are in Punjabi.) “We are working with a few guys in the UK, so we are going to be jumping in the English market as well,” says Singh.
He says they’re eager to move beyond Punjabi musicians. “Any talent, it doesn’t matter which nationality, which language, we are here to help,” he says.
With Sadana, Singh set up Leinster Productions – spread between Dublin, Chandigarh, and Birmingham – a few years back, hatching the plan over drinks at his house.
“In my school days and college days, I really wanted to start working in Bollywood,” says Singh. But that didn’t happen.
“I was thinking of going in that field, but I never got the chance. Too busy with my life and this and that sort of,” says Singh, who used to work in retail.
To date, they’ve released nearly 50 tracks, Singh says. There are loads of production companies in the market, but Singh says others can make promises and not keep them. They don’t, he says.
Their videos have racked up views. One, which charts the trials and triumphs of an international student in Dublin, has been watched more than 370,000 times.
Singh says they have a couple more tracks coming that are likely to appeal to a similar crowd. One is about a guy headed from Dublin back to India to get married. “It’s a beat track, it’s totally bhangra,” Singh says. A second is a celebration of getting citizenship here in Ireland.
These, he hopes, are hot topics, given the many students who have left India to study in England and Ireland, or Australia, New Zealand and Canada. “Anyone who listens to that song they’ll be thinking, that’s on me, that’s on me, that’s like me,” he says.
Singh says the music videos have been a bit of a prelude to movie-making.
He and Sadana had wanted to make films, he says. A friend advised him not to jump straight into that though; it’s expensive, and reels of films are sat in boxes and never released.
“That’s how we started, we came in the music thing, and we started in the music and we’re doing a couple of films as well now,” he says.
Like the guys behind Leinster Productions, Mann was drawn to music videos as a stepping stone into films.
He and his colleagues are planning to shoot a comedy here towards the end of this year. “It’s nothing serious,” says Mann.
The plot as it stands revolves around a love rectangle, and a rivalry between a recent arrival from India and his uncle who runs a company here. He’s also planning a web series, ahead of that, put out over Facebook.
Mann notes the pasts of stars who have made it in Bollywood which makes, perhaps, fame seem within reach: “When you see they were normal a few years before and now they are some people.”