Recently, the Radio Bar in Mumbai hosted the launch of a seven-part documentary web series on popular singer Papon. Papon is the first Indian artiste to be featured in the Hometown Heroes series, which has previously profiled foreign artists. The series sees him describe his journey as a musician while sitting atop a guava tree and listening to a radio perched on his shoulders. Each episode is under seven minutes and has been directed in association with Jugaadu films.
The series has been shot in Assam, where Papon grew up, and follows him to Guwahati, New Delhi and Mumbai, mapping his roots and influences as a musician along the way. The film was the result of long hours of conversations with the unit. “It was quite spontaneously done,” Papon said. “There was no script to follow. The team picked up lines from our chats and stringed it together.” The shoot provided the singer the opportunity to revisit places and relive old memories. “It was for me a way to go back and see what made me and return to my inspirations, all of it was a great way to explore the past,” he said.
Papon aka Angaraag Mahanta hails from a musical family, his father, Khagen Mahanta, was a renowned folk singer. Papon’s parents trained him in classical, devotional (Borgeet) and folk music. His first album of Assamese songs, ‘Jonaaki Raati’, was released in 2004 and he began singing for Hindi films the same year with the track ‘Sajana’ in the indie film ‘Let’s Enjoy’.
Papon found it easy enough to sing in Hindi. “I was fond of ghazals from a very early age,” he said. Moving from Assam to Delhi had helped him master the language. “Initially, yes, I would get stuck, but now I can easily switch between Hindi and Assamese.”
Papon gained nationwide popularity when he sang for composer Pritam. His deep voice lifted the tracks ‘Jiyein Kyun’ (Dum Maaro Dum, 2011) and ‘Kyon’ (Barfi!, 2012). A steady stream of songs followed in ‘Hamari Adhuri Kahani’ (2014), ‘Bombay Velvet’ (2015), ‘Sultan’ (2016) and the National Film Award-winning ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’ (2015), in which he sang the doleful solo ‘Moh Moh Ke Dhaage’ for composer Anu Malik. “I am glad that with such a small volume of work, I have been recognised,” Papon said.