MotherJane: Chasing the Sun
The author of this article is the vocalist and front man of MotherJane. In this article, he recounts his experiences from shooting the videos for two of the band’s new songs. MotherJane has recently released their second album titled ‘Maktub’. For more information, visit their web site.
One of the most amazing things about both the music videos from ‘Maktub’ is that one was shot in 25 minutes (“Fields of Sound”) and one in 15 minutes (“Chasing the Sun”).
Mr. Sumesh Lal (Rosebowl TV) gave us a call one day and said that if MotherJane would come down he would shoot two videos for us. We jumped at the opportunity and met him at Rosebowl studios. He promptly put us in a small bus with the rest of the crew (no lights — the entire video was shot in natural light) and we set off in the afternoon.
We asked him what his video would be about and he said it would be more of a live video with us playing for most of the time, which was the best he could do as the channel was limited to using available resources and could not even think of sets. On the way I told him about how “Fields of Sound” was a tribute to those musicians who had inspired us and indeed the whole of humanity with their songs. As I ran him through the lyrics, I think I noticed a brief twinge of regret in his face that he could not deliver or even plan a full scale visual interpretation of the song.
We ended up at a place called Kallar (in Kerala) and took up our precarious positions amongst slippery rocks as a beautiful mountain stream flowed past us. Grooving to the music without falling and cracking our heads took a lot of physical skill and careful movements. If you were to see the final video, I guess these are the things one would miss. We had to scout around for a rock formation wide enough and flat enough to set up John’s drum kit. We waited for the sun to come down slightly and then we played the song four times. He took a few shots each time and then we were all informed that we were packing up and shifting location for “Chasing the Sun”. We packed everything in including the ‘monstrous’ drum kit in record time, ran back through the stream back to the bus and set off towards Ponmudi hills.
We were late and Sumesh was worried (though I am not sure whether he is capable of that emotion) about the light being insufficient. We, being a positive bunch, just enjoyed the trip. Twenty to thirty hairpin curves at an indecent speed took a lot of that joy out of us. As we reached, the sun was well on its way down and the place was closed to the public. It took a precious 25 minutes to find a cop who finally removed the barrier and let us in. Once again the shoot was on. We removed John’s drums and sped down a hill looking for a horizontal surface. We didn’t even have time to think about whether the sun would go down before we set up shop. Actually, I guess all of us did, in the back of our minds. The crew got one camera positioned and we played the song the first time. The sun was sinking. We relocated the camera and took shot number two. The sun was really on its way out. Like a friend of mine in the advertising world said, we all think there’s a lot of time in a day until a shoot happens.
The third time, the camera moved as a handheld. I still don’t know how much of that footage was usable and the only thing in our control was to enjoy the take. We did just that, standing on that beautiful mountain and looking over at the space that expanded before us and giving it all that we had as the sun made its final descent.
In retrospect, I can make the remark that we were ‘chasing the sun’ in every sense during the shooting of its video. As we packed up once again in dangerously low light and were walking up the hill back to the bus, I remember asking Sumesh whether we had enough shots. He said, “I don’t know. I guess so. But we have to see whether the light was good enough in the studio.”
Seeing how he married some footage they had taken of Varanasi, where birth, death, marriage and various religious rites signifying different stages of a man’s life were being performed simultaneously and juxtaposing the same against a rock band’s take on life is very satisfying in the final video. The final line — “time is the actual distance between people, when one’s chasing the sun” — is an insight that the song leaves us with, as the director points out through the various shots of how “we all leave home, but for how long is what really matters”.
I keep hearing that line in the background as I hold one particularly poignant image in the video. It comes at the end where a young bride sits slightly away from her groom who seems disconnected from the scene. I keep watching her stoic and contrastingly innocent acceptance of how her life is changing before her eyes. It gives me the shakes, to see the universality of this song and the innumerable interpretations that this video lends itself to.
I would be really interested in hearing how other people interpret this song, through the filters of their lives. Looking forward to those comments here.