17-year-old Mithil Chakraborty is a rising senior at Saratoga High School in California. He’s also a rising star; his passion for the performative arts has led him on a musical journey from stage to stage as he shares his talents with the world. He’s sung and danced in front of thousands, and is a promising performer. We talked to Mithil about his achievements, his dreams, and his love for Bollywood.
1. What first spurred your interest in dance and music?
Ever since I was a toddler, I have loved singing and dancing. My parents tell me that once I learned how to talk, I sang and danced immediately thereafter. I used to watch Namaste America, a weekend morning show, with my family. I’d try to mimic the dance moves in the Bollywood songs I saw and loved on TV. I also watched numerous classical Indian dance performances by my older sister and would try to imitate her and sing while I dance. My parents then put me in music and dance lessons and one of my earliest solo performance memories is dancing at a talent variety show when I was in Kindergarten
Mithil Chakraborty singing a cover of a popular Tamil song
2. Tell us about IndianRaga. How did you first get involved in the fellowship program?
When I was 13, my mother and I discovered IndianRaga. Its premise of combining music from east and west to create engaging content on its YouTube channel, which had over 200 thousand subscribers worldwide, compelled me to apply for the fellowship. I was accepted into the fellowship, and that week during the summer of 2017 in Virginia changed my life.
It was humbling and fulfilling to work with amazing musicians and genuine, down-to-earth people who were truly passionate about creating new content. Collaborating with such creative minds was an incredibly enriching experience. I learnt the process of professional audio recording, sound mixing, and video editing. Some productions that I completed during my week-long fellowship were “One Dance” and “Blue Suede Shoes.” These videos consisted of my English vocals overlaid with traditional Carnatic or Hindustani instrumentals. I returned to the fellowship in 2018 in San Diego and made more innovative productions, including “Uptown Funk.” I have been fortunate to have been a part of over a dozen IndianRaga videos, garnering 1 million plus views on YT and FB. Few of the tracks are also available on Spotify, iTunes and Amazon Prime music.
3. How has COVID-19 affected your plans for this year, and how have you adapted to the changes?
Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, I have not been able to perform as much in fundraisers or other events. I also have not been able to collaborate with other IndianRaga musicians as easily. However, I still wanted to perform and spread some joy. As a result, I decided to hold a short 30-minute virtual concert to ease the stress of the people around me. Titled “Where R&B and Bollywood Collide: From Arijit to Elvis,” the live concert occurred on the IndianRaga Facebook platform, where I combined popular R&B hits with soulful and upbeat Bollywood numbers. It was definitely nerve-wracking, as it was my first online live concert, but it was successful, as over 5,000 unique people tuned in from India, Europe, Australia and America. The comments, describing how happy they were to have some entertainment during these bleak times, left me proud.
I also had the privilege of choreographing and dancing with my sister for Akshaya Patra’s annual fundraiser via Zoom, where we performed a medley of Bollywood and English songs for the foundation, which provides school lunches for the underprivileged.
4. What’s been your most memorable performance to date?
My most memorable performance has definitely been the Gaana Music Fest in 2018. As part of IndianRaga, we performed in front of 18,000 people at the Shoreline Amphitheater, opening for Arijit Singh. It was a surreal experience, as we had to practice hard during the week before; it was our first live show and we had a short window for the stage rehearsal to make sure the A/V setup was good for our acts.
5. What do you aspire to do in the future?
I hope to always perform music and dance, whether it be in a professional, concert, family, or passion setting. I love both music and dance and want to continue growing as an artist; I’m hoping to focus more on songwriting, learning about audio engineering, and making dance video collaborations. I also love biology and technology, so I want to do some work with some sort of biomedical engineering job in the future.
6. Name some songs you could never get tired of.
Some of my favorite songs are “Reply” by Iyaz, “Kalank” by Arijit Singh, “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd, “Summer” by Calvin Harris, “Badtameez Dil” by Benny Dayal, and “Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars.
7. Tell us about your family. What role have they played in bringing your dreams to life?
My family has been extremely supportive throughout my life. When I showed interest in singing and dancing, they always encouraged me by playing Bollywood movies and enrolling me in Vocal and Bollywood dance lessons at a young age. They have also been engaged with my pursuits, driving me to venues, practices, and classes, and always cheering me on. My mother has always been my biggest supporter, nurturing my talents and finding opportunities and teachers for me in singing, dance, piano, guitar, and more
Mithil with his mom and sister
8. Name some artists you look up to.
Growing up, Bruno Mars was my inspiration. Bruno Mars transformed pop music, fusing elements from R&B, reggae, and hip hop, which are my favorite genres. In addition to his stage presence and amazing style of music, his humility and personality are admirable. From donating a million dollars to those impacted by the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, to helping send aspiring students to Grammy Camp, he has cultivated an interest in music for the next generation.
Another reason I admire Bruno Mars is because of his versatility, adaptability and longevity in the artistic sphere especially pop music which changes constantly. Relevant for a decade now, he has incorporated different styles and artists in his work to adjust for the current music scene, including most recently, Cardi B in a “Finesse” remix. His trendsetting ability, coupled with his incredible songwriting and vocal skills, makes him an icon in my life.
I also love artists like The Weeknd and Post Malone, and Bollywood actors like Hrithik Roshan, as they stand out among their peers with their unique styles and captivating music and dance, respectively.
9. If you could choose anyone, who would you love to do a collaboration with?
Although it is a lofty goal, I would love to collaborate with The Weeknd. His style and tone is really unique and I love how he comes off as so passionate in each and every one of his songs. I also love R&B/Hip Hop, and it would be cool to infuse some Indian elements in our song.
10. What hobbies do you have apart from dance and music?
Apart from dance and music, I love playing tennis (I am on the Varsity Tennis Team at Saratoga High School). I also enjoy hanging out with friends and travelling.
11. Describe your journey with the Mona Khan dance company.
When I turned six, I began taking dance classes at Mona Khan Company. Initially I was skeptical, but I soon loved the practices and performances. After one showcase, I became a Bacha Emerging Performer, where I made many friends and learned from many different instructors. As a Bacha Emerging Performer, I performed at multiple events, galas, and weddings. These include a Golden State Warriors Halftime Show, Vivah Bridal Expo, and Reception for Prime Minister Modi. We were selected to perform in the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. When I turned 13, I became a Junior Emerging Performer; as a JEP, I performed for the Ram Sampath Show in the Bay Area which was unique as it was the first time with a live music band.
Throughout my Mona Khan Dance company experience, I’ve had the privilege of learning from some of the greatest dance instructors, including Anze Skrube. These dancers taught me a variety of styles and trained me with technique. During my journey of 10 years, I performed in 2 showcases each year, which consisted of large choreographed acts for 4 separate shows each. I also got the opportunity to sing live for two of the showcases while dancing.
Mithil dancing at the Mona Khan Company
12. How hard is it trying to balance your passion for the arts with your high school career? What’s your advice for people trying to do the same?
Although it has been difficult to balance academics, arts, etc during high school, since I love singing and dancing, I perceive the activities as fun and a form of de-stressing rather than work. I have also tried to develop good study and time organization habits, so that work doesn’t pile up, and trade-offs don’t have to arise. My advice is to stay grounded and focus and only pursue things that you are truly passionate about. If you prevent and stay away from distractions, the balance will come, the satisfaction will rise, and the stress will disappear.