One night in 2016 in LA changed Anushka Manchanda’s life. A series of events gave her clarity and confidence, and a new direction. “I was in LA for a month for Angry Indian Goddesses, staying with a friend. On my second last night, I was talking to him about wanting to pursue a project, but didn’t know what to call it. I randomly remembered how I used to call myself Nuka when I was very young. It didn’t mean anything though. He enthusiastically said, ‘Well, let’s make it mean something then’ and we were figuring out how to make NUKA an abbreviation of something. Because I feel I am deeply connected to nature and the universe, I said Nature’s Universal Kinetic Ascension and oddly enough, he found a video online that explains the concept of it,” says Anushka.
She continues, “Then on my last day, though I am not a big fan of LA, the sunsets are pretty cool so I wanted to catch the sunset before I left. My friend and I drove up to the planetarium, which is a tourist spot on a high location. We stood outside, watching the sun set, and we saw a green flash over the city. We thought we were the only ones who saw it but when we looked around, everyone else there had seen it and they were wondering about the same thing. Then we went to the planetarium and had a nice evening. Post this, we went to dinner where all my friends came to say goodbye, and as we ordered the cheque, it came with a post card of the planetarium. It was then that my friend told me that the universe is trying to tell me something and I should listen. I thought so too.”
And this is how Anushka’s alter ego NUKA was born. The pop singer has taken up this alias to separate the work she pursues on her own from the work she is commissioned to do in Bollywood.
“I’ve been working for 10-15 years now, and my body of work is huge. But I wanted to have a space where I have complete creative control and freedom. There is a certain kind of work that I want to do, that appeals to me and I want to brand it differently,” says Anushka.
As NUKA, she has worked on a photo story where she collaborated with a photographer she follows on Instagram, and now she is out with a music video called Don’t Be Afraid. The song is her take on the journey of death and the fear that is attached to it. Word is that this is the first among a few tracks that she plans to work on and release under this alias soon.
“I don’t want to limit myself to music, I also want to do art, photography, films and all kinds of things. But I’m known as a singer, and the music of these singles is very different from any of my previous work,” says Anushka.
LEARNING NEW THINGS
The VJ-turned-singer is now taking on the role of music producer for her projects as NUKA too. And she is doing this by learning the skill of music producing all by herself. “I went to New York to learn production for a couple of months and then I came back and made this ‘experimental’ video Don’t Be Afraid. I did it out of a need of not having to depend on people to do it for me. I learnt one software and then went on to learn another one. It did take a lot of time, but things like this excite me,” she says, adding, “I’m still learning. I also have to tour with my band, we do Bollywood music, but our way. Not only do we have a blast on stage, it also helps me connect with the young people and I really enjoy that.”
Anushka is already planning her next video and a “short story kind of thing.” She says, “I don’t want to define what NUKA is about, I want to pursue anything that catches my fancy as an artist. I have a couple of people in mind I want to collaborate with. A friend of mine has an art space in Goa, I want to do something interesting there.”
Anushka believes that it is her human experience as opposed to the time she has spent in the industry that defines her as an artist. “I feel that all my travelling, all the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met, have helped me come into my own. It has given me the confidence to pursue this. Though the feedback I’ve got is great, I’ve never been so sure and so confident about doing anything else. This is a powerful feeling to have and I’m loving it,” says Anushka.