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Pursuit of Happiness

For those about to rock
Boehringer Ingelheim's CMD on what makes a good team, both on and off the stage

Mahithi Pillay

Boehringer Ingelheim chairman and managing director Sharad Tyagi may have had a life-long love affair with percussion, but there is nothing remotely Ringo Starr-y about this drummer. In his life story, they’re all there, the Indian childhood staples — good friends, college band, MTV, Delhi University, Pink Floyd. There’s the years spent lugging heavy drumsets around in the back of his dad’s Premier Padmini and there is the decade-long gap when he left his drums — and Delhi — behind to build a career in Mumbai. Thankfully, ’70s bands were not the only ones to mull reunions in recent years, and Tyagi has been killing it on stage for close to seven years now.

It all started back in Air Force School, Delhi, where Tyagi and his friends started a band of their own. By the time he joined the Delhi College of Engineering, he had bought his own locally-assembled drumset. That was when White Fang was born, with its name borrowed from a Jack London paperback and with Gautam Ghosh, Amitanshu Das, Tehrunna Dubash and Rahul Ram — yes, the Indian Ocean bass guitarist — as bandmates. They played classic rock at college venues and festivals till Tyagi left for IIM-A in 1983.

The move didn’t hamper his musical pursuits, as Tyagi went on to join Hammersmith, with brothers Philip and Mark Hayden and Cedric Fernandes as bandmates. With a hard rock sound and famed Jimi Hendrix covers, the band tasted national level success and became one of the first Indian bands to be featured on MTV. Post-IIM, there was Déjà Vu, this time, with Ram and some others. But between 1992 and 2008 followed an exile when each night he dreamt of getting back on stage.

It only took a few calls, then, for the friends to decide to jam again, if only a few times a year. “We came together and formed Applied For, carrying forward the name from an older band. We play a lot of soft rock and blues and our audience consists of the same set of friends who heard us while growing up, though a lot more youngsters show up for our sessions as well,” laughs Tyagi.

Applied For now plays at an annual reunion session for bands called Rerock, held around December each year. The first ever Rerock was held at the Garden of Five Senses in Delhi, and Tyagi has vivid memories of watching his beaming family in the audience, with the band opening the show with Whitesnake’s Fool for your loving. These were not the only memorable shows: Tyagi has fond memories of IIT Delhi in the ‘80s, when 10,000-strong crowds would rock it out in the cold Delhi winter with no time restrictions. 

The craze for music runs in the family now with his son on the verge of starting his own band. At work, too, this reticent professional’s on-stage tricks have left juniors in awe. “Music helps break down barriers and hierarchies — on stage, everyone is equal. In a band, like at the workplace, you need to gel and perform as a team. The best bands all have a good time on stage — and it shows.” Does this philosophy help during his shows? “At Applied For, we all know our limitations and have no pretensions of being extraordinary. We just want to continue playing as long as we can,” Tyagi smiles. 

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