Mani Kaul belonged to an era when ‘Cinema in India’ was riding high on various stages of experimentation; in its inherent form and aesthetics; from features to Documentaries. From the likes of John Abraham, who was Mani Kaul’s junior in FTII down to the one of the last bastion of Indian Parallel Cinema movement, Govind Nihalani. The Indian Parallel Wave brought in a new language, dialect and grammar to Indian Cinema.
Mani Kaul along with Kumar Shahini were the harbinger of formalist influx between form and narrative. Both of them combined various degrees of Indian Classical Music in their mise-en-scene. Sadly, today hardly any films of these Masters are available in the market.
Dhrupad is a documentary on one of the oldest form of surviving Classical music in India. And here Mani Kaul combines his self-reflexive threads to weave a mesmerizing documentary on music. The Documentary captures the essence of ragas often sublimed with images and voice-overs describing the growth and history of the musical genre.
Scott Macdonald in his book, A Critical Cinema: Interviews with Independent Directors, talks to Mani Kaul regarding two of his films Uski Roti and Dhrupad.
Here is an excerpt from the Book:
In Dhrupad, I try to give a straightforward introduction to the music of two musicians you see in the film. It is music without a notation, in a sense it is not possible to notate the music: it’s too complex. There are continuously ascending and descending tones, and it is difficult to say if these tones follow this tones or that note. The tones are always traveling between dissonant areas between notes.
I was equally interested in Indian Music transmit the tradition of their music orally. A student can study this music for years and not write a sentence in a book. You can only learn music by continuously learning and practicing until you began to elaborate in your own way. The secret of the survival of the tradition of Indian Music is deeply linked with the opening the disposition of the disciple and the pupil.
Though this VHS upload lacks the image clarity, but the essence of watching this film is amazing, and every moment listening to the ragas accompanies by the pakhvaj and veena is mesmerizing something which we don' t get to see, witness or listen in our day-to-day lives.
From the Video:
Dhrupad is the oldest genre of Hindustani music and originally was sung in Hindu shrines, however it later emerged to the Mughal courts and then to the stage. This film investigates the oldest dhrupad tradition, the Dagarvani Dhrupad. The Dagar family traces back its origin not to the legendary MiaN Tansen, royal court musician of the Mughal emperor Akbar (1542-1605), but to his guru Swami Haridas, who was a brahmin, later Dagars converted to islam, according without difficulties their faith with hindu spirituality. This is a documentary on dagarvani, the most influential dhrupad tradition. It features the representants of the older generation like Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar and Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar. Contact me if you want me to put up more qawwali or hindustani classical recordings.
WATCH THE VIDEO: DHRUPAD