DHRUPAD- Poetry in Ragas

Mani Kaul

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.
Igor Kovacs



supriasuri said…
Indeed an exclusive topic to share with the audiences.
I was thrilled to read about Dhrupad, to know just even a little bit in indian classical music.
There is so much still to explore within our indian traditions and culture.

In a situation where cross culturism is happening at high pace, and India been so much inspired by the western culture, it has become a matter of concern as to how we should preserve our culture, language, traiditions. One way to do is to atleast impart little bit one knows of to the masses.

I am honestly thankful for such an information.

Also one more thing I like about this blog is , if there is so much of criticism of bollywood which i do agree , theres also some great rare stuff that i come across here.
nitesh said…
Thanks for your comment Supriya. The films of Mani Kaul, Kumar Shahini are almost non-existent in the market. Only handful of people have got these films,beside some of the films of Mani Kaul are held by Doordarshan who are sitting and hatching eggs on the films, instead of showing re-runs or releasing it.

You're absolutely right when you talk about preserving our own Indian tradition- rather promotion through a right channel. Since everyday we are moving towards westernized modules of thoughts and living - not a wrong thing, but at the same time, its important to preserve and understand our own culture- as you very well outlined in defining the whole notion of cross-cultrism.
Abhijit said…
nice topic!

unfortunately, Dhrupad is also a dying form with the focus having shifted to Khayals and Thumris today.

but its evolution i suppose. Nonetheless, nice article.
Michal said…
I found Mani Kaul's documentary an exquisite experience - it took me away. Sadly I have missed much however due to lack of subtitles...are they available at all- in terms of an accompanying narrative document?
nitesh said…
@ Michal,

Thank you for comment Michal. Sadly, most, if not all, Mani Kaul works are lost and are not subtitled.

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