As the Centenary Film Festival opens today,we speak to sitarist Nishat Khan who has scored the music for a silent film. Jaideep Varma tells us about his documentary on Sudhir Mishra,a director who has been at the vanguard of parallel cinema.
A Story in a Note
In the summer of 1929,when German filmmaker Franz Osten premiered his magnum opus,A Throw of Dice (Prapancha Paash),the peti-master (harmonium player) sat down in the musicians pit leading the orchestra that played the score for the film. A huge crowd gathered to watch this little miracle that had been shot with a moving camera. An Indo-German production,made in collaboration with Indian actor-producer Himanshu Rai,it was inspired by the chaupar incident from the Mahabharata. Starring Seeta Devi and Rai,the film is the story of two kings vying for the love of a hermits daughter,Suneeta.
Almost 65 years later,the 74-minute film will be projected on a giant screen at Siri Fort Auditorium today,at the opening of the centenary celebrations of Indian cinema. The background score will be played live,written by sitar maestro Nishat Khan,torchbearer of the legendary Imdadkhani gharana.
I fell in love with the movie the moment I saw it. I just sat and played to what I saw,it is so evocative. This year is all about 100 years of cinema so I wanted to take this as a journey of a 100 years and put all the elements used in Bollywood in all these years, says Khan,who has shared stage space with the likes of Eric Clapton,iconic guitarist Jeff Beck and blues legend Buddy Guy,and even had Nelson Mandela and Princess Diana as audience.
Orchestral music is a different experience, says Khan,who finds it a challenging experience to re-imagine a score for a film that is far away from the contemporary set up. One has to play with the temperament of the movie,keeping in mind the emotions of the people. Its a background score played live so it has to be kept controlled. Its storytelling through music, says Khan,who will have almost 20 musicians creating music based on the ragas from the shringaar ras. I am using symphonic music and Indian music,so the score had to be written to create that effect of the film being a piece de resistance, says Khan.