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The Epic Returns

The MI21: Mother India 21st Century Remix bears little resemblance to Mother India as we know it,except for Nargis.

The MI21: Mother India 21st Century Remix bears little resemblance to Mother India as we know it,except for Nargis. The original film has been cut down from 163 minutes to 45 minutes. Subtitles have been dropped and all original sound including dialogues,songs and the background score of the film have made way for a musical narrative by Mauritian turntablist DJ Tigerstyle,a cellist and a drummer. The new music is performed live as the audience watches the edited version on a big screen.

This unique project is the brainchild of Indy Hunjan,a 30-something British-Punjabi woman based in Birmingham who runs the organisation Kala Phool that manages artists and organises an annual hip-hop festival. But before Hunjan established Kala Phool 10 years ago,the idea of re-mixing Mother India had already set in. “I grew up watching Radha,the protagonist played by Nargis,who became my role model. Since music is the core of my work,I decided that I would use music to re-tell the story the way I want to,” she says.

Re-telling an epic tale like Mother India isn’t an easy task and so,it was only in 2006 when Hunjan saw a live performance by turntablist,DJ Tigerstyle that she figured out how to go about it. She roped in Tigerstyle and editor Josh Ford to make a 10-minute showcase of the movie which she took to an event attended by industry experts at Birmingham in 2007. The response was upbeat,and Hunjan brought the final 45-minute edited version (with the live performance) to London for a festival in Edinburgh this year. She is now gearing up for showcases in Brighton,Bristol,Coventry and the London Roundhouse. The Guardian reviewed the project and praised the “thoughtful editing of the film’s monumental set pieces by Ford,and the impressive restraint of the new music”.

Hunjan sent us a 10-minute clip since there has been no recording of the full performance as yet. It turned out to be a synopsis of the mammoth film that included the defining moments and the spoiler: Radha’s marriage,she and her husband farming to pay off their debt,and eventually Radha shooting her younger son. Despite no dialogues or subtitles,the short version still captures the gist of the story.

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All the while,Tigerstyle’s musical style is versatile enough to prevent MI21: Mother India 21st Century Remix from becoming a silent,boring video. For the Hindi-speaking audience though,especially the ones who’ve watched the original film,the remixed version doesn’t fill the void of not being able to hear S. Ali Raza’s powerful dialogues and Nargis’ fantastic delivery of them. But those who haven’t seen the film,insists Hunjan,are “motivated to watch the original after seeing the remixed version”.

First published on: 09-09-2009 at 04:39:56 am
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