‘7 Notes to Infinity,' a 60-minute documentary, pays homage to Indian classical music.
Shrenik Rao does not remember when it was that he tuned in to Indian classical music. But he remembers that when he tried to gain more information by looking up some documentaries on Carnatic music, he drew a blank.
“Here is this rich heritage of music that we have and, so far, nothing has been done on the music as such. There are documentaries on musicians and schools of music but nothing on the system of Indian classical music as such, say something similar to Martin Scorses' ‘The Blues: A Musical Journey',” exclaims Shrenik, talking on the phone from Hyderabad where he is based.
The filmmaker, broadcaster and academician-turned-filmmaker decided to remedy this anomaly by making a film that would attempt to explain the significance, aesthetics and cultural history of this aural heritage. The attempt, says Shrenik, was to make a movie that “explores the universality of music through the infinite compositions created from the seven notes of Indian music”.
He says the more he listened to classical music, the more fascinated he became. The movie, thus, is also a personal reflection of his journey into Indian music and Shrenik has juxtaposed Indian classical music with various other genres of music like opera, blues, jazz and Chinese. Without dumbing it down or making it an esoteric exercise, the 60-minute documentary in English, explains the filmmaker, tries to understand Indian classical music through interviews and renderings by eminent musicians and singers like Dr. Balamuralikrishna, T.V. Gopalakrishnan, Sanjay Subhramaniam, Aswathy Tirunal Rama Varma, Ghatom Karthik, Amrutha Venkatesh and so on.
‘7 Notes…' explains the context in which Indian classical music evolved, the place of the Trinity, the role of Swati Tirunal, and eminent musicians' take on music, and then goes on to present-day shots of children learning music in a small village called Perla in Kasaragod in Kerala.
“Some of the musicians we spoke to are just amazing. For instance, there is a pithy explanation by Dr. Balamuralikrishna sir on what is Carnatic music. Karthik, who has a doctorate in Sanskrit does ‘Samkrhythm', a rap in Sanskrit for the film,” he adds.
Trailers of the film on YouTube show interesting glimpses of the musicians talking about their perception of music and some soulful presentations by the vocalists. Keen to present chaste renditions of classical music without going into the area of fusion, Shrenik has chosen six distinctive songs that are presented as an example of the wide range of compositions in Indian classical music.
Shot extensively in Padmanabhapuram Palace in Kanyakumari district, and in Padmanabha Swamy temple, Kuthiramalika and Kowdiar Palace in Thiruvanthapruam, the documentary presents Swati Tirunal's compositions in the Hindustani and Carnatic streams of music. “He was perhaps the only one to compose in both the styles. However, I have not delved into the differences between the two styles; my attempt has been to understand Indian music. My idea is to present Indian classical music with a global feel to it,” clarifies Shrenik.
Before he signs off, he says he must put on record his gratitude to the State Bank of Travancore (SBT) for having sponsored the premiere of the film in the capital city.
“There are lots of sponsors for all kinds of glitzy stuff but for something as special as this, I had to knock on several doors before SBT agreed to sponsor it” he concludes.
‘7 Notes to Infinity', a 60-minute documentary film on Indian classical music, will be premiered in Thiruvananthapuram on the eve of World Music Day – June 20, 2012. Produced by his company 7MB (7 Media Broadcasting Pvt), the film will be released in seven Indian cities on June 21. It will also be screened in Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.
Premiere of the film
Shrenik Rao's documentary film ‘Mugabe's Zimbabwe' looks into the tyranny of the despot's regime in Zimbabwe. A keen environmentalist and cyclist, his environmental / adventure series titled ‘TreeCycle with Shrenik Rao', saw him cycling from Kanyakumari to Kashmir – a distance of 4,500 km. The journey has been documented into a six-part series. A graduate of London School of Economics, Shrenik worked as a broadcaster and academician before movies beckoned.