It was rather tempting to feature musicians like ghazal singer Bhupinder Singh “who is also a fabulous guitarist”, says Rudradeep Bhattacharjee, an independent Mumbai-based filmmaker. But he wanted to talk to people whom the public doesn’t know about for his film The Human Factor.
In Bangalore for a screening of the film at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), Rudradeep spoke of how his interest in the subject of the film was triggered when he came across a book in the library and read New Zealand-based ethnomusicologist Gregory D. Booth’s book Behind The Curtain: Making Music in Mumbai’s Film Studios. The story of the Lords was part of that book. When he started wondering in 2005 how he could film the story of these unsung musicians, he decided to zero in on this father-son duo of Cawas and Kersi Lord and tell the story though their eyes. When he approached the Lords to make a film on them, they were sceptical, because no one had really spoken to them before. “Kaun dekhega film?” was Bujji’s response. “Your family and mine?”
Talking of the lack of archival material in the country on our cinematic history, he says: “We’ve already lost an entire generation of filmmakers, and their stories. Luckily for me, the Lords were also amateur photographers. Bujji Lord gave me a briefcase with the combination lock, and in it I found lots of photographs! There was also a rare picture of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan with Lata Mangeshkar!”
Rudradep points how these musicians who crafted their own subaltern history of Hindi music were a rather busy lot — they worked about three shifts a day, earned good money, could write western notations. “Many of them were Goans and didn’t listen to Hindi film music at home. That was work! Many didn’t bother that they didn’t make a name for themselves. Bujji Lord was one of the few who fought for it with the Cine Musicians Association. It was only in the late 70s that it finally did happen.” Many like Kersi knew they wouldn’t get credit, but still worked…until he got upset when he didn’t get credit for Pakeezah. And stopped arranging music.
The documentary had its world premier at the New York Indian Film Festival and in India at the International Documentary and Short Film Festival in Kerala, and has travelled to several other international film festivals. “But it’s largely a film that connects with Indians,” he says. The self-funded film will soon be released on DVD. Rudradeep can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org