An apt introduction to the Khayal and the various dimensions of its gharanas.

There is a beautiful shot in the Films Division documentary Khayal: A Musical Journey with Zakir Hussain. Pandit Jasraj is alone in a temple with his tanpura singing a composition in Raag Puriya Dhanshree. The evening light filters through the Asoka trees and the camera catches the sparkle in his eye; the glow of bliss.

Elsewhere in this 75-minute film, produced and directed by Usha Deshpande in 1987, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma explains that the purpose of Indian classical music was not entertainment but the experience of ultimate bliss when the musician, the instrument, the audience and the surroundings merge to create one entity.

The reason, explains tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, is the origin of Indian classical music in the sacred hymns of Samaveda dating back to 1500 BC. Against scenic locales, Zakir Hussain traces the journey of Indian music from Vedic chants to song types called prabandhs that evolved to Dhrupad and later Khayal gayaki.

Khayal, he explains, was desi music rising to the status of classical. It combined the classicism of dhrupad, the romanticism of folk music and the religious aspects of prabandhs and the qawwalis to create a spontaneous, melodic, playful and rhythmic style. It was also perhaps the first form of secular music that combined the best of devotional temple music, qawwalis and Sufi music.

The film brings forth the various dimensions of khayal gharanas including Gwalior, Kirana, Jaipur, Agra, Rampur-Sahaswan and Mewati gharanas and performances by the greats such as Mogubai Kurdikar, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Amir Khan, Alla Rakha Khan, Pandit Jasraj, Kumar Gandharva, Bhimsen Joshi, K. G. Ginde, Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Parveen Sultana and Dilshad Khan.

He explains the distinctions and intricacies of different gharanas against the fort of Gwalior, the Taj Mahal and the palaces in Jaipur thereby blending the aesthetic sensitivity that runs through the architecture and the musical tradition of the region. Do not miss the intricate geometric stonework of Amer Fort near Jaipur and the vocal manoeuvring of the Jaipur Gharana greats such as Kishori Amonkar, Kesarbai Kelkar, Mogubai Kurdikar and Mallikarjun Mansur.

At one point in the documentary, Pandit Ravi Shankar explains how rendering of the same Raaga by the same artist led to a unique experience each time because the mood and the improvisation by the artist within the given constraints of the Raga. He also explains how Independence and media exposure has led to amalgamation of two more gharana styles sometimes with magical effect as in the singing of Parveen Sultana. This is a good film for those who wish to get a basic understanding of the world of Hindustani music. But since it was shot 25 years ago, it may not have the sophistication of today's films. On the positive side, the documentary has caught maestros like Kumar Gandharva, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan in their prime.

Khayal : A Musical Journey with Zakir Hussain

Where: Little Theatre, NCPA, Mumbai

When: July 13 at 6.30 p.m.

Keywords: KhayalZakir Hussain


Hand it to the UstadFebruary 15, 2013