A musical dozen

A package of 12 films on Indian musical tradition will be part of BIFFes

Film critic and former artistic director of BIFFes, HN Narahari Rao has put together 12 films on the theme of Indian musical tradition and cinema. “Films including Hamsageethe, Tyagaraja, Purandaradasa, Baiju Bawra, Swathi Tirnal, Meera Tansen, Sant Tukaram, Kanakadasa will be screened,” informed N Vidyashankar, Artistic Director BIFFes.

Rao says, “Indian music has a unique tradition encompassing different forms and styles. It is necessary to study Indian cinema focusing on how music has become an integral part. Probably no other country has used music in cinema to the extent that India has.

“India is a country of vast cultural diversity and the traditions we follow have evolved into different forms and styles of music. In the classical mode itself we have different formats such as Carnatic and Hindustani. There is also a rich tradition of folk music.”

Rao says, ever since the release of Alam Ara (1931) songs have been an integral part of our films. “Cinema was considered an extension of professional theatre, where songs were sung by actors on stage. This tradition has continued to this day. As music and dance, became inseparable from cinema, music directors, singers, composers and lyricists found a platform.”

Films for the package are chosen from 1936 to 2015. Vishnupanth Govind Damle’s Sant Tukaram (1936) is a Marathi film about the saint. It was adjudged one of the three best films of world at Venice Film Festival. It was the first Indian film to run in a single theatre for more than a year and set the template for devotional films. The music had a telling impact on the audience. The music was composed by Keshavarao Bhole. On the other end of the spectrum is the Marathi film, Katyar Kaljat Ghusli (2015) based on the eponymous play with music composed by Shankar Ehsan-Loy.

The highlight of Tansen (1943) is its music. Khemchand Prakash had composed the music and KL Saigal, who was at the peak of his popularity played the role of Tansen. It was challenging job for Khemchand to create Hindustani classical music tunes for the songs. There are 13 songs composed in various ragas in this film including Deepaka and Megha Malhar.

A musical feast, Meera (1945) with MS Subbulakshmi in the lead, directed by Ellis R Dungan is memorable. Meera received rave reviews and The Free Press Journal wrote, “Meera transports us into a different world of Bhakti, piety and melody. It shatters the misguided belief that film music in inferior.”

Chittur V Nagaiah’s Tyagayya (1946) is still remembered for its soul-stirring music. Nagayya plays Tyagaraja rendering the numerous songs in his sweet voice with authentic pronunciation of Telugu words.

Vijay Bhat’s Baiju Bawra (1952) was a trendsetter. For the first time Naushad adapted Hindustani classical ragas to create immortal songs. Mohammad Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar became stars through this film.

TV Singh Thakur’s Jagajyothi Basaveshwara (1959) introduced vachanas-a form of rhythmic writing in Kannada that evolved in the 11th century. Starring Honnappa Bhagavatar, Rajkumar K S Ashwath and B Sarojadevi the film was scored by GK Venkatesh.

Y R Swamy’s Bhakta Kanakadasa (1960) depicts Kanakadasa’s spiritual journey. The film starring Rajkumar and Krishna Kumari is Kannada cinema’s 100th production. Scored by M Venkataraju and Dasa Padagalu, the songs were sung by P.B. Srinivas and S Janaki.

Sri Purandara Dasaru (1967) directed by CV Raju starring K. S Ashwath, R Nagendra Rao stole the hearts of music lovers thanks to the Purandaradasa poems sung by ML Vasanthakumari, M Balamuralikrishna and PB Srinivas.

GV Iyer’s Hamsageethe (1975) had few dialogues. Most of the story of singer Venkatasubbaiah is told through characters, who sing. Most part of the films narrated through song sequences. Balamuralikrishna’s compositions are treat while BV Karanth’s background score helped create the right ambience.

Shankarabharanam (1980) directed by K Vishwanathan discussed the chasm between classical and western music. Lenin Rajendran’s Swathi Tirunal (1987) features Anant Nag as Swathi Tirunal Rama Varma, the Maharaja of Travancore.

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 3:34:07 PM |

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