Bombay Showcase

In memory of Jagjit Singh

Brahmanand S. Siingh’s film on Jagjit Singh has been lauded as the official selection at this year’s New York Indian Film Festival.— Photo: Special arrangement  

Despite the huge success of his RD Burman documentary, Pancham Unmixed: Mujhe Chalte Jaana Hai , Brahmanand S. Siingh had almost decided not to make a film on any musician again. “There are huge operational challenges involved,” he says.

Yet, here he comes with a film on ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh titled, Kaagaz Ki Kashti which will be screened this evening.

The film has been lauded as the official selection at this year’s New York Indian Film Festival. “I have admired Jagjit-ji since childhood,” says Siingh. “I thought there was something very special and rootsy about his voice. I found his life story fascinating. I even met him socially thrice, but never thought I would make a film on him.”

When the ghazal singer passed away in October 2011, the filmmaker’s motivation levels initially dropped, “After a while, I felt there was so much to say about him,” says the filmmaker. “Hence, I started this project three years back.” Like with his earlier film on the seminal music composer, Siingh says his main aim was to look for a gripping narrative, and unique inputs by those associated with the ghazal maestro. “People had many stories to tell. Anecdotes are like metaphors, and if interwoven well, they enhance the script,” he says. “Everybody quoted comes in as a character.”

But this time around, the challenges seemed fewer. “In the case of the Pancham film, there was very little footage,” says Siingh. “We had to depend mainly on photographs and interviews. Burman worked mainly in the studio, and there wasn’t much live stage material. In the case of Jagjit-ji, one not only got his concerts and private sittings, but also snippets of his interviews.”

The ghazal maestro’s wife Chitra has been interviewed at length. “She played a very important part in his life,” says the filmmaker. “They both brought a certain glamour to the ghazal world. Later, they suffered common pain after the death of their son Vivek, but both handled it differently.”

Over two hours long, Kaagaz Ki Kashti also features interviews with Ustad Zakir Hussain, Ghulam Ali, Pankaj Udhas, Talat Aziz, Anup Jalota, Ronu Majumdar, Roop Kumar Rathod and Deepak Pandit, besides lyricist Gulzar. “While working on such a project, so much information comes in,” says Siingh. “Filtering plays a very important role. The quotes have to go with the script flow. Editor Jabeen Merchant has done a great job.”

In addition to the footage and other material, the choice of songs was extremely crucial. “Jagjit- ji had numerous hits over the years. In this case, we decided not to focus on the popularity of the songs, but on how they would fit into the narrative,” says the filmmaker. “At times, we chose lesser-known songs, because they reflected a particular phase of his life.”

With that overarching principle in mind for the film, it became even more difficult to include the immensely popular ‘Honton Se Chhoolo Tum’ . “Then, an idea struck me,” says Siingh. “There’s this sequence where we had to describe his death. There, instead of playing the original song, we just used a violin rendition by Deepak Pandit. It went perfectly with the scene.”

Another conscious decision was to avoid using clips from music videos. “Such videos work well individually,” says the filmmaker. “But the screen characters may not match what we are trying to depict. So we felt we would only use audio tracks and concert footage.”

At the moment, Siingh’s focus is to have as many public screenings as possible. He says, “In the long run, we may release it on DVD or Blu-Ray. Though the demand for physical products is declining, I still feel it can be a good collector’s item. I am also planning to write a book to go along with the DVD, just to provide interesting snippets about Jagjit-ji’s life. This may take time, though.” According to Siingh, the ghazal maestro lived a complete life. “He was full of admiration for others, and always encouraged true talent,” he says. “That’s something I have tried to portray in the film.” Naturally, anyone interested in ghazals and Jagjit Singh fans alike will treasure the experience of watching the film.

Kaagaz Ki Kashti will be screened this evening at Ajivasan Hall, in Santa Cruz West at 7 p.m. Donor passes are priced at Rs. 150. Entry free for students of Ajivasan Music School

The author is a freelance music writer



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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 4:17:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/entertainment/In-memory-of-Jagjit-Singh/article14489840.ece

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