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Legends on reel

Saturday screenings, at the Films Division have been underway for six months now, giving Mumbaites an opportunity to witness rare films, documentaries on eminent personalities and even rare historic footage archived by the Films Division, free of cost, and open to all. In memory of Pandit Ravi Shankar, whose death was an immense loss to the music world, a documentary film on him by Pramod Pati, will be screened today. Along with it, Bismillah of Benaras, a film on the Shehnai genius Bismillah Khan, made by noted filmmaker Nasreen Munni Kabir will be screened. Kabir will also be present for interactions post the screenings.

Bismillah of Benaras
Still from the film, Bismillah of Benaras, by Nasreen Munni Kabir. Photo Credit / Peter Chappell 

“The Films Division was very keen on showing one of my documentaries; I wanted to showcase this documentary film as it is about a great classical musician. It’s been showcased a lot abroad but hasn’t been screened at film festivals in India. So, I’m looking forward to screening it here; I hope it gets a good response,” says Kabir, who made the film Bismillah of Benaras in 2002.

Pandit Ravi Shankar
Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar performing at a concert in the city. File Photo

In the film, an 86-year-old Bismillah Khan reflects on his illustrious career, concerts across the globe and most of all, the honour of being invited to perform on the evening of August 14, 1947, when India was declared independent. The documentary charts Khan saheb’s history, from his formative years as a student training under the guidance of his uncle and guru, Ali Bux, until he came to be regarded as one of India’s most respected classical performers. “It was a privilege to interview him. He was this fabulous personality and a true artist at a deep and spiritual level. I felt humbled in his presence,” she recollects adding, “He was also a great story-teller. So, it flows in the film, as he engages you in his story.”

Pramod Pati, who is considered as one of Films Division’s most experimental filmmakers, made the film Ravi Shankar in 1970. This engaging and inspiring effort switches effortlessly from delightful cinema verite in the opening sequence as Panditji entertains guests at a party and plays back recordings of his work, to concert sequences which go from being studied to flamboyant.

“The FD Zone programme is an initiative of Films Division to foster a culture of documentary viewing, appreciation and to create a discourse on the aesthetics of non-fiction filmmaking,” says Avijit Mukul Kishore, an FD zone panel member. “The two films being screened this Saturday are both great films. FD has the tradition of documenting Indian history and celebrating Indian culture. The film on Ravi Shankar is our tribute to the maestro while the film on Bismillah Khan, features great conversations with him,” he adds.

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