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Remembering the ghazal king Jagjit Singh

Friday, November 02, 2018

Brahmanand Singh recounts to Verus Ferreira how he let old footage of the golden voiced ghazal singer speak for itself

Film directors are in charge of executing a creative vision for a feature film. While they are responsible for everything in a movie, Brahmanand S Singh, a National award-winning filmmaker and writer falls in a different category. He makes the best music documentaries, from RD Burman’s Pancham to his latest Kaagaz Ki Kashti portraying the life story of late ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh. Historically speaking, this movie is important as it chronicles the life of Jagjit in a fascinating and moving way about the vicissitudes of his life.

How did the idea of making a documentary on Jagjit Singh come to your mind?

It was on my mind even before making the one on Panchamda. Jagjit Singh was my teenage fascination, coming from a music family; his music made an impact on me. I had decided to not make the film once he passed away, but then a few years later, I felt the urge to make it—leave aside any impediments in the way and just go ahead and make it. This probably is the best way to document a legacy of someone as wonderful as him.

Was it easy to access Jagjit Singh’s footage?

Eventually, in three to four years of making it, I did, but it was quite a task. The first task was digging them out and discovering them. After this, many offered them very lovingly, while many thought it’s good to have them in their collection and not part with it.

What made you use the title of Jagjit’s song for the film and what does it mean to you?

To me, it symbolises everything and many things that Jagjit Singh, a man from humble roots and simple being that he was, might have actually thought. To me, it also becomes a metaphor for all of us who value our childhood. I am not surprised, for it became a cult number which everyone enjoys.

Trying to put someone’s life on screen is a challenge. How did you decide what to choose and what to leave out?

It was a challenge. To weave it into a narrative and to hold people for two hours is even more daunting. It took us 4,000 edit hours when a normal, good feature film takes 600 to 1000 hours. The other part is the craft of storytelling. I guess it evolved with painstaking meticulousness from a very dedicated, creative and critical team of highly talented cinema professionals.

In a documentary there usually is no script. How did you decide on the flow of the film?

That’s what I said, like you write scripts on paper for fiction, for a marathon film like this, you write it on the edit table with broad outlines of structure and rhythm in your mind. Like you do 12-16 drafts on paper for a feature, here an equivalent of it will probably be six to eight substantial revisions and revisits and restructuring of your narrative to make that gripping narrative that people would sit back and stay glued to. Finally, keep polishing it until it shines through its structure and flow for the end result.

Did you face any roadblocks when you were starting out?

There were too many roadblocks; if we go into them it will run into many pages, but those are part of any huge project that one takes up. But I am happy, the kind of footage with which we have woven the narrative, the kind of reflections and insights that people from the industry gave us… like Ustad Zakir Hussain, Gulzar, Mahesh Bhatt, Subhash Ghai, Pankaj Udhas, Talat Aziz, and of course, Chitra Singh, and many others offered to help us create the narrative.

How much time did it take to make this documentary?

Almost three to four years, It was a huge project, lots of heartaches and lows but also many highs and a sense of satisfaction. Overall, I feel it was a wonderfully pleasant experience and highly enlightening in so many ways.

What aspect did you like of Jagjit and has that come out in the film?

First of all I am a big fan of his. I have met him only three or four times and never with any idea that I would be making a film on him. I liked his simplicity, humour and the lightness with which he took everything. At the same time, the depth with which he always approached his music was equally enchanting. He is one of those wonderful beings in whose company you felt inspired and elevated and at the same time, rooted and practical.

What part has Chitra Singh played in this documentary?

Chitraji has been supportive, but right at the beginning she had warned us not to expect too much of that support.

Are you looking at an international release sometime soon with a DVD release too?

On DVD in a limited quantity and digital, so as to reach many as possible.

Which next music personality would you love to make a film on one day?

I’m not so sure if it’s going to be a music personality, though I am not ruling it out either. I am a little hooked to transformational content and biographies are a big draw for me. You will be hearing about it very soon.

Kaagaz Ki Kashti releases today exclusively under PVR LIVE at PVR cinemas.

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