Magical moments

Interview

Magical moments

The first part of the film tries to catch the early period of Zakir Hussain’s growing up stage and gradually his learning from masters of Indian classical music including his legendary father Ustad Allah Rakha.

Ustad Zakir  Hussain started playing the tabla at the age of seven years. His first lessons were through his father and he would pick up very fast. He learnt a lot through his surroundings where they lived especially from the streets of Mahim. The fairs and festivals on the streets of Mahim area of Mumbai deeply impacted Zakir’s young mind.

The film shares how he would be playing with the drummers during these festivals. He was a keen listener and understood the art of improvisation of his own music at an early age.  He had the privilege of playing with Ustad Alauddin Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pandit Jasraj, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan,  Pandit Birju Maharaj and Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma from a very young age. His father’s influence and aura was seen in his love and respect for the music. He followed his father for a long time and kept improvising on what he got as a part of a legendary tradition.

The second part of the film focuses on how he moved on to other parts of the world to imbibe, explore and incorporate newer forms of world music and played it through his tabla. The included Puerto Rican, African, Cuban and Jazz styles of world music which he imbibed into his traditional tabla. 

The movie details  his techniques of playing tabla in diverse Indian styles like the full-hand use of the Punjab Gharana, the two- finger use of the Delhi Gharana and also the three-finger use of the Lucknow Gharana.

His tabla also magically mimics  pigeon calls, a man-and-woman conversations, the flow of a waterfall and also of a pot resonantly drawing water from the well.

These techniques are used well during jugalbandi sessions with greats like Pandit Birju Maharaj and Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and so on.

The film portrays Ustad Zakir Hussain as an epitome of humility when it comes to accompanying other masters of music and dance. He enhances the lead musician’s art form rather than only showcasing his own.

The film showcases a variety of music played by Ustad Zakir Hussain from his tabla solos,  jugalbandis with  vocalists, instrumentalists, dancers and other percussion players of Hindustani classical and Western classical music.

His felicity is such that his tabla notes  even blend seamlessly with the the liquid notes of santoor and finally reflect the emotions of a dance form through the tabla.  The film truly captures the delicate nuances of tabla playing, making of an Ustad and the  evolution of Indian classical music through the ages.

Director Sumantra Ghosal says the idea for this film came to him while doing the  Wah Taj ad with him.

“We thought that we should get together. I was very respectful of him and I am interested in classical music which inspired me to move ahead. I think that most of the musicians are not really captured so well. I really wanted to focus on Zakir during his prime,’’ says Sumantra.

He adds, “This film was made within a span of three years. I have shot him here when he visits India every year for three months and also taken his shots abroad. I edited the existing stuff for three  months.’’

The film has focussed on the street-festival (Uruj)in Mahim and also on Pandit Ravi Shankar’s influence on Zakir to always keep his roots alive in India by performing every year for Indian audiences. The second part focusses on the world music that influenced Zakir.

On Zakir’s humility, the director comments, “He is beyond the petty things. He has worked with the best of musicians and performed on stage for 28 years. He is a genius and he enjoys music. He has a very thinking and probing mind.’’

It is not easy to feel optimistic about the next generation of Ustads though there are many talented performers.

Says the director, “I focussed on him as a performer and not as a teacher.’’  And the high points while making the film?

Says Ghosal, ‘‘Dealing with a musician of that standing, I got a glimpse of the spiritual. Hearing these people is like being  allowed into a world that is whole. No magnificent anecdotes. Just that he carries a lot of culture within. He carries the hindu culture, the muslim tehzeeb, rock influences, and the culture of many centuries.”

The film is a beautiful celebration of  a musician who belongs  to the world even though his soul is Indian.

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