National award winning filmmaker Brahmanand Siingh feels “creative artists have become too dependent on technology”. The writer, director who made a biopic on Late Jagjit Singh “Kaagaz Ki Kashti”, and a feature-length documentary on R. D. Burman, “Pancham Unmixed: Mujhe Chalte Jaana Hai”, adds that artists today “find it easy to approach things by trying to figure out what will work rather than expressing their inner creativity and making it work”.
Siingh is now working on a web series on RD Burman called “The Pancham Legacy”. IANSlife got in a conversation with Siingh to know more about the project, his love for music and the current scene of the Indian music industry.
Tell us about the upcoming web series you are working on.
Siingh: About a decade ago, I had spent two-three years making “Pancham Unmixed: Mujhe Chalte Jaana Hai.”ï¿½ and it became one of the most loved and treasured films of all time, with an almost cult success, you can say. Among the 350 plus screenings wherever I have been invited with the film, everyone invariably asked, what next are you doing on Panchamda.
In due course of time, with my constant growing understanding of Panchamda and his music, it would often occur to me that while doing the film, I was bound by many limitations of time and length, but there’s so much to explore, understand and share about his music. Each passing year, one keeps discovering newer dimension of RD’s musicï¿½ and I thought, about a year back, it’s just appropriate to give the Pancham crazy and Pancham hungry millions a longer version of many of the things I could not cover in the film version or could touch upon only briefly. This is one of the best ways to explore his huge and growing legacy and delight the world.
What will the web series talk about?
Siingh: The six part web-series will explore his huge influence and impact on today’s musicians who are at their peak creating their own music. Having known many of them, it’s impossible to come across anyone worth their contemporary name and stature, who is, in their own ways, in some way or the other, not charmed or influenced by Panchamda’s music. Their insights and internalizations, in addition to takes on mysterious elements like why an iPhone X launch or Heineken beer commercial use Pancham’s music almost as if it is the contemporary in-thing for everyone. It’s not that these big brands have any dearth of options.
Then, in a structured and episodic way, we track Panchamda’s huge influence on corporate houses, the millennials and generations X,Y,Zï¿½ who pick his songs as their favourites even without much knowing who composed it or how they were done ï¿½ the why’s and other areas give us a huge insight into what makes compositions and songs, timeless. Along with these, hundreds of stories and anecdotes behind his compositions and experimentations. And of course, the human side of him that millions want to knowï¿½ the ups and downs, which we can examine and explore in detail. In short, the entire Pancham mystique which millions want to know today and which I could not cover of felt was too little in the film made a decade back.
What made you think this is the right time to create a documentary on RD Burman?
Siingh: I feel any time is right time to create anything on Panchamda. He is so timeless. But yes, the kind of excitement and search for his grammar and mind-set of creations I feel is there today is amazing. Even people who are not in the business of creating music enjoys them because they are applicable and inspiring in anything that we may choose to do.
Also, we need to, every now and then, keep doing something like this to revive and carry our legends and legacies to the next generations, which, if not done, makes people familiar with the name but without understating the enormity and dimensions of their works.
You created a biopic on Jagjit Singh. Do you plan to create a web series on him too?
Siingh: As of now, not very sure. But who knows, a little later, maybe, yes. It’s taken me ten years after doing the film on Panchamda to embark on this landmark journey. I am trying to crack a way in which we archive our legacies and enjoy their works, work-processes, mind-sets and journeys while constantly learning from them and getting inspired. Inspirational Entertainment, while retaining all the tenets of good narrative, is missing from this country.
In a world which is ruled by electronic dance music and remixes of various songs, how you think the legacy of Jagjit Singh can still remain alive?
Siingh: People like Jagjit Singh are, I feel, beyond formats. With his Panjabi tappas and many foot-tapping ghazals (an unheard concept before him), he has made people dance in any concert where he performed ï¿½ the world over ï¿½ much before the electronic dance mix had caught on.
So it’s a matter of providing strong music with catchy rhythms and beats. People have been dancing to it from the time of “Mera Naam Chin Chin Chun” and Elvis Presley’s numbers. The greatest plus point of timeless creations and timeless geniuses is that they remain valid and relevant across time and across generations. The idea is to capture their stories and legacies with sufficient punch and panache and charm to make it appealing to people irrespective of generational gaps.
What is your take on the current music scenario?
Siingh: I feel good music is still being created but the percentage has gone down. So, if in the 50s, 60s, 70s, a large percentage of songs would be gems, that number went down in the last 30-40 years. A good ball park reference point invariably is, how many songs of which era do you remember, irrespective of your age.
In today’s music too, some music created are still gems and maybe we need to push the limits in the quality of compositions beyond just what sells and what may seem popular. What becomes popular is also largely dependent on what you churn out. Else, just to cite one example, Jagjit Singh could not have enthralled an audience of 50,000 at a time when ghazal appreciation was limited to audiences of just a few hundreds.
I feel, with some exceptions, creative artists have become too dependent on technology and find it easy to approach things by trying to figure out what will work rather than expressing their inner creativity and making it work. In any era, what does not work is far more always than what works .
So, why be so dependent on popular choices, why not create a trend. That entrepreneurial, risk taking element and the formulating absolutely original stuff is missing by and large. They also need to give it more time and attention in one go than they are able to do so in an age of WhatsApp and Social Media ï¿½ there are too many concentration-breaking elements present today than it was in the past. There’s no need to wish them away nor can they be, but we need to raise ourselves above it and manage them to our advantage and still find time and concentration to create masterpieces with greater frequency.
Any future projects besides “The Pancham Legacy”?
Siingh: I do have a few more in progress in different stages of development. One of them is an international collaboration on the Sufi, Rumi and a few more related with either social causes or around music, the two genres that excite me and fascinate me most. We will talk about them at the right time. And very soon.