Ustad Amjad Ali Khan shoots for a promotional video of Suman Ghosh's Kadambari at Jorasanko Thakurbari on Tuesday. Picture by B. Halder
Fingers racing along the strings of the sarod, playing strains of Ekla chalo re, and silver hair blowing in the April breeze, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan cut a regal picture sitting on the steps of Jorasanko Thakurbari on Tuesday morning.
The sarod maestro was shooting for a promotional video of Suman Ghosh's period film, Kadambari, slated for release on Panchishe Baisakh, Tagore's birth anniversary.
"I just realised this is my first visit to Thakurbari. I'm grateful to Bickram Ghosh and Suman Ghosh that the shoot is taking place in such a historic location," smiled Khan.
Overcome with "nostalgia", he recalled the beginning of his association with Tagore. "Earlier, I was never interested in Rabindrasangeet. I found it sad, too slow-paced, and I guess it was because anybody and everybody was singing Rabindrasangeet, which I now think was very damaging."
But a chance to interact with Suchitra Mitra over research for an album changed his thoughts. "I started rediscovering Rabindrasangeet and I also started playing Tagore in my concerts. I gradually realised the genius of Tagore. How he took liberty with ragas and made them sound beautiful in a world where everyone is scared of ' log kya kahenge'."
The sarod maestro took a stroll around Thakurbari and was glad that the state government had preserved the house. "It also needs to be maintained well. Unfortunately in our country, places like these are not maintained the way Beethoven's home is maintained in Germany, Shakespeare's in England or Tchaikovsky's in Russia. I hope the chief minister takes a close look at the building," he added.
This is the first time the sarod guru has been "actively involved in a film score" but it is not his first brush with cinema. Khan had played himself in the 1980 film, Sparsh. "I was playing in a concert hall where Shabana Azmi brings Naseeruddin Shah, who plays a blind man," he explained.
Remembering his association with the likes of Satyajit Ray and Yash Chopra, the musician said it was his involvement with classical music that kept him away from films.
So when Suman and Bickram, who has composed the music for Kadambari, met him in Delhi, Khan was taken aback but agreed on seeing the film. "I really liked it. The story was beautiful and the atmosphere, the shots and the ambience attracted me. Also, my association with Bickram and his father goes back a long way, I could not say no to him."
The film explores the family dynamics of Thakurbari and Kadambari's role and relationship with her brother-in-law Rabindranath Tagore.
Apart from playing on Ekla cholo re and Kon khela je khelbo kokhon, Khan has also recorded some of his own compositions in Ganesh Kalyan, Hansdhwani and Darbari that will be used to layer the film's background score.
For the director, it has been a dream come true. "I wrote the script in a lyrical manner and I had thought of the sarod," said Suman, grateful that Khan had agreed.