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Phir Se Samm Pe Aana preview: Imaging the acoustic

This is a meditation on the performative sites of Girgaum’s Hindustani classical music which urges you to listen closely.

A still from Phir Se Samm Pe Aana

Prateek Rawat

As the camera lingers on the portraits of maestros asymmetrically lining the walls, or strangely ghostly interiors and weather-beaten exteriors, while the halls echo with riyaaz (musical practice) or an anecdote, one feels the nudge of history in the memories of places and people.

Phir Se Samm Pe Aana is an eclectic documentation of the historical tradition and contemporary practice of Hindustani classical music in Girgaum, a neighbourhood that was part of the 'native town' in colonial Bombay.

Inhabited by a vibrant community of singers, patrons and audiences, these sites of performance and practice are willing to narrate their
tales to anyone who listens closely.

The film found its possibility in co-producer Dr Tejaswini Niranjana and director Surabhi Sharma’s intensive research into local cultural histories and contemporary practices of 19th and 20th century Hindustani classical music in Mumbai.

The result is a meditative reflection on the sites of performative practices and their effort to narrate the stories of this space and its intangible ethos.

Shot in Girgaum’s local music schools, Phir Se Samm Pe Aana frames the architecture which serves as the tangible repertoire of its classical music tradition. A composite sound design of voiceover interviews, ambient acoustics and daily riyaaz is amalgamated with static,
cyclical and repetitive shots of these performative sites; thus gradually unravelling their histories, customs, and perpetuation.

The film is a foray into the engagement of individuals within a community with its cultural psyche and their participation within the collective. The narratives that emerge are fragmentary and plural, a series of recollections and impressions which let the viewers weave their own narrative influenced by the experience of space and time that materializes through Sharma’s eclectic direction.

Why you must watch this film

Sharma’s latest documentary follows in the rhythm of her critically acclaimed films Bidesia In Bambai and Jahaji Music which explored issues of music, gender and globalization. Premiered at the 19th Mumbai film festival to critical acclaim, the film is both an artistic
self-revaluation and a commentary on the labour of art.

Sharma’s experiment with form and time within the documentary tradition as she grapples with the representation of a musical tradition is a curious exercise in blending image and acoustics with metaphorical acuity. The film plays with the possibilities of documentary film practice within contemporary Indian cinema.

Its self-reflexive engagement with its cinematic form and its ethnographic source crafts a critically engaging film that embraces the plurality of voices and experiences characteristic of the lives of communities and their cultures in the Indian subcontinent.

Phir Se Samm Pe Aana will be screened at IAWRT India’s 14th Asian Women’s Film Festival 2018 on Tuesday 6 March 2018 at 2:45 pm at the India International Centre, New Delhi

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IAWRT Asian Women's Film Festival