Review

Cinestaan Curates: Baluji traces the indefatigable spirit and generosity of the blind sitarist

Release Date: 2020 / 22min


Cinestaan Rating

  • Direction:

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Baluji is an ode to a musician who embraced life despite the seemingly insurmountable hurdles in his path.

Cécile Embleton’s short documentary Baluji is one part of a tryptic of films about blind musicians being developed by her in collaboration with the Baluji Music Foundation. The film highlights the work and life of Baluji Shrivastav, an award-winning blind Indian sitarist whose journey led him from a humble village in India to Europe, where he started Britain’s first blind orchestra, Inner Vision Orchestra.

The documentary traces the work of Baluji, who has performed across the world and recorded albums with artistes such as Stevie Wonder, Massive Attack, Annie Lennox, Oasis and Shakira.

We are taken to his humble beginnings and his fascination with the sitar, which began in his childhood. Despite losing his eyesight at a young age due to sheer carelessness and neglect, he channelled all his energy into music, becoming a teacher of the instrument as well as a performer. Aided and encouraged by his partner, Linda Shanson, he moved to Europe, where his world view expanded and he became aware of the diverse sounds and instruments from across the world.

Baluji’s journey is a fascinating one, but what is even more compelling is his indefatigable spirit and generosity. He embraced his blindness as it enabled him to become who he is today and have incredible experiences with musicians from across the world. However, the metamorphosis involved a realigning of his understanding of Indian classical music and its position in world music. 

The film does not rest on his laurels, of which there are many, including him being appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2016 for services to music. Instead, it turns its lens on to Baluji’s embrace of diverse cultures and sounds, and his acceptance of himself within it. It is a crucial, humbling lesson and Baluji narrates nuggets from his inspirational story with a ready smile.

The film is being screened online as part of the Auroville Film Festival 2022. Click here to book the film by 23 January. You can then watch it till 8 February.

 

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