Lecture Series "Unraveling Tales: Exploring Intersections between Folkloristics and Literature" - 8th July to 26th August 2021
This talk studies how Indian film music has used the tropes and forms of bhakti poetry; particularly, it examines how the 13th century Sufi mystic and court poet Amir Khusro’s idea of Sufism and the musical form of the qawwali (Sufi musical form) the padas of the 15th-century mystic Kabir have been used in two Hindi film songs – the qawwali “Na to caravan ki talaash hain” from Barsaat ki Raat (1960) and the song “Laaga chunri mein daag chupaaon kaise” from Dil hi to Hain (1963) respectively. Historically in the India, many such compositions of saint singers belonging to diverse bhakti traditions lives through the oral traditions. Moreover, the written version of such compositions functions as a parallel means of dissemination without necessarily overriding the oral mode of transmission. The fluidity of the corpus facilitates the songs to transform and adapt to the changing contexts culminating in an intricate web of intertextual references that often strung the songs and their performance. Indian film music that emerged from Indian Popular Cinema serves as unique space wherein a number of musical traditions coalesce and more specifically features the songs of the mystics in performances. Music directors and lyricists have drawn inspiration from the many bhakti traditions, borrowing from it, imagery, tropes, and even musical forms used by the saint composers often interspersing within longer film songs whole or partial excerpts of their compositions when re-contextualized into film songs. While this has made film music a new site for the transmission of the compositions, it has also painted the film songs in mystical hues that tug at their purely romance-oriented boundaries. This talk will study how Amir Khusro’s idea of Sufism and the musical form of the qawwali (Sufi musical form) have been used in “Na to caravan ki talaash hai”. It will also consider how “Laaga chunri mein daag” uses imagery from some of Kabir’s compositions to sing allegorically of the journey of the human soul from God to the material world.