Kishori Amonkar: How Amol Palekar immortalised Tai in his documenatary Bhinna Shadja
"In that (her music) there is great happiness, great sadness, great anger, great frustration, great desperation — everything just comes into focus in this great concentrated little piece," says the tabla mastero Zakir Hussain about Kishori Amonkar's music in the documentary Bhinna Shadja. Hussain further explains that when he listens to her, it seems to be a painting that embodies every detail of someone’s life.
When renowned classical vocalist Kishori Amonkar passed away on 3 April 2017 after a brief illness, she left behind a huge gap in the world of Indian classical music.
Amonkar was the leading exponent of the Jaipur gharana. She prioritised the expression of emotion in her music, she frequently departed from the gharana's conventions of rhythm, ornamentation, and broader musical structure in order to intensify the impact of the music. And even if she was sometimes criticised for it, this was also her distinctive style.
Amonkar started training as a musician at a very young age. Her mother was the well-known vocalist Mogubai Kurdikar, who trained under Alladiya Khan Saheb, the doyen of the Jaipur gharana. While learning the finer points and techniques of the Jaipur gharana from her mother, Amonkar also developed her own personal style, which reflects the influence of other gharanas and was generally regarded as an individual variant of the Jaipur tradition.
Amol Palekar in his documentary Bhinna Shadja has tried to bring out the story behind Amonkar's music which is woven with comments on her music from masteroes like Zakir Hussain, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia and Ustad Amjad Ali Khan.
The beauty and depth of her music is revealed in this documentary through conversations with many stalwarts. She explains the underlying philosophy of her ragas. In a scene, she tries and explains to us the underlying role of the 'Shadja' which may be a manifestation in music of Advaita (non-duality of the universe).
The documentary even showcases her past lectures and of Mogubai singing. In his review of the film for The Hindu, TM Krishna says, "If I have any complaint about this film then it would only be a wish for more footage as each one is very revealing. Kishori Amonkar also faces head-on the many criticisms about her — both musically and on the personal front — giving us the perspective that we don't often hear."
Amol Palekar talked about how the idea of the documentary was conceived in an interview. He said the subject of documentaries and different musical masteroes came up when he was chatting with Amonkar and he asked her why there wasn't any documentary on her. Amonkar told him, "Maybe you should make it." That is how the idea of the documentary was born.
Watch the 69 minute documentary Bhinna Shadja, which when translated means 'Note Extraordinaire' here: