99 Songs and The Disciple

No Spoilers

It has been a weekend of watching musical movies: 99 Songs and The Disciple. As a listener and a rasika, music is one of the most precious things in my life. But where does the joy that we get as a listener come from? What does a musician go through to create such marvellous pieces? Is it all inspiration or perspiration? Is there a method behind what we may even perceive as madness? How does the life of a musician look like? How does the society perceive even today the life of an artist? Is there hope for a musician to pursue music in its purest form and make a livelihood? Can one make pure music without being driven by the name and fame? Is there some deeper Truth behind that pure music? Does music blossom out, come what may, if it is so destined? These are some of the questions that both these movies explore and how.

I could identify with 99 Songs completely as an echo of Rahman’s own thoughts and reflections on music and the life of a musician. How he goes about making his own music – trying to empty his mind of all ego and find the music at the altar of the Higher Power. Maybe the movie also echoes the struggles Rahman may have gone through to get to the point where he is able to make music this way.

Becoming an Indian Classical musician, be it Hindustani or Carnatic, has its own unique challenges. The long, focussed years of training that is a necessity. The isolation. And the lack of societal structure to support musicians in general. The Disciple presents a slightly bleaker picture but it too attempts to find that core of music – the pure, unadulterated music that has a deeper Truth and a soul of its own.

I wish there were more full musical pieces in both movies. The musical highlights for me from 99 Songs were Dum Digga Digga BGM (Rahman at his most playful, light, cool mode), The Oracle and O Aashiqa. From The Disciple, all the classical pieces were amazing. But the highlight was the tanpura sound (with the shruti) being used as background music at many instances. It depicted beautifully that the protagonist always had music in his mind. It is, in fact, said that musicians have their ‘aadhaara shruti’ fixed in their mind.

In these times when musicians and artists are struggling worldwide to make ends meet, both these movies pay a great tribute to them. May we all continue to find, through music from these amazing musicians, a lot of hope and love to face these difficult times and discover the hidden Truth.

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