Friday, February 20, 2009

Indian Musicians on Song

It is celebration time for Indian music as three international awards came its way. The prodigal music director, A R Rahman, has done it again. He picked up the prestigious British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award for the score of Slumdog Millionaire, which only recently fetched him the Golden Globe, and many other awards. The BAFTAs are regarded as a dress-rehearsal for the big Hollywood event. Keeping him company is FTII alumnus Resul Pookutty for the best sound design along with Glenn Freemantle.
Unstoppable March
Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle’s plucky take on Mumbai’s slum-children, glided over the last hump on its unstoppable march to the Oscars after it swept the BAFTA awards. Here it won seven major awards including for Best Film, Best Direction and A R Rahman’s music. The film, which was nominated in 11 categories, also won the BAFTAs for best adapted screenplay, cinematography, editing and sound. This brought its tally of international awards to nearly 50.
The only other Indian, apart from Rahman, to receive a BAFTA was Resul Pookutty for sound along with Glenn Freemantle, Richard Pryke, Tom Sayers, Ian Tapp.However, neither Dev Patel, the teenage “hero” of the film who was nominated for Best Actor, nor Freida Pinto, the “heroine” tipped for Best Supporting Actress, made it. Both had their moments, though, when they were called to the stage to present the award for Best Costume.
The most important event in Britain’s movie calendar was so dominated by Slumdog Millionaire that some of Hollywood’s biggest offerings were almost reduced to the also-ran category. Critics reckoned the film won an award every 20 minutes, and punters reportedly lost some £I million, having put money on Slumdog Millionaire’s rivals.
One of the biggest surprises was Slumdog Millionaire beating its strong Hollywood contender, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button starring Brad Pitt. For films like The Reader, Revolutionary Road and Doubt losing to Slumdog Millionaire appeared unfair to some, who attributed its success to media hype.
In a different, albeit no less significant, international league is tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain who has won a Grammy in the contemporary World Music Album category for his collaborative album Global Drum Project. Other Indian Grammy hopes Louis Banks nominated in the Best Contemporary Jazz Album category, slide guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya and classical vocalist Lakshmi Shankar who were nominated in the Best Traditional World Music category may have been dashed. But there is no denying that Indian music is on a song, keeping the Indian flag high.
Hussain’s and Rahman’s feats are no flash in the pan brilliance. While awards have been raining on Rahman, gifted percussionist Hussain’s earlier project Planet Drum with Micky Hart, which was released in 1991, had won the first-ever Grammy Award in the World Music category.
Tryst with World
In fact, Indian musicians’, especially classical musicians, tryst with the world began back in time. Renowned sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar had not only put sitar on the world map but also became the Indian face of music and is easily one name music aficionados all over the world know. Incidentally, he has won three Grammies, most recently in 2002. Among others who have walked the hallowed path is Pandit Ravi Shankar’s disciple, Mohan Veena exponent Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt whose album A Meeting By the River was awarded a Grammy in 1994.
Rahman has shown that mankind can be reached through popular music. Whether he bags the coveted Oscar or not — with three nominations it stands a chance — the West has already been won.The Oscar front-runner Slumdog Millionaire continued its victory march in award circuits by bagging top honours at the Writers Guild of America. The award has given the film another major boost ahead of the Oscars. The film won the prize for the Best Adapted Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy.
Indian classical music and musicians have been India’s undisputed ambassadors of culture, wooing listeners around the globe. The number of Grammy nominations each year is not only proof of its growing international acceptance but also of the innovative abilities of Indian musicians in creating the right world sound.

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