Over the course of my few writings on the treasure trove of classical music and dance in Indian cinematic canon, I have particularly been appreciative of two films. They are namely KHAYAL GATHA and SIDDHESHWARI, both released in 1989.
In this written presentation, I have included screenshots from SIDDHESHWARI to let its imagery inform viewers of how this documentary uses cinematic recreations to illuminate the life of Siddheshwari Devi, a legendary exponent of the Benaras gharana (house) of classical Indian singing. Directed by Mani Kaul, it is visually unforgettable and from the point of view of its form and content is transcendental, implying the grand and at the same time intimate nature of the thumri style at large.
Of course, readers can always go back to my original writing on it in my essay previously published here. All I can say is that the aesthetics of the city of Benaras, music and cinematography come together in SIDDHESHWARI in a confluence of artistic merit unlike any other.
Behold the exquisite sense of capturing the locational value of Benaras from these angles. Each frame and the profusion of colours make it aesthetically pleasing.
The human figures and silhouettes too are like paintings in motion and I took particular care at selecting each image. Breathtakingly epic and yet intimate. I also love the haunting, mesmerising effect of the imagery in general and the manner in which river Ganga is presented here. The river becomes an omnipresent symbol of the purity of musical pursuits in this unusual screenplay.
Lead actress Mita Vashisht who portrays the soulfulness of Siddheshwari Devi’s journey is beautifully directed here.
Attention must be paid to the use of light and shadows, the intermingling of the impressionistic and expressionistic style.