Bangalore-based film maker, Shabnam Virmani’s six-year long project culminated in part, in the film Koi Sunta Hai (Someone is Listening) which was screened at the BIC on Saturday, 12 September. A sensitive film, it explored the fascinating connection between a legend and a mystic poet – Kumar Gandharva and Kabir. The film traced Kabir and his poetry through many lives, many places and many musicians. From those steeped in somber classical traditions to those living and creating folk traditions, Koi Sunta Hai revealed each one’s deeply personal relationship with the 15 th century poet.
The film’s soundtrack was mesmeric, Kumar Gandharva’s voice transcendental, as he carefully explored the layers of Kabir’s poetry. Shabnam delved into Kumar’s life, celebrating his sheer genius with audio clippings from his concerts, starkly beautiful photographs and much reminiscing by his friends and students. With glimpses of renditions of Kabir by other artistes’ including Vidya Rao, Shubha Mudgal, Madhup Mudgal and Prahlad Tipanya, Shabnam also brought the audience into an evening baithak in a lively village setting. Little touches of humour in the film brought colour into the narrative, like when a makeshift microphone stand made its grand entrance into the baithak. The film also told of the waning traditions of the Nath Panthis and the simplicity yet power in Kabir’s words and in his philosophy. Koi Sunta Hai ended with Kumar’s powerful voice singing the haunting poetry of Kabir.
After the screening, the director, Shabnam Virmani, took the stage and with her, Linda Hess, a Stanford scholar, Kabir researcher and advisor on the Kabir project. Both Shabnam and Linda spoke easily about their experiences while working on the film and research, inviting many questions on Kabir the historical figure, their interest in the poet, the legacy of Kumar Gandharva and the many artistes that had been featured in the film. Shabnam also spoke briefly about the other films that were part of the same project. Linda in turn, spoke about her connection with India from an early age and her love for literature and poetry, her ultimately finding Kabir as the one that touched her most deeply and her book on the poet. The question-answer session was very enjoyable with most audience members staying back to interact with Shabnam and Linda and staying on to pick up copies of the films and books on Kabir that were on display. The evening ended with the Director, Mr. Dasgupta, felicitating Shabnam and Linda.