Bangalore International Centre in association with India Foundation for the Arts had arranged screening of a film “The Other Song” directed by Ms. Saba Dewan on Saturday, 29 th August , 2009 at 6.30 AM at its auditorium. The Director of the film Ms. Saba Dewan was also present and interacted with the audience about the film and its theme. The jampacked auditorium enjoyed the film and the interaction with the Director.
The journey of the film through the lives of the tawaifs or courtesans was compelling, often drawing appreciative reactions from the audience as it beautifully captured moments of joy, despair and hardship of the women, mostly notably Saira bibi. Rasoolan Bai’s Lagat jobanwa mein chot… provided the underlying music for most of the film, recreating perfectly, the golden era of the courtesan and the flavour of the passion that their music brought to life. The many women that Saba interviewed on film sang with raw beauty that reached out to those watching.
After the screening, several interested people stayed back to listen to Saba’s experiences. Beginning with own memories of making the film, Saba talked about how she had made many friends in the women she spoke to and narrated some of her favourite moments. One audience member then brought up an impression that she had got that the film had played up the religious aspects of the courtesans strongly. In response, Saba stated that she had never intended that note to be introduced intentionally into the film, going on to say that her focus had been on searching for the lost other song, the second version of Rasoolan Bai’s Lagat karejwa mein chot… and the reasons behind the apparently burial of the other, more explicit version. In this exploration, Saba unearthed many instances of repression and moral policing with which the tawaif tradition battled unsuccessfully.
Saba also spoke of the experience of one of the women, Saira bibi, that she had interviewed in the film and of Saira’s courage and initial hesitation to be present at the first screening of The Other Song. She told of the standing ovation that Saira received after the screening and the emotional reaction to it. One of the last things Saba spoke of in the session was the varied reactions she got from the people who featured in the film and from various audiences who watched the film over the past few months. The evening concluded with a vote of thanks and a bouquet for the director.