Khayal Darpan's screening at Montreal, Canada (on 12 January, 2007)

A report by Kiran Khan (of Kabir Cultural Centre, Montreal)

Dear Mr. Saeed,

I am a member of the Kabir Cultural Centre Committee, and we have recently screened your documentary "Khayaal Darpan" for our members here in Montreal. I was asked to send you al write-up/summary of the screening and the panel discussion that followed.

Let me, first off extend our collective congratulations on producing such an excellent documentary! We were all very impressed by the quality of the subject matter, the level of research and the clarity with which the material was presented. The subjects were displayed in a warm and humane light, clearly portraying their sad plight, yet maintaining their innate dignity. This was a point that was appreciated by all.

You will be pleased to know that the film screening was very well attended. The movie hall at Concordia Univ. seats approx. 173 and it was almost full! There were people from all walks of Montreal life; academics, students of both Canadian and South Asian origin; musicians - both Western and South Asian, retirees, home-makers and just plain curious folk like myself!

What was further heartening for us was, that a great many people stayed back for the panel discussion which lasted a good 2hrs. Usually we allow a brief interval (5mins) between the movie screening and the panel discussion. This is to allow those people to leave who do not wish to participate in the ensuing discussion. We were pleasantly suprised to see the number of people who stayed on afterwards.

I will try to give you, as briefly as possible, a synopsis of the discussion. We hope it will help you in your future endevours.

It was clear, at the outset, that there was a sad state of neglect of Classical Music in Pakistan, and that the musicians there were indeed facing very trying times both economically and artistically. There was much debate on the causes of this decline and disinterest, and the consensus seemed to be that the past govt. of General Zia and its pursuit of "Islamisation" of the country had played a large part in the systematic decline. The continued lack of private and govt. patronage also seemed to add to the growing malaise and stagnation. The absence of "USTADS" to replace the ones who have aged or died, has led to a stagnation and there seems to be little development. The onslaught of Pop music too seems to be contributing to the constant decline of classical music.

However, it was encouraging to note that there were individuals who were trying at their level to carry on the work of development of the genre. Many new institutes and departments at local colleges have sprung up that are striving to formalize the transmission of this heritage to the younger generation. So the outlook is not entirely gloomy.

Many of our Indian audience members, however, did take exception to statements made by the musicologist/lawyer Mr. Raza Kazim that classical music was also experiencing a decline in India. The consensus was that classical music was "alive, healthy and growing" in India and events like the Annual Chennai Music Conference/Festival contribute greatly to the development, propagation and dissemination of classical music.

There was a general feeling that, however bleak the situation may seem, at some stage and in possibly some altered form, classical music will make a gradual come-back, specially as younger people are seen to be showing an interest. It will probably never be developed on the scale that is seen in Indian, but it will enjoy some degree of revival.

There was widespread sympathy and concern among the audience for the state of the musicians, specially those who were ageing and in poor health. An announcement was made, prior to the showing, that a part of the proceeds from the sale of the DVD would be given to them. Your contact information was also made available for purchase of the DVD and also if people wished to convey any comments directly to you.

There were some comments on the editing of the film. It was felt that perhaps the editing could have been tighter, as parts of the film seemed disjointed and out of context. An example was the interview with the vocalist Ms. Aliya, it was interspersed with clips from an amateur singing competition held in memory of the music director Shankar Jaikishan of popular Hindi movie song fame. The relevance of these clips were lost on many of us in the audience, and the feeling was that, they in fact became a minor irritant! They interrupted the flow of Aliya's interview, which in itself was enlightening and interesting.

The still photography was well done and appreciated, as it helped establish linkage between the realities of everyday life and music, and proved how intertwined the two really are. On a personal note, I have spent my growing years in Lahore, and can safely state that music, both folk, classical and semi-classical were always a very intrinsic element in the daily lives of Lahoris. They are a robust, and generally cheery people, who always try to seek out the lighter sides of life and celebrate life and the mudane task of living, with much vim and vigour. The people of the old Walled city are specially appreciative, or used to be more so in the early years, of music may it be the devotional qawaalis, naaths reverberating from the various shrines that dot the area, the more melodious strains from the "Red Light area" or the more folksy ditties that passed down through teh generations, like Heer or Jugni. The transistor radio was an essential part of even to most humble road-side kiosk or "thela" (hand-barrow?).

On a closing note, it was felt that perhaps a bit more time could be allotted to the genre of Qawalli as there are many fine Qawaals that do use classical music as their base and perform only in the traditional style.

The interviews of the musicians were endearing and often amusing, specially Ustad Badruzzaman, who had a very frank and forthright style and a unique way of expressing himself. The gentelman form Kasur (his name escapes me) also had a very distinct, but accurate way of describing the musical styles and norms of the GHARANAS in Kasur.

Once again, kudos on producing a very important archival documentary. Much effort was put into it and indeed it came across a labour of love.

We look forward to enjoying your other works, and would very much like to meet you and organise an evening of movies and discussion. We feel strongly that movies like you produce can be very important and instumental in bringing closer together the people of South East Asia.

On behalf of Kabir Cultural Centre, I wish you good luck and success in your future and on-going projects.

Sincerely,
Kiran Khan

January 17, 2007