Sunday, May 8, 2011, Tribeca Theater 2, 12.30 pm,
Sound Of Heaven: The Story of Bal Gandharva
Directed by Ravi Jadhav
India, 2011, 130 Minutes, Marathi (with English Subtitles), World Premiere
Cast- Subodh Bhave, Vibhavari Deshpande, Kishor Kadam, Avinash Narkar, Abhijit Kelkar
Bal Gandharva (Sound of Heaven: The Story of Bal Gandharva) is a richly mounted, Indian musical, period film on the incredible actor-singer-female impersonator Bal Gandharva (1888-1967), set in the early years of Indian theatre. The film has historic resonances and gives remarkable insights into how today’s Indian cinema and Bollywood musicals derived their song routines, lavish spectacles and melodrama from Indian musical theatre and epics—entirely independent of Hollywood. It is an inspiring portrait of Bal Gandharva, a cross-dressing, singing icon of the sangeet natak (musical theatre) tradition. Women were not allowed to perform onstage then, and Bal Gandharva’s singing and female impersonations in beautiful saris, jewellery and mannerisms were all the rage, and his songs are sung in India even today. Born Narayan Shripad Rajhans, he was given the title ‘Bal Gandharva’ (‘Little Singer from Heaven’).
Bal Gandharva led a tumultuous life that saw India’s struggle for independence from the British, his affair with a Muslim singer (he was Hindu) and fluctuating patronage from the maharajahs. Inevitably, as cinema became popular, women who played women’s roles edged him out of the business: onstage, he was little use as a man! He grew increasingly spiritual and believed, like Shakespeare, that all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players—that life itself was one more role to play with verve.
Ravi Jadhav was Creative Director of FCB Ulka Advertising for many years. Trained in visual communication and graphic design, he is a skilled graphic designer and copy writer, and his clutter-breaking advertising has won many awards. ‘Natarang’ (2010), the debut feature film he directed, was selected at the New York Film Festival, Munich International Film Festival (Opening Film, India Focus), Gothenburg Film Festival, Bollywood and Beyond Film Festival, Stuttgart, Germany; Pune Film Festival, Mumbai Film Festival and Third Eye Asian Film Festival, Mumbai (Opening Film). It won several awards, including the Asia Pacific Screen Award Nomination (Australia) for Best Actor Atul Kulkarni from 70 Asian countries; New York Film Festival; Special Jury Mention, Munich International Film Festival; National Award of India for Best Marathi Film; Sant Tukaram Award for the Best International Marathi Film, Best Director and Best Actor at the Pune International Film Festival, and V. Shantaram Awards for Best Music, Best Lyrics and Best Choreography.