Indian classical music at its best...
Pandit Budhaditya Mukherjee (sitar)
Soumen Nandy (tabla)
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Darbar doesn't usually share what goes on behind the scenes of our shoots, but on this occasion the events that we witnessed were too spectacular to keep to ourselves.
The team, made up of Sandeep Virdee (artistic director), Jagdeep Shah (operations director) and Rehmat Rayatt (filmmaker) welcome Budhaditya Mukherjee to the Rajbari boutique hotel near Kolkata, West Bengal, one cloudy March afternoon. A stroke of luck means that we are the only ones staying at the hotel, and get free rein over where to film; though it has been raining every day since we arrived in Kolkata (an abnormality for this time of year), a combination of wishful thinking and resentment for the miserable forecast leads us to choose the magnificent open courtyard for our evening shoot. The last remains of afternoon are fading, thankfully taking with them the humid air that everyone who has travelled to India has cursed at least a few times. We pray for the forecast to be wrong; we are even brash enough to set up all our equipment on the grass in preparation.
Quite obviously, it begins to rain. Drenched and shivering in the grand entrance we have been forced to relocate to, we have received our reprimand loud and clear. Not quite as loud as the thunder grumbling through the black sky, and the drumming of the rain on the ground. We surreptitously wipe our soaking cameras and faces dry with our kurta sleeves. The wind is beginning to pick up and the tiny flames from the clay lamps go out faster than I can re-light them. We remain optimistic though my hands are clammy; I wonder if we will pull off the shoot this time. Pandit Budhaditya Mukherjee tunes his sitar, undisturbed by the roaring of the rain and thunder. I notice that the rain is beginning to descend with such force that it is splashing inside, soaking the corner of Pandit ji's rug. I decide after some thought not to mention this; time is of the essence. We are determined to somehow use the beautifully lit courtyard as a backdrop, and as we position our cameras meticulously to fill the background with the warm lights and pillars behind, the electricity cuts out. Pandit ji is swimming in darkness, but he seems not to have noticed. I glance at Sandeep and he shrugs his shoulders with a half-grin. I am slightly concerned that the now cascading water and roaring thunder mean we are straining to hear one another and Pandit ji is at risk of playing his piece from a puddle if the rain continues at this ferocity. Pandit ji, entirely unphased, announces that he will play Mian ki Malhar, a powerful monsoon raag, and we submit in the knowledge that whatever happens next will be by virtue of the force of nature.
Nature takes pity on us and orchestrates the most magnificent light show we have ever witnessed, illuminating the courtyard for us. We exchange incredulous glances as we bear witness to one of the most magical moments ever experienced.
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