MI21: Mother India 21st Century Remix with DJ Tigerstyle and Falu
Celebrate Brooklyn/Prospect Park
Thursday, July 29
“Some of you already have the Bollywood thing down, wearing your sunglasses at night,” teased Falu singer Gaurav Shah, as he donned his own pair. “They’re from Bombay,” he noted, soliciting chuckles from the audience. The group was performing at last night’s “Celebrate Brooklyn” event at Prospect Park’s Bandshell, opening for a showing of “Mother India: The 21st Century Remix,” a revamped version of the 1957 Oscar-nominated Bollywood film, Mother India.
Falu’s core includes the classically trained vocalist Falguni Shah, drums (snares, tablas, and your various metallic percussion), guitar, bass, and a harmonium. Indian-fusion is what the group aims for–a jazzy jams accented with Falguni’s flawless overlay of soulful vocals. Old classics like “Dama Dam Mast Qalandar” and “Mehabooba” were complemented by the exclamations of the Indian family behind us. “She doesn’t sound human!” said the man sitting next to me, in awe.
“Dum Maro Dum”, a song Asha Bhosle made famous in the the 1970’s Bollywood hit “Hare Ram, Hare Krishna,” was the highlight of the band’s hour-long performance. Sure, there were original compositions that aimed to be a little more contemporary, but they didn’t hit quite the same way, if only because the whole thing seemed a bit forced. Something about a chorus of “Love, it’s divine.” brought jarring flashes of Sting’s “Desert Rain” to mind. That is, until the group cued up a series of tabla solos and a violin interlude that mimicked the minor-key twang of the sitar, and the singer reverted back into Hindi exclamations of “Kya Baat Hai!” (“Wonderful!”) and grand, euphonious swoops.
Then, the main event: a live re-scoring of the epic, Mother India, for a “more contemporary” audience and dubbed “Mother India: The 21st Century Remix.” The original film is tragic from beginning to end, depicting the struggle of the newly independent country through the story of one ill-fated farming family and the woman that held them together. For last night’s screening, the three-and-a-half hour long drama was condensed to 45 minutes, stripped of all sound, and projected onto a huge screen in the park. UK DJ Tigerstyle made his U.S. debut with the project, though “DJ’ing” isn’t quite what he was doing. Accompanied by cellist and keyboardist Matt Constantine and drummer David Shaw, the turntablist manipulated records–looping and scratching various dramatic arrangements–and pounded out segues on a drum machine.
The Prospect Park audience watched as the film rolled: a wedding, a loan from the local merchant to start a farm (a loan that plagues them throughout), images of husband and wife working in the field together, three small children. The images were set to the sound of a running snare, deep cello, and the occasional, subtle scratching of a record. Then, cue a descent into despair: the husband loses his arms and leaves in the middle of the night, while the mother loses her faith. A flood and famine strike, a child dies, and helplessness prevails. Out of the corner of our eye, we see Tigerstyle pounding away at the drum machine, the sinister sound paired with the images of a two young boys helping their mother out of desperation. The juxtaposition brings the woman next to me to tears.
The drama continues as the boys grow older and things begin to look up. The farm flourishes. One brother falls in love and get married as the other goes insane trying to pay off the seemingly inextinguishable family loan. A drum-n-bass track propels our anxiety as the now vengeful madman wrecks havoc, killing the loan shark merchant and kidnapping his daughter on her wedding day, despite the physical intervention of his own family. In the end, the mother is faced with the decision of letting her son get away with murder (literally) or ending it the saga herself. All sound cuts out save one lonely piano as we watch the mother shoot her son. He dies in her arms.
All in all, a most chilling and deeply moving tribute to the film. As a whole, the project is no doubt meant to hint at some sort of global consciousness–our duty to each other and the world, and so on. As far as we’re concerned, the experience was too emotionally trying to think about others. I went home and emailed my mom.