Returning to the First Beat

फिर से सम पे आना , 2017, 85 minutes

The film premiered at the 19th Mumbai Film Festival

The Hindu reported on the film here


The metropolitan transformation of Bombay in the nineteenth and twentieth century kept time with changes in the practice and pedagogy of Hindustani classical music in the city. With the decline of the princely states traditional systems of patronage began to unravel. Musicians, among others, began to gravitate to the rapidly growing colonial city of Bombay, in search of new sponsors. This led, in turn, to the formation of a distinctive audience for Hindustani sangeet in the city – one not limited to the princely courts and exclusive homes of the aristocracy. Girgaon was a part of the native town of the colonial city and was one of the key neighbourhoods where the singers, the patrons and the audiences lived.

Phir se samm pe aana strives to experience the space for Hindustani classical music in the city. The film revisits the sites clustered in and around Girgaon where music was taught and performed. It seeks to understand the musical legacy of this neighbourhood, even as it reimagines the documentary mode. This film ‘listens’ to architectural structures in an attempt to reflect on the deep history of this practice. In narrativising the love of music that took shape in this neighbourhood we also seek to experience ‘film time’ rather than evoke a time past or record the present. The film seeks repetition and cyclical time to imagine a narrative on music. Phir se…is an opportunity to experience an interior, almost intimate practice of the musical form.

This film emerged from a research project aimed at understanding Hindustani classical music as part of the intangible urban history of the metropolis of Bombay/Mumbai. The project is a collaboration between Tejaswini Niranjana and Surabhi Sharma. Through the research phase we produced a series of interviews that are available on the online archive, Tejaswini Niranjana is the author of Musicophilia in Mumbai, Performing Subjects and the Metropolitan unconscious.

Director’s Note:

Phir se samm pe aana is an outcome of a project that researched the historical antecedents and contemporary practice of Hindustani classical music in Mumbai. The film emerged from the project’s efforts towards documenting this intangible urban heritage of the metropolis.

As we began reviewing the filmed research interviews, I began to reimagine the documentary mode and its expressive qualities. While the initial impetus was to document the social history of music, the spaces we filmed in nudged us towards exploring film’s ability to be a record of our experience of temporality. However, an evocation of a time past or documenting time present seemed to go against the grain of our material. Rather an exploration of film time became central to the formal concern of the film. Through each edited version of the film we were trying to arrive at the idea of keeping time through music, through silence, through space.

Our research interviews seemed to foreground certain narratives around the musicians and their music but made invisible many others. Who brought Hindustani music to the city and who carried the practice forward? Cultural histories of communities were replaced with individual engagement with the aesthetics of the music. Our attempt to draw out a defined narrative seemed reductionist and instead a fragmented narrative emerged to reveal the research process rather than represent the research material. The idea of repetition became central to the structure of the film. Our process of sound design made possible distance from the image and at times it allowed for an intimacy.

Some key questions around documentary practice and film form opened up for me in the process of making this film.


Editor: Diksha Sharma

Cinematographer: Ajay Noronha

Sound Recordist: Suresh Rajamani

Sound Designer: Mohandas VP

Additional Cinematography: Avijit Mukul Kishore

Additional Sound Recording: Mohanda VP, Chris Burchell

Assistant : Ketaki Savnal, Akashneel Dutta Sharma

Poster and Titles : Chitra Venkatramani

Director: Surabhi Sharma

Producer: Surabhi Sharma, Dr. Tejaswini Niranjana

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