STRINGS-bound by faith

A Travelouge love story.90min,35mm,1:1.85 aspect ratio,Dolby Digital,Colour,English/Hindi.2006.INDIA.

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Location: bombay, India

Son of a soldier, I was born in Sultanganj in Bhagalpur district, Bihar. My childhood days were spent in an earthy rural life. I was deeply inspired by the rich folk culture of Buddha’s own land, Bihar. Right from the beginning, I Grew up with real images of Melas, Ramleelas, Bahuripiyas, incredible rituals, strong religious milieu and the vibrant Mithila Art. Natural calamities like flood and drought gifted unforgettable images. Changing seasons of rural life on the bank of river Ganga matured into a sense of poetry and language. Wonder years passed chasing steam trains that passed through the fields of my native village. Listening to radio programs made for defense personals was my only window to the outside world. With such a treasure of inspirational experiences a story teller evolved. I am a practicing film maker in Bombay today.

On the name of religion dozens of Hindu hermits in saffron robes angrily burned the CDs and posters of 'Strings'.

Hindu hermits burn the effigy of Sanjay Jha, the director of Bollywood film Strings, during a protest in Allahabad, India, Monday, July 17, 2006.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Kumbh Mela to be showcased in US

Hindustan Times/Indo-Asian News Service New York/Jodhpur, August 22, 2006

New York: The sadhus with matted locks and ash-smeared bodies might not be there but India’s biggest faith jamboree is going global. The Kumbha Mela will be held for the first time in the United States on September 10 at Bren Centre, University of California Irvine.
The aim: ushering in world peace by infusing collective positivity. The highlights of the celebrations include a Vishwa Shanti Yagna, an abhishekam, or offering of water from 21 holy rivers of India to all the deities, and a grand procession with participation by various spiritual organisations from across the US. Yagnas and aartis will add to the daylong rituals.
The event is being organised under the auspices of Paramahamsa Nithyananda, Nithyananda Foundation; Swami Ishwarananda, Chinmaya Mission; Swami Sarvadevananda, Vedanta Society; Dr Acharya Yogeesh, Yogeesh Ashram; and the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006 09:58 IST » Infotainment » Lifestyle » Art & Culture » Story

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

An eclectic sound mix
Music review: Strings

Rate: **1/2
by :Piyush Roy

Irreverence is the tone in Strings

An interesting mix of sounds, that’s the feeling a first time listening of Strings – Bound By Faith, evokes in you. Clue in a bit more to its lyrics and you can’t miss the tone of ‘youthful irreverence’ writ large on its tracks. How else could you get away with equating the celestial chant ‘Om’ to anything and everything under the sun from a ‘dayan ki cheekh, chitkar, petrol, kranti, khargosh ke singh’ to even a ‘buddhe ki aankh, chori ka kajal’ and sign off calling it simply ‘bakwas.’
But if the theme of the Sanjay Jha film is a travelogue love story with Nashik’s Mahakumbh forming a spiritual backdrop, music director Zubeen Garg does justice to its music by packing in a range of diverse sounds and beats from the hinterland, with a contemporary zing in line with the sensibilities of the film’s lead protagonist - a young discoverer.
My pick of the album is the opening Piya milan ko jana a very 2000-isque interpretation of Pankaj Mallick’s evergreen gem of a song from Kapalkundala (1939). Music director Garg, who happens to be the singer of most of the film’s songs, registers an impact, especially with the spiritual Ramo Ramo.
Go for the album if you ok with contemporary beats, but beware its rebellious irreverence, while fun at large, could rub the fanatics the wrong way.

***** Burn the dance floor ****Rocking ***Easy Listening **Off-key *Jarring
PAGE 9: HT Style Mumbai, Friday, June 23, 2006,

Kabir Bedi gets emotional at ‘Strings’ music launch

By Taran Adarsh, June 13, 2006 - 01:49 IST

The music release of Jolly Verghese’s Sanjay Jha-directed STRINGS – BOUND BY FAITH by Saregama, took place at Landmark at Infinity Mall, Versova on June 9.
Adam Bedi’s debut venture opposite Tannishtha Chatterjee and Sandhya Mridul, STRINGS is set against the backdrop of the Maha Kumbh and is India’s first travelogue film.Dad Kabir Bedi and sister Pooja Bedi were at the music launch to cheer Adam as was his girlfriend Nisha Harale. “It feels wonderful to be part of the celebrations of Adam’s debut film,” said a visibly emotional Kabir Bedi. Added sister Pooja, “I am here for my brother Adam. It’s a great feeling.” Director Sanjay Jha talked about how the idea of crafting India’s first travelogue film cropped up in his mind, and how egged on by his friend Jolly Verghese, he went about completing it.
Music director-singer Zubeen Garg was the hero of the day with the crowds cheering to his live performance at the mall. Zubeen rendered his STRINGS numbers as well as the super-hit ‘Ya Ali’ at the mall to loud cheers and “once mores”.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Review on: Bound by Faith - Strings

When Pakistan hijacked Saigal
By: preran Jul 10, 2006 05:38 PM

Pros: Melodious, Unpretentious and refreshingly original
Cons: Why didn't they ask Gulzar for the lyrics?

Close your eyes, open your soul and let the music take over your senses. Strings-Bound by faith is a musical journey that will sweep you in its magic if you give yourself to it. Everything about this album is different, new and wonderful. I had no expectations when I caught up with these tunes at Now, I not only plan to buy the CD but gift it to a lot of people too.
Zubeen Garg (of Strings and Ya Ali fame) does himself proud in this album that introduces quite a few singers. Along with them, Zubeen has carved out an album that exudes
spirituality unlike Himesh Reshammiya’s higly pretentious Benares. So, while you read my review, I am going back to listen to the album. Happy reading folks!
Album: Strings: Bound by faith
Music Director: Zubeen Garg
Singers: Zubeen Garg, Shashwati Phukaan, Anandita Paul, Brishti Saikia,Anagarang Mahanta, Souran Chowdhary
Lyrics: Don’t Know.

Piya Milan Ko Jaana
Singer : Zubeen Garg (Chorus)
Category: K L Saigal meets Sufi-Pop
Major Instruments: Guitar, Dholak, Tabla

I have nothing against remixes as long as they are done well and this song is a prime example. A remixed version of K L Saigal’s song by the same mukhda, Piya Milan Ko Jaana conveys the Joie de Vivre in the next-gen format. Without mimicking the earlier version, Zubeen takes this song up by several notches. Hardcore Saigal fans will disagree though.

Kaise Kahoon
Singers: Zubeen Garg, Shashwati Phukaan
Category: Romantic (sublime)
Major Instruments: Jaltarang (?), Dhol

Shashwati Phukaan, take a bow! With a very minimal orchestra to aid her, Shashwati rises above the music and lyrics to deliver a knockout performance. Geeta Dutt’s bass voice meets Lataji’s vocal proficiency in this lady’s rendition. In an industry surviving on Lata and Asha clones, Shashwati Phukaan is fresh air and a very fragrant one too. I do not know why but I felt that this ditty would have fit very well in a Subhash Ghai movie. Wonder why.

Singer: Zubeen garg
Category: Sufi
Major Instruments: A variety of percussion, Keyboards

Just as I thought that I had it with Sufi numbers come these refreshing notes. Zubeen Garg does an efficient job without overdoing it which is more than you can say for all the Sufi songs (of late) put together-if only the lyrics were as good. Not that they are bad but they still have that "I have heard this before " feel to them.

Ramo Ramo
Singer: Zubeen Garg
Category: Sufi
Major Instrument: Stringed Instruments, Percussion

We now come to the piece de resistance of the album. Perfect lyrics, wonderful singing and an orchestra that knows its job very well. Before you know it, you will be singing

Bheeni Bheeni Bhor Bhole Bhajo
Ramo Ramo Ramo Ramo
Maange yahi var sabhi ko gale se lagaaye

I have fallen head over heels in love with this number. I just cannot have enough of it! If you want to buy this album for a song, it has got to be this one!!! Believe me, you will not regret it. Sample these lyrics

Jisne rache dharti ambar yahan
Jisne Rache parbat sagar yahan
Jis Brahm se moksh hai Hum usi mein samaaye...

After a load of crap, even these minimilastic lyrics sound like Ghalib to me.

Rimjhim Rimjhim
Singers: Anandita Paul, Brishti Saikia,Zubeen Garg
Category: Folk
Major Instruments : Ektara, Dhol

Maybe it is just the fact that the other numbers are so good or maybe this song plainly isn’t good enough. Despite the spirited singing, this is not something that you will want to listen to unless you are too bored to press the forward button. Good but not good enough.

Mantra (OM)
Singers: Anagarang Mahanta, Souran Chowdhary, Zubeen Garg
Category: Sanskrit Rap!
Major Instruments: Guitar, Tabla, Violins (Very Ecletic)

This is an AR Rahman meets R D Burmanesque composition. I am not a big fan of these types but I have to admit that it has got something very catchy to it although it is an extremely difficult sing-along. It could have fit into very well in Rang De Basanti. All said and done, this song will definitely not bore you. If not anything, the spirited singing will have you reaching for the rewind button.

Final Verdict: Three out of five. If the lyrics had been good enough, this album would have scored an easy four. If you are bored of Himesh Reshammiya (is there anyone else who isn’t by now?) and want to listen to some fresh voices, new instruments and melodious music which you can play anytime during the day, go and grab this album. Music in 2006 may not get better than this. I hope that I will be disproved.

note from jhaji:thank you for the review preran.i would like to correct some factual info. mention in the above review.
Zubeen Garg is an Indian.opening line of the song PIYA MILAN KO JANA is Pankaj Mallick’s,from Kapalkundala (1939).''mantra"understood as title"om" is a poem written by poet baba nagarjun,published in 1969. i appriciate your musical understanding,musical instruments are varied.cheers!!!

Review on: Bound by Faith - Strings

Strings definetly strikes a chord with the soul
By: kashyap_uttara Jul 31, 2006 08:47 AM

Pros: Orginal and refreshing
Cons: Average Lyrics and little known artists

Absolutely Melodious- Modern melody blends immaculately with classical. Thankfully, this album is very indifferent to mainstream Bollywood. If you’re back packing on a voyage to soul searching- make sure to pack this one.

"Ramo Ramo" opens the doors to your own soul like the first rain after a scorching summer.

"OM (Mantra)" drenches thereafter with its power. There is a weird but very welcome sense of rebellion in the song.

Shashwati’s vocals in "Kaise Kahoon" are a perfect recipe to pamper your heart- she is the perfect alternative to producer’s who no longer can afford to write cheques in the order of Shreya Ghoshal.

Zubeen’s “Ishq” is revering, yet there are subtle currents of pain which will keep you in rendezvous with your own memories.

While what you paid for these four songs is way too less for what you’ll eventually experience- the other songs are more than good enough to tune into when you’re heating up your coffee or opening a can of beer- but reserve the pleasures of your drink for these four top notches.

Shortcomings- virtually unknown artists unfortunately may remain under the radar because of lack of promotions. Hopefully, the noise of Bollywood clique music will not drown Strings. And Finally, Zubeen Garg- thanks for letting us know we deserve better than what we are mostly subjected to with the modern day Bollywood clones (or tunes). -Kashyap. New York, USA

Friday July 14, 12:50 PM

Movie Review : Strings
By Taran Adarsh

A majority of films appeal across all demographic groups. A few hold interest for the multiplex junta. And a tiny segment caters to a niche audience. Director Sanjay Jha's new outing STRINGS belongs to the third category.
After attempting a film on the life of middle class people living in chawls [PRAAN JAYE PAR SHAAN NA JAYE], Jha tells the story of an Englishman who arrives in Nasik, India to partake in the Maha Kumbh.
Interesting storyline, for sure. But interesting ideas don't necessarily translate into interesting films.
The problem with STRINGS is that it rests on a paper-thin plot and the backdrop of the Maha Kumbh is of no significance to the storyline. Even otherwise, STRINGS comes across as a documentary on Maha Kumbh, than a love story between an Englishman and a traditional Indian girl.
To sum up, STRINGS is more for the pseudo-critics than an ordinary moviegoer. It eyes the Festival circuit mainly, not even the multiplex crowd.
Warren Hastings [Adam Bedi], a British youth, arrives in Nasik with Maya [Sandhya Mridul], an urban Indian girl. Warren is plagued by a sort of unfulfilled quest, for an understanding of the mysticism of India, beyond his realms of imagination.
Maya puts up Warren at Krishna's [Tannishtha Chatterjee] residence. Krishna is the only child of a temple priest [Vineet Kumar], a widower. Warren and Krishna soon realize that they love each other and one day, Krishna sheds her inhibitions and succumbs to her feelings. In the end, Warren and Krishna realize that a deep bond has developed between them.
Come to think of it, STRINGS acts more as a showcase of the Maha Kumbh than a love story. Sure, it's a brilliant idea to place the story under the backdrop of the Maha Kumbh, but frankly there's no dum in the story in the first place. In fact, there's nothing in the film that would prompt the viewer to stay glued to the screen for the next 90 minutes, except for some visuals of the Maha Kumbh.
While there's no movement in at least three-fourths of the story, the turning point in the narrative -- when Warren and Krishna indulge in pre-marital sex -- also doesn't really come as a jolt or catch the viewer by surprise. Casual sex amongst youth holds no shock-value today, so the subsequent portions -- the girl starts feeling guilty and avoids the guy -- looks very strange, very weird.
Director Sanjay Jha focuses more on making colorful frames than packing in solid content. However, the guerilla style of film-making [form of film-making in which scenes are shot quickly at real locations without any warning] is what stands out the most. The other redeeming feature is Rajeev Shrivastava's cinematography. The locales of Nasik and the Maha Kumbh are a visual delight. As for the music, it looks completely forced in the narrative and has no relevance to the plot.
None of the performances are worth noting. Adam Bedi has miles to go before he can be called an actor. Tannishtha is too ordinary. Even the extremely efficient Sandhya Mridul doesn't work. Vineet Kumar tries too hard, but doesn't deliver.
On the whole, STRINGS is a poor show.

Rating :- *

Film Review

Subhash K Jha

Director: Sanjay Jha
Producer: Sanjay Jha, Mathew Varghese
Cast: Adam Bedi, Sandhya Mridul, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Sanjay Kumar, Deepak Kumar, Vineet Kumar
Music: Zubeen Garg
Cinematography: Rajeev Shrivastava
Editor :Hemanti Sarkar

Good intentions often don't translate into cinema of true worth. Sanjay Jha's Strings takes its young protagonist Warren Hastings(Adam Bedi) through a voyage into the mythic spirituality of the Hindu ethos.
The journey is at the most a half-baked seriously vapid attempt to capture the chants and visuals of the Kumbh Mela in a presentable package. The film fails miserably in keeping the faith alive. It instead strangulates the most cherishable aspects of the Hindu religion, turns it into a bundle of ineffectual energy and weans our attention into scenes that are woven into awkward pastiches of parodied spirituality.

Jha's film is like a pilgrimage to a holy place where the gods have fled. God-forsaken and utterly devoid of any robustness Strings is like a vapid fling with feelings with which the director doesn't know how to get connected .

Instead Jha relegates the rhythms of religion to a scratch-level exposition of the aromas of the agarbatti and the screech of the conchshell. Alas the scent of the incense incenses. The spiritual reality that Jha courts is a comic –book existentialism seen through the eyes of a tourist who thinks the 'soul' of Hinduism lies in the eyes of the temple belle whom he courts while another female companion(Sandhya Mridul, as feisty as ever) fumes over the growing relationship between the two.

The namby-pamby voyage of the doped has Bedi moving in with a pundit(Vineeth Kumar) and his daughter(Tanishtha Chatterjee). The story of the gora British guest and the chirpy pujari's daughter is so hackneyed , this could qualify as the stalest spiritual search since the invention of time.

The 90-minute exercise in utter futility is further encumbered by a couple of poorly choreographed music-video style songs which are meant to reveal the gay abandon of souls finding their métier in the melee of religiosity.

Rajeev Shrivastava captures the sights and sounds of the Kumbh Mela with brave lenses. But there's nothing to capture here beyond the touristic heaves and lurches of characters who seem to have been put in the religious milieu only because the director wanted to undertake an expedition into exotica.

Sanjay Jha could have spared himself and the audience the ordeal. The performers try hard to smother their giggles in a masquerade of sobriety. But you can't fight the inevitable. By the time the pundit's perky daughter says , 'I do' to the effeminate Britisher(whose accent keeps slipping into a yankee twang) the narrative has gone into a stage of advanced torpidity. Tragic waste of time and space.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

PIL against use of "Om"

Friday, July 14, 2006 Subscribe to Newsletter Allahabad (UNI):

Allahabad High Court asked Uttar Pradesh government, Central Censor Board and others to file a counter affidavit within 10 days in a PIL seeking stay on the exhibition of a film titled Strings.
The petitioner claims in this film the pious word 'Om' had been misused and it hurt the sentiment of crores of Hindus. A division bench comprising Justices S R Alam and Sudhir Agrawal yesterday, however, did not grant relief to the petitioner so far as stay on the exhibition of the film was concerned.
The PIL has been filed by Swami Angad Giri of Allahabad. He said the film was being released today.
The court also issued notices to film producer Mathew Varghese, director Sanjay Jha and Zubeen garg in this case to file their reply.

Hindu pilgrims protest Bollywood movie song

Holy men torch CDs and posters over song said to offend faith
The Associated Press (apwire)
Email Article Print Article
Published 2006-07-17 23:43 (KST)

ALLAHABAD, IndiaDozens of Hindu holy men in saffron robes torched CDs and posters for a new Bollywood film in northern India on Monday, saying one of the movie's songs has language offensive to the faith and should be banned.
Some of the holy men have asked a court in the Allahabad, a Hindu religious hub in Uttar Pradesh state, to pull the film from theaters. A hearing is set for July 25.
The protesters were mostly sadhus -- Hindu pilgrims who vow to be celibate and renounce material possessions, then wander the country visiting shrines in hope of atoning for their sins.The film, "Strings," is about a British man who tries to learn Indian spirituality by joining the sacred Kumbh festival, a massive regular gathering that often draws millions of Hindus."This film song has a lot of rubbish. It insults 'Om,' one of our holiest chants, and lampoons our national and religious icons in the filthiest language," said one sadhu, Suresh Maharaj, as he read out parts of the song that allegedly mocks Hindu practices and deities."If this film is not banned, it will create religious tension," said another protesting sadhu, Harishchandra Patel. "Our protests are only going to increase."
The sadhus shouted slogans against the makers of the film, directed by Sanjay Jha and featuring Adam Bedi.
They set fire to soundtrack CDs and posters promoting the movie.
Many critics have panned the film, which was released in theaters on Friday.
More than 80 percent of India's 1.06 billion people are Hindus.

The country also has large numbers of Muslims, Christians and followers of other faiths.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hemanti Sarkar, Editing 1994. F.T.I.I

When Sanjay Jha told me he had shot an English film during the 2003 Kumbh Mela at Nasik and wanted me to edit it, my first reaction was, "Oh no! Another bit of spiritual mumbo-jumbo for the phirangs."
But when I started editing, I realised that it was one of the most challenging projects I‘ve ever worked on.What Sanjay had: Scenes shot to a bare narrative about a Brit called Warren (Adam Bedi) who comes to the Kumbh after reading his great grandfather's diary. Warren hopes to find the India his great grandfather was so enamoured with, and unearth the hidden strings binding him to this place. He stays with a priest and his daughter and develops a relationship with her – in other words, just another love story. But along with this, Sanjay had about three and a half hours of candid footage of the Kumbh Mela attended by over 2,00,000 devotees. Sanjay had a strong belief that somehow all this footage could be incorporated into the narrative. A love story against the backdrop of war, famine, riots or a sinking ship can be created and shot to requirement, but a Kumbh Mela of millions cannot (at least, not for an 80 lakh budget). Besides the Kumbh Mela is not a calamity but a spiritual experience for the protagonist. The pilgrimage is as much an internal journey as an external one, and that is what it should be for the viewer.
This was indeed a daunting task for both Sanjay and me. What worked in our favour was that none of the actors were known faces, so Sanjay had managed shots of the different characters walking or taking part in the Kumbh without people looking into the camera. And the film had looser scenes of Warren and the others just walking and visiting other places which could be shuffled around to get the desired structure.As we started working we realised that the Kumbh had become a strong silent protagonist, who influences all the other characters.
Initially when the Kumbh begins, it's just wide shots of faceless millions milling towards the river, as seen by Warren from the window. By the time the second song starts (Piya Milan ko Jaana), a sceptical Warren in his designer suit steps out to attend ‘India’s grandest festival'. We see incredulous naked sadhus and the old bunkum co-existing with equally frivolous rock groups, and millions taking their first dip. All this becomes part of the eternal circus which is the spirit of the Kumbh – a festival celebrating creation itself.As the film progresses Warren begins to join the circus, as in the rain song. As Warren, Krishna (the priest's daughter played by Tanishtha Chaterjee) and Maya celebrate the rain, baharupiya as Shiva takes shelter only to join back as Hanuman, (this constant interchange between gods and the concept of many gods and one god is a repeated theme in the film).
Amazingly, Sanjay had this footage of thousands of devotees braving the rain as they wait to take a dip, or others bathing in the drizzle. These we incorporated, giving the rain celebration a wider dimension. The song ends on shots of flash floods at Nasik where the river is in spate. Elsewhere, when Warren comes closer to Krishna, the Kumbh reveals a more human face. I could use early morning footage of common people at the Kumbh, some drying clothes, some praying, an old woman cautiously drawing a tilak. This built up the perfect ambience for Krishna meditating on the temple steps. Her faith blends with the faith of the common people and moves Warren. It is with her that he too merges with the millions as they roam the Kumbh. Soon their love song starts.By the time the second cut was done, we realised that the backdrop had given the film such a realistic travelogue texture that a typical lip synched love song just wouldn't work so we re-edited using shots of Warren and Krishna at Tribakeshwar. The challenge also was to interweave the Kumbh to express the mental state of the characters. As Warren gropes to find his great grandfather's India he does not connect to the maniacal naked sadhus taking a dip at 2 am. When things fall apart for Krishna and her father and their faith is shaken, they cannot blend and the Kumbh becomes alien.I don’t really know whether what we‘ve tried has worked or these are just thoughts in my head, and would like feedback in that respect once people see the film. Of course the film has a roughness that cannot be overlooked but I had enjoyed experimenting and editing a fiction film more in a documentary style, shuffling and changing things around to make the structure work.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Kerala - Thiruvananthapuram

Film director calls for dismissal of Censor Board

Staff Reporter
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: T.V. Chandran, film director, has called for the `dismissal' of the Censor Board.

He was speaking after inaugurating a seminar on `Censorship and super censorship,' organised as a part of 11th Trivandrum International Film Festival here, on Sunday.

"Film festivals and seminars are conducted with the intention of encouraging good films. However, the Censor Board has been playing a detrimental role in this," Mr. Chandran alleged.

E.N. Sajith, Censor Board member, highlighted the issue of `super censorship' imposed on films by pressure groups in society after their release.

K. Ramachandran Babu, cinematographer, alleged that politicians were stalling the screening of certain films for "political gains."

Sathyajith Mathippe, director from Sri Lanka, was of the view that the freedom of expression of film makers in the island nation was often curtailed on political and religious grounds.

The director Sanjay Jha, whose film Strings is featured at the festival, said his film had to face `super censorship' from religious leaders in North India. According to him, there should be a discussion on the guidelines required for making a film.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


Love in the times of a mela
Utpal Borpujari

Poet Baba Nagarjuna’s writings were revolutionary, to say the least. They had inspired and continue to inspire millions with their non-conformist thoughts, and one among these millions is Sanjay Jha, a former assistant to Hindi cinema’s three biggies— Mahesh Bhatt, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Vidhu Vinod Chopra. So inspired was Jha, an alumni of the National School of Drama, that when he decided to make a film with the mental and physical travels of a few characters surrounding a real-life situation, he decided to zoom in on the last Maha Kumbh mela at Nashik with the underlying theme of the philosophical strains of Baba Nagarjuna’s poems, some of which have been used in the lyrics of the songs.

The result is Strings : Bound By Faith, which, though not a high point in marrying philosophies about life and relationships with the visually rich, verdant locales of Maharashtra’s Nashik area, is a sincere attempt at doing something different from the run of the mill. Compared to Jha’s first film Pran Jaaye Par Shaan Na Jaaye, which borrowed heavily from the theatrical style of presentation only to fall flat both in the box office and in front of critics, his fresh attempt is much more refreshing in the selection, treatment and execution of the storyline, which on the surface, is a simple boy-meets-girl-falls-in-love-with-a-few-twists-in-between narrative, but actually tries to bring in a lot more in terms of looking at Indian way of life through a young westerner’s eyes.

Shot in the midst of the last Maha Kumbh at Nashik and the sea of humanity it beckoned, Strings is quite a courageous effort by the young director, whose shoots had to depend literally on the tumultuous crowd’s mood. Luckily for him, Jha has chosen a cast that does not comprise any stars, and the actors could very easily merge with the crowd, making it much easier for him to handle the shoots.

Kabir Bedi’s son Adam, with his true-blue western looks, quite fits the gangly Warren Hastings he portrays. This Warren Hastings, of course, has nothing to do with the character with the same name from the pages of Imperial India’s history. He is, instead, a young Britisher who, intrigued by the diary of his grandfather who had served in this country, arrives at Nashik just as the Kumbh is about to take off. Through his friend Maya (Sandhya Mridul in another lively performance after Page 3), he meets Krishna (convincingly portrayed by Tannishtha Chatterjee, who has only recently acted in Oscar-winning German director Florian Gallenberger’s Bengali film Shadows of Time), the simple-but-aware daughter of a local temple priest. And slowly, their friendly relationship turns into mutual admiration and then into love as the Kumbh mela reaches its crescendo.

With just six major characters, Jha manages to keep up a smooth flow in the narrative, punctuated with sometimes unnecessary but nevertheless mellifluous music by Assamese heart-throb Zubeen Garg, for whom this is the first go at composing music for Hindi films after having sung a number of songs in films like Fiza and Kaante, apart from composing for around 30 Assamese films and over 100 modern and folk music albums. Having had its global premiere at the recent Osian’s Cinefan, the 7th Festival of Asian Cinema, in New Delhi, the film’s makers— Jha along with Mathew Varghese has produced it under the banner of Phoenix Productions (India)— are looking for a distributor to release this “totally independent” venture at least in the multiplex circuit at which it is primarily aimed.


for 'OM' song

Staying with Uttar Pradesh, the Guardian carries a short AP report about some unhappy Hindu holy men (link added):

Dozens of Hindu holy men in saffron robes torched CDs and posters for a new Bollywood film in northern India yesterday, saying one of the movie's songs has language offensive to the faith and should be banned.

Some of the holy men have asked a court in Allahabad, a Hindu religious hub in Uttar Pradesh state, to pull the film from theatres.

...The film, Strings, is about a British man who tries to learn Indian spirituality by joining the sacred Kumbh festival.

Further details were provided by IndiaFM News Bureau a few days ago:

The song called 'Mantra' originally is a poem written by Baba Nagarjun 1969. It was however, banned for sometime in 1977...The lyrics though controversial, speak about the drawbacks in the democratic set-up.

Baba Nagarjuna was an Indian writer and convert to Buddhism and Marxism who died in 1998; his obituary in the Indian Tribune can be read here. The song contains the sacred word Om”, which has caused particular upset; it can be heard on the website of composer Zubeen Garg.

The controversy will no doubt boost interest in a film which reviewers have found lacklustre. From IndiaFM:

The problem with STRINGS is that it rests on a paper-thin plot and the backdrop of the Maha Kumbh is of no significance to the storyline...STRINGS is more for the pseudo-critics than an ordinary moviegoer. It eyes the Festival circuit mainly, not even the multiplex crowd...None of the performances are worth noting...a poor show.

The New Kerala concurs:

The journey is at the most a half-baked vapid attempt to capture the chants and visuals of the Kumbh Mela in a presentable package.

The film fails miserably in keeping the faith alive. It instead strangulates the most cherished aspects of the Hindu religion, turns it ineffectual and weans our attention to scenes that are woven into awkward pastiches of spirituality… so hackneyed that the film could qualify as the stalest spiritual search since the invention of time.

IndiaFM describes the actual plot (square brackets in original):

Warren Hastings [Adam Bedi], a British youth, arrives in Nasik with Maya [Sandhya Mridul], an urban Indian girl. Warren is plagued by a sort of unfulfilled quest, for an understanding of the mysticism of India, beyond his realms of imagination.Maya puts up Warren at Krishna's [Tannishtha Chatterjee] residence. Krishna is the only child of a temple priest [Vineet Kumar], a widower. Warren and Krishna soon realize that they love each other and one day, Krishna sheds her inhibitions and succumbs to her feelings. In the end, Warren and Krishna realize that a deep bond has developed between them.

A short bio of the film’s director, Sanjay Jha, can be seen here.