Junun13 Oct 2015
Somehow this project felt very personal to PTA, I’m not sure why, but I gathered the feeling while watching it. Even though it was short, breezy, something about it felt like it meant something to him. Perhaps because he’s getting older and seeing artists in another part of the world practice their art inspired him, perhaps for another reason entirely.
I’ve been a fan of Sufi/qawwali music for a long time. It’s incredible for a country so ardently anti-Muslim on its face, how much Muslim art shows up with national resonance in India. Artists like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan have had national and international success for decades. I still don’t know how Indians square these parts of their identity. How can a country be madly in love with an actor named Shah Rukh-Khan for decades while letting mass murders of Muslims happen in its most populous states. But none of the historical or transnational context was part of this film, nor should it be. It was just something I found myself thinking about.
PTA did nothing but play around with cameras and show his technical talent in this film. Which is enough when you’re PTA. The man knows his way around cameras. And now drones too. Musically, this was a great collaboration between Greenwood, Shye Ben Tzur and the Junun band. I’m glad Greenwood and Ben Tzur didn’t try to over-shadow, over-produce or change too much of what makes Rajasthani music unique. This wasn’t so much Jonny Greenwood + Shye Ben Tzur featuring Junun, it was more Junun inviting some international musicians to collaborate with them, to introduce their centuries earned talents to a new audience. And in that it was successful.