MISAFF Film Reviews: ‘Song of Lahore’ and ‘Toba Tek Singh’ Leave an Impact

Posted on Aug 10 2016 - 12:15pm
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MISAFF Film Reviews: 'Song of Lahore' and 'Toba Tek Singh' Leave an Impact lyrics, song mp3 download

By Swati Sharan

“Song of Lahore”

songOflahore

Directed by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, the film traces the music scene in Lahore from the 1930′s to now by taking us on the journey of the Sachal studio musicians and their journey of reviving a musical heritage that risks being lost.

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Lahore once had a thriving film industry and an esteemed legacy of centuries of rich culture. Many orchestra performers once earned stable livelihoods from this film industry. All that changed once Zia Ul Haq’s reign in Pakistan began with his anti-music stance. Many musicians were left with no means of supporting themselves unless they changed their professions. This began an eventual decline of Lahore’s musical heritage. The violin was such an integral part of the music scene once but now one is at a loss for being able to find someone who can repair certain parts of it.

Though the music scene did eventually pick up after Haq’s regime was over, it took on a different direction. Classical music of both, the South Asian and Western kind, were not in vogue. Instead, people pursued modern pop and keyboards. Eventually, as the Taliban influence began pervading music of any kind was once again under threat as they considered it a sin. Once again, musicians were being left to start at the drawing board.

The musicians at Sachal studio are pursuing it with a difference this time. They realize there is a value for their talents in the West. They are fusing South Asian classical music, western jazz with famous jazz musician Wynton Marsalis and his orchestra members to perform at the Lincoln Centre in America.  Chinoy  traces the journey of the Sachal studio musicians from Pakistan to America as they prepare for this grand concert in “Songs of Lahore.”

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Chinoy has remarkably captured the Lahori heritage of yesteryear to a hopeful today with great succinctness.

“Toba Tek Singh”

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Starring Vinay Pathak and Pankaj Kapur, “Toba Tek Singh” is based on a short story by writer Saadat Hasan Manto. The film takes place in a mental asylum during the partition in Lahore. A new asylum director/writer Saadat Hasan, played by Pathak, has taken charge of this mental asylum and he comes to observe the different patients there. One of them in particular stands out. His name is Bishan Singh, played by Kapur, and he was once a landlord from the village of Toba Tek Singh. He hasn’t sat down or slept in ten years and though largely silent, he repeatedly mutters the same five or six things when he does speak.

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In spite of all the different patients having mental illnesses, they cohabitate and live like a family. The crux of the story comes when three years after partition, India and Pakistan decide to have patients shifted to mental asylums on opposite sides of the border based on their religion. The Hindu and Sikh patients from this asylum are being made to go to the Indian side of the border while the Muslim patients are being made to go to the Pakistani side of the border. What further complicates this is that these patients, who have been outside of the social set-up, don’t realize whether their towns or cities fall in India thanks to the border.  This especially distresses Bishan Singh who doesn’t know if his village is in India or Pakistan and if it doesn’t fall in India, where does that leave him?

“Toba Tek Singh” is a heart-wrenching tale about the forced displacement of an already vulnerable sector of the society. After all, possibly out of intense fear of some kind, these patients found it hard to exist in their native society as a whole as they clung to the ever-familiar in their lives and routines. So what would this displacement accomplish? Do political decision makers ever think of the impact their decisions have on common people?

Manto was always one to compel society to rethink what it was doing and this tale is no less an example of this.  In his portrayal of Bishan Singh, Kapur has left a tear-staining impact. The supporting cast has aptly depicted the different forms of mental illnesses. As a caretaker, Pathak has also sensitively captured the plight of looking after those with mental illnesses. Mehta has vividly recreated the era of partition and its near aftermath such that you feel you could step into it.

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MISAFF Film Reviews: ‘Song of Lahore’ and ‘Toba Tek Singh’ Leave an Impact was last modified: August 10th, 2016 by greendecker

This article was originally published on http://www.india.com/arts-and-culture/misaff-film-reviews-song-of-lahore-and-toba-tek-singh-leave-an-impact-1393120/