A friend pointed me to this wonderful 1989 film on the life and times of Bismillah Khan (1916-2006), a musician as great as any that India has produced. It reveals Khan's enduring sense of place, his syncretic faith, his modesty and egalitarianism, and his extraordinary talent and devotion to music. The film presents many vanishing old world values, stories, and traditions of musical learning, with footage of the narrow alleys of Varanasi and its ghats by the Ganga, which Khan loved and missed on his travels. Though a pious Muslim, he also revered the Goddess Saraswati and often played at the famous Vishwanath temple on the ghats of Varanasi. (90 min, Hindi, no subtitles.)
It so happens that Bismillah Khan presided over the union that made my existence possible in the world! He played at my parents wedding in 1959, when he was a rising star, as a favor to my maternal grandfather who was a pretty senior official in the UP state bureaucracy. The photos on the right are from that occasion.