Reels of memories
In the year 1971, my first documentary film was made by a famous Canadian film maker Mr. James Beveridge. At that time we used to live in Defence Colony in New Delhi in the ground floor in a house that had four rooms and was on rent for only Four Hundred Rupees. My elder sister Sarwar Jahan (I had two older sisters, Anwar and Sarwar) got married in the year 1969 from this house.. My father was alive at that time, though the last ten years of his life was were very uncomfortable. He was highly diabetic and suffered from all the connected ailments. Towards his last years, he was also unable to hear very well. His deterioration was slow. He passed away in this house on December 28, 1972. That is when I became the earner of the family. Whatever I got through my concerts, I used to give to my mother revered Rahat Jehan Khan. After my sister’s marriage, I went to the bank to see my balance. I discovered that I had only Rupees Sixty nine in my account! Unfortunately her marriage was not a happy one; she was tortured by her husband. Few years after the wedding, Sarwar got tetanus and died. I did not tell my father about this news right away and informed in due course. Coming back to this documentary, fortunately in this feature one can see my father (perhaps his only colored footage), mother and also Sarwar Jahan who was a very beautiful person; full of life.

Mr. Beveridge was very keen to go to Gwalior and shoot at the Sarod Ghar (which was not converted into a museum yet) and the Gwalior Palace. At that time, Mr. Madhav Rao Scindia, who was a handsome man full of energy and fun had not yet joined politics. He agreed to be in the film and also created a ‘Darbar like’ atmosphere for a sequence of me performing in the palace. The film has a good footage on him too. The master copy of this documentary lies with the ‘Jamia Millia University’ with department of mass communication in New Delhi. It was a great pleasure working with Mr. Beveridge. I still remember during the film he asked me about my ambition in life and I promptly replied ‘to serve and look after my parents!’ Very recently, his daughter Nina made a film on her father and I fondly recalled the moments I had spent with him.

Another memorable interaction was with the great film maker, writer and poet Gulzar. Gulzar Saheb as I fondly call him, made a documentary film on me titled ‘Amjad Ali Khan’ for the films division in 1990. He got the Filmfare Award for this documentary the following year. Gulzar Saheb’s vision and canvas was so unique. He captured my journey, my mind and my feeling which depicts that music is not a profession for me but it is a passion. The film was shot in New Deli, Mumbai, Pune, Gwalior and Kolkata. It has some very interesting footage of my career. There is also an interaction with my Sarod maker, Hemen Chandra Sen, who is now in his late eighties. I remember while Gulzar Saheb was shooting in Gwalior at Sarod Ghar (my ancestral house), I was sitting on the terrace and speaking about the Mosque which was adjacent to our house. My father would sometimes go and give the Azaan (Call of the prayer) there. As I was speaking, the Azaan actually started in the background. Gulzar Saheb did not say cut and commenced the shoot till the time I walked out of the frame. I also had the pleasure to work with Gulzar Saheb for an Album called Vaada in 2000. I had composed eight songs which he so beautifully penned. We recorded the songs in Mumbai and they were sung by Roop Kumar Rathod and Sadhana Sargam. HMV, now called Sa Re Ga Ma had released this.

More recently in 1996, a very young and dynamic film maker Gautam Haldar made a documentary on me and called it ‘Strings for Freedom’. I had seen Gautam’s first documentary at its premier at the Nandam Theater in Kolkata in 1995. The film was on a much respected and eteran Tabla player, Hirendranath Ganguly (affectionately called Hiru Babu). This film was given the National Award at that time. Following this, he started the documentary on me. I found Gautam focused on what he had conceptualized and his approach was very original This documentary again has some very momentous occasions captured on film including my fiftieth birthday celebrations in Kolkata and New Delhi. Interactions with Bismillah Khan Saheb, Girija Devi, V. G. Joge and the legendary theatre personality Shambhu Mitra are seen in this film. This documentary was selected in the Indian Film Panorama and also won the Bengal Film Journalist Association Award. Apart from film festivals in India, it was screened at the Ankara Film Festival.