Friday, December 11, 2015

Junun (2015)

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Features: Jonny Greenwood, Shye Ben Tzur, Rajasthan Express

Its a 54 minute documentary, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, which documents the making of an album of the same name in Mehrangarh Fort in Rajasthan, India, by the Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur, English composer and Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, Indian ensemble Rajasthan Express, and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich.

Jonny Greenwood's collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson started with 'There Will Be Blood' and it continued with him composing soundtrack for the next two PT Anderson films, The Master and Inherent Vice. This time the relation is other way round with Anderson documenting a music project involving Jonny Greenwood. We know the Beatles coming to India story and their use of Sitar in 'Norwegian Wood'. But it was more famous for them buying into the spiritual bullshit. Thankfully, there is not any of that in Junun and the collaboration is strictly musical. It is not a case of Radiohead music getting a tinge of Indian and Israeli flavors as level of involvement is equal across the board and the documentary conveys that with all the artists sitting in a circle and recording. I am a bit musically challenged and I really don't differentiate the sounds coming from different instruments when I hear music. Since this video captures each and every little instrument that they are using when its actually playing, you really can appreciate the complexity in composing involving such different musical instruments into a whole. 

Anderson also uses drones to get some breathtaking aerial footage of touristy parts in and around the fort. Also you get some idiosyncratic things that you will get if you are depending on Indian state electricity boards for power to record music out from a studio environment. The contortions that Indian musicians make is also fascinating to watch as they are not much bothered about their appearance while playing. It is a delightful watch and I managed to deduce that some of the lyrics were in Hebrew even though I didn't know that an Israeli musician was involved with the project prior to watching this film. That is some achievement from my part since I haven't seen many Israeli films to familiarize myself with the way that language sounds and was going purely by eliminating other languages and partly going by the way Shye Ben Tzur looks. He has been involved with Indian music for a long time and composes Qawwalis (a form of ecstatic Muslim devotional music), instrumental and devotional music in Hebrew, Hindi and Urdu. He has also started composing Sufi Qawwali music in Hebrew as well. The album that they made, 'Junun', has not yet been released and the only preview that you can get is out of the footage from this documentary film. It is a very good watch on the whole.

Rating: 3.5/5