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Bangalore Screening: “Rasoolan Bai – The Other Song” a film by Saba Dewan

Posted by ElJay Arem (IMC OnAir) on September 15, 2009

Saba Dewan’s film ‘The Other Song’ traces a lost tune to stumble upon the rich history of the courtesans of North India.


Filmmaker Saba Dewan was three years into intensive research for her film that explored the arts and the lifestyles of the courtesans or tawaifs of Northern India when she heard a story, she was easily about to dismiss as folklore.

The story is that of a lost song sung in 1935 by Rasoolan Bai the well known singer from Varanasi. She recorded for the gramaphone, a thumri that she would never sing again – Lagat jobanwa ma chot, phool gendwa na maar (My breasts are wounded, don’t throw flowers at me).Which was a variation of her most famous song – Lagat karejwa ma chot, phool gendwa na maar (My heart is wounded, don’t throw flowers at me), the 1935 recording, never to be repeated, faded from public memory and eventually got lost.  Dewan ultimately traced the lost song and in turn made a movie that traces the rich culture of the tawaifs, that’s now disappearing into oblivion.


‘It was wonderful when I found the lost song as I thought it reflects the art forms associated with tawafis and also it raised the question of why this community along with their arts are no longer around’ says Dewan speaking of her film ‘The Other Song’. The documentary film which was a grant funded by India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) is the concluding part of three films- ‘Delhi –Mumbai – Delhi’ (2006) on the lives of bar dancers was the first film of the trilogy and the second being ‘Naach’ (The Dance, 2008) that explored the lives of women who dance in rural fairs.


A critical point to the documentary is the exploration of the relationship between the tawaif’s aesthetic expression and her sexual identity. Saba Dewan elaborates by saying that till about the late 1960’s the courtesans of Lucknow and Varanasi were respected community, applauded for their art forms. “It was a shame that a community that was looked upon for their dance and music was associated on the same lines of sex workers.” The shame brought to the community resulted in the tawaifs performing their thumris at local radio stations and ultimately private performances at weddings. But that dies out soon, with the family members taking up ‘regular’ jobs and forgetting a history they once had.

The film travels through Varanasi, Lucknow and Muzzafarpur in Bihar to search for the forgotten song and in the process weaves together life stories, memories, music and the question of the female sexuality which is pertinent even today.

Funded by the IIFA, the film was screened at the following places:

On the  29th August, Saturday at Bangalore International Centre, Domlur at 6:00pm.
On the  30th August, Sunday at Ananya, Malleswaram at 6:00pm.

Bangalore International Centre
TERI Complex 4th Main, 2nd Cross
Domlur II Stage
Phone: 080-25359680 | Fax: 080- 25356589

Contact: Saba Dewan
A -19 Gulmohur Park,
New Delhi 110 049

(Source: 08/29/2009 – – Art & Culture | Adithi Mathews)

Smt. Rasoolan Bai & Raag Piloo (Thumri Recital)

Raga Name: P i l u
That Name: K a f i
Aroha: ‘N S g m P N S’
Avaroha: S’ n D P d m g R S ‘N g S
Jati: Audava – Sampurna…
Vadi: g
Samvadi: n
Swarupa: g m d P g S R ‘N g S
Prahar: anytime

Raga Information: Raga Pilu is a light raga commonly used to express joy, devotion, happiness, and love.

Despite the common nature of this raga, the structure of this raga is disputed. Everything about the raga from which notes are used, how many notes are used, vadi-samvadi, aroha and avaroha, svarupa, and even the prahar is disputed.

Hence, no one really refers to this raga as Pilu, but Misra Pilu (“mixed version of Pilu”) which incorporates not only which is covered above but graces notes like komal re, suddha Ga, tivra Ma, komal dha, and both Nis. Like Bhairavi, all twelve notes can be used in a composition of this raga.

(Source: )

Kajiri – Rasoolan Bai of Benares

2 Responses to “Bangalore Screening: “Rasoolan Bai – The Other Song” a film by Saba Dewan”

  1. […] 29. August 2009 wurde der Dokumentarfilm „Rasoolan Bai – Das andere Lied“ (original: The other Song) im Bangalore International Centre (Bangalore) der Öffentlichkeit […]


  2. […] 29. August 2009 wurde der Dokumentarfilm „Rasoolan Bai – Das andere Lied“ (original: The other Song) im Bangalore International Centre (Bangalore) der Öffentlichkeit […]


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