[*** stars / *****]
Kaagaz Ki Kashti: Jagjit Singh Come Alive is a lively chronicle of the late legendary ghazal singer's life.
The documentary is a compilation of interviews with Jagjit's relatives, collaborators, poets and friends, and a treasure house of archival material featuring the singer.
It is in the archival material, showcasing Jagjit's exuberant, humourous personality that the documentary truly comes alive.
I once again relived the silken voice and the immortal songs, the sheer mastery and uncanny audience connect. Jagjit's death in 2012 ended the ghazal's reign in popular Indian culture.
A life of passion
Kaagaz Ki Kashti: Jagjit Singh Come Alive is a celebratory, loosely chronological account.
It starts from the great singer's early years in his home town Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan, his astonishing first ghazal composition at the age of 13, a youth festival star, his move to Mumbai, struggle, defying staunch traditions to do away with his turban and beard, success, love, stardom, committing to 70 concerts a year as part of his 70th birthday celebrations and his demise.
Ghazal fans will love everything about this intimately-made documentary, right down to the funny end credits.
I watched the documentary with a fanboy exuberance couple of years ago. On revisiting it recently, I found that there is a home video turn to it, instead of been a fascinating study of an enigmatic, cheerful musical genius.
This is also a conventional take, not a keen, objective, in-depth look into Singh's life.
Aspects like Singh's addictive smoking habit that he finally gave up after 40 years, his rumoured lifetime love for alcohol, needed more screen-time.
His singing technique is only mentioned in passing, needed more on how he coped with a heart-wrenching loss, more on his chemistry and interactions with other famous artists, friends and poets.
Clearly, the legendary singer's life is calling out for a documentary sequel.
Celebrating a life in songs
Despite its partisan view, Kaagaz Ki Kashti: Jagjit Singh Come Alive is absolute nostalgia gold, a lovingly pieced together life story of a man who in his own merry way, followed his heart.
(First version - Dec 19, 2018)
(Second version - May 24, 2020)