Paul Thomas Anderson, the celebrated director of films like The Master and There Will Be Blood, has made his documentary debut with ‘Junun’ and it’s soul is incredibly Indian. Anderson joined his friend and frequent collaborator Jonny Greenwood, the guitarist for the band Radiohead, as they traveled to Rajasthan in the spring of 2015. They were joined there by Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur and an eclectic group of Indian musicians, resulting in the music and film of the 54-minute-long Junun.
The musicians and crew were hosted by the Maharaja of Jodhpur at the 15th century Mehrangarh Fort for a period of three weeks and a makeshift studio was constructed in the fort itself where the ensuing collaboration was captured by Anderson on his camera. ‘Junun’ or ‘Madness of Love’ premiered at the New York Film Festival on the 8th October and will be exclusively streamed on MUBI from 9th October, in what has been one of the most highly anticipated and secretive Paul Thomas Anderson projects ever.
Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich joined Greenwood and Tzur with a group of Indian musicians, collectively known as ‘The Rajasthani Express.” Namely, Aamir Bhiyani, Soheb Bhiyani, Ajaj Damami, Sabir Damami, Hazmat, and Bhanwaru Khan on brass; Ehtisham Khan Ajmeri, Nihal Khan, Nathu Lal Solanki, Narsi Lal Solanki, and Chugge Khan on percussion; Zaki Ali Qawwal, Zakir Ali Qawwal, Afshana Khan, Razia Sultan, Gufran Ali, and Shazib Ali on vocals; and Dara Khan and Asin Khan on strings.
“The results deliver the close camaraderie of artistic collaboration and a sonic, visual and sensory experience that will capture your imagination,” said MUBI in a statement describing what is shaping up to be a unique East meets West collaboration with traditional Indian musicians we have rarely seen mentioned in the mainstream, let alone independent channels and platforms. Unlike most video streaming services, MUBI is available for subscription in India, which makes Junun a must-watch weekend pick for every music lover in the country. And if you are keen on watching it on the big screen, the Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI) which starts from 29th October, will also be screening Junun as a part of its international film lineup.
The past few weeks have seen our chests (well, some of our chests, anyway) swell in pride over the visits of Prime Minister Modi to the United States and the American Television debut of Priyanka Chopra. Perhaps Junun is a nice way of reminding us that East and West are constantly amalgamating in ways we rarely see or talk about as well. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start now.
Watch the trailer of the documentary here.