Dhrupad the Call of the Deep (total length 200 mins) is a documentary film on Dhrupad - the ancient classical court and temple music genre of North India, featuring as its main protagonists Dagar family patriarch Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar and Dhrupad singer Ashish Sankrityayan. The film documents the process of oral transmission of traditional knowledge and focuses on the complex linkages between Dhrupad and Indian spiritual and philosophical thought, literature, art and history and also on the relevance of Dhrupad in the context of the vast globalizing influences sweeping through India now.
The film documents in the first person, the interaction and the relation between a traditional Dhrupad maestro and his young student, with one of the two main protagonists - the student also wielding the camera, focusing mainly on his master and sometimes turning it on himself.
In its phrasing, camera movements, micro and macro structure, the film follows the dynamics of a typical performence of Dhrupad - the music it tells about. The close physical distance between the two characters necessitates a cinematic language where the camera constantly moves around, following the movements of the protagonists and ranging over parts of the body or small objects or whatever is interesting, since only a small part of the whole picture can be accommodated in the frame at that close distance. Hand gestures or mudras are used as a voice and melodic technique in Dhrupad singing, and the film uses the complex gestures and hand movements of the singers as a metaphor for the art. There is nothing in the film that is preplanned or scripted. The things to talk about or sing were never decided beforehand. The interaction was shot as it occured over a period of about five years. While the use of the camera by one of the protagonists would have influenced the interaction in subtle ways - the unobstrusive use of a very small palm sized camera and the fact that the protagonists get used to its constant presence after some time, ensured that this influence remained minimal.
The film has several threads running through it, and through these parallel and sometimes intertwined threads shows how the story of Dhrupad is the story of Indian civilization itself, with its centuries of the meeting, assimilation and mutual enrichment of cultures and religions.