Silent Film, Live Music

Posted by Channel 6
October 10, 2012

A film was made in the 1920s by Franz Ozsten, a German film director who loved working in India with Indian actors and technicians. The film will be showcased this month along with live music by an orchestra from Hamburg. The event is unique and exciting as Minal Khona finds out.

A silent film made by German  director Franz Osten , in the 1920s — The Throw of Dice — is based on an episode from the Mahabharat. Restored to the near original state, we get an opportunity to view this film, almost a century later. A live band — Tuten und Blasen will play music to accompany every scene.
Oh, and to make it more interesting, there are other pieces of music, not played by the orchestra that are part of the concert. The climax of the battle clashes will be accompanied by the music of the hip-hop musician Will Smith from the United States and Panjabi Mc from India. And the theme music, however, is an Indian song from Chandni — Mere haathon mein nau nau chudiyaan hain sung by Lata Mangeshkar. The opening credits of the restored film are drawn to the Indian film music of composer and DJ Nitin Sawhney from 2001.
The wonders of technology and cross cultural interests never cease. Franz Osten, who hailed from Munich strongly influenced Indian cinema. Exotic Indian films were quite popular in Germany in the early 1920s, but it was only with the collective work of Himanshu Rai and Osten, that a productive Indo-German cooperation was created. After three major silent films shot in India in the 20s, Osten made 16 feature films for the Indian production company Bombay Talkies.
The story of the silent film classic is based on an episode from the Mahabharata. Two kings, who are addicted to gambling fight for the love of the beautiful Sunita, daughter of the hermit, with all their available resources. A game of dice will determine the winner. The film was shot entirely in Mumbai with Indian actors and performers (including the boys from the streets of Jaipur), with Himanshu Rai and Sita Devi in the lead roles.
Goethe Zentrum Hyderabad in collaboration with APTDC have brought this silent film concert to Hyderabad. Amita Desai, Executive Director of Goethe Zentrum says, “In the earlier days, it was common practice to have a pianist or a duo or trio of musicians play live music to accompany a silent film. The Throw of Dice, or Prapancha Pash was first screened in 1929 with a live performance. When I was in Bombay, I have done Osten films with the original score of the film’s music being performed. In this event, it is not the original score. We wanted to do something different so we decided to bring the Tuten and Blasen brassband to play something more lively and contemporary. Hamburg and Hyderabad are trying to connect culturally and this band hails from there.” Also, Amita being chosen as the honorary brand ambassador for Hamburg, it was only fitting that this silent film concert be held in Hyderabad.
The brassband, Tuten und Blasen, has been making music for over 30 years: on the streets and squares, in tents and concert halls and over 20 years in the cinema for silent films from the  ’20s. In the early days it was the rough, loud, unexpected and sloping style that distinguished Tuten und Blasen’s music from the others. The group has not completely discarded these characteristics, but reduced and refined them. Their music today is a unique blend of jazz, Afro and Latin elements. Full, warm horns, polyrhythmic West African music, percussive samba and Afoxéklänge from Brazil, and the African and jazz inspired compositions by Hans Schneidermann determine the range of the band. There are 18 musicians who are on trumpets, saxophone, trombone, tuba, percussions and singers — soprano, alto, tenor and baritone.
The music for A throw of  Dice has been created by the composer Axel Hennies from Tuten und Blasen. He has created an arrangement for this film out of Indian music, jazz motives and specifically from music of the band. It deepens the dramatic, psychological and other aspects of the film, yet it remains at an independent level.
The percussionists built up their equipment especially for this film and the musicians add a certain nuance and timbre to the black and white film with more than 30 instruments.
The compositions include a funeral march and a piece composed to showcase the wedding preparations by Ernst Bechert.  Composer Hans Schneidermann has worked with the group and composed a few pieces for the film.
The silent film concert is open to all, but invitation cards will have to be produced at entry points.

A Throw of Dice
Saturday, 20th October, Shilpakala Vedika,
Next to Shilpa Ramam, Hitec City.


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