Khayal Gatha (The Khayal Saga) lyrically conjures the genesis and development of the khayal, a form of northern Indian classical vocal music, which developed in the 18th century from earlier musical and poetic traditions.
This abstract exploration is directed by Kumar Shahani, who studied film in both India, under Bengali social realist Ritwik Ghatak, and France, where he worked as an intern on Robert Bresson's Une femme douce (A Gentle Woman; 1969). It is captured, dreamlike, on film by the renowned cinematographer KK Mahajan (Uski Roti, Padatik).
Their experimental drama echoes the essentially improvisatory nature of the art form it explores, as well as revealing its relationship to classical Indian dance via performance from top practitioners of both.
The narrative derives in part from a music student (Mangal Dhillon) learning the stories and legends surrounding khayal, with key figures from the folktales played by Rajat Kapoor and Mita Vasisht.
The film won the FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) Prize at the 1990 Rotterdam International Film Festival.
In Hindi with English subtitles.