They stand not just for raw talent but for integrity, intelligence and individuality in the country’s cultural arena.
And yet, for all the power of their talent – and that is formidable – what stays with you when you engage with Vishal and Rekha Bhardwaj as people is quite simply artless authenticity.
Vishal, who after 30 years of writing poetry “but never having the courage to publish it” has finally does so – took the stage, along with Sukrita Paul Kumar, who has translated his poems into English – to talk writing, music, his love for the Bard, his cinematic influences, and his complex relationship with success.
“I was obsessed with success. And Mumbai only accepts you if you know how to take a leap off the 120th floor. Do that, and you can find success. But if you have even an iota of doubt, if you allow yourself to even think of an alternative, or a backup option, then you’re never going to succeed. Here, you have to be ready to die if you fail. Then, you won’t.”
In a conversation peppered with anecdotes and self-deprecation, Vishal spoke of his intimate relationship with his cinematic mentor Gulzar; with the solitary pursuit of writing; with why he became a director, and what he holds as the most intimidating aspect of filmmaking. “Screenplay writing is the most interesting and the most difficult process in cinema. If you write a good script you have to be a master to make a bad film out of it. Even if you shoot it badly, it will still work.”
But it was when he was joined on stage by his deceptively diminutive wife Rekha that it became apparent how deeply the partnership has not just shaped Rekha – whose first song as a playback singer was Vishal’s iconic Namak Ishq Ka from Omkara – but Vishal himself, who relies on his wife’s superb ear for music to add a deeper layer to his work. “I ask her to sing any song I’m composing, even if it’s meant to be for a male singer, because that’s how I gain perspective on whether it works,” he revealed.
But there was more than just conversation on stage, as befitting two of cinema’s most talented music collaborators. Rekha herself sang snatches of the risqué Namak and the feisty Genda Phool from Delhi 6; she urged – and succeeded – in getting Vishal to sing snatches of O Saathi Re fromOmkara; recite verse in Urdu, and open up about their life as partners, as collaborators, and where it all began: as college sweethearts.
Algebra, the Arts & Ideas Club brings together a fellowship of people who believe great cities are built not just on infrastructure but a life of the mind; who understand robust and liberal societies need the oxygen of great conversation and nuanced thinking.
At a time when we are increasingly surrounded by rage and noise, Algebra is a live and continuous space for people to come together for a genuine exchange of ideas and exposure to issues; where new seeds could be sparked, fresh perspectives formed, and intelligent connections made.
Algebra – the Arts and Ideas Club is designed to host almost 35 engagements over the year with topline thinkers and practitioners from almost every discipline that impacts human affairs: politics, economy, environment, spirituality, cinema, medicine, science, technology, music, media, literature, the arts, sports, people’s movements, et al.