When director Imtiaz Ali needed a leitmotif and a link to connect the past and the present in his latest film Love Aaj Kal, guess what he got - one of Delhi's oldest wedding brass bands, the Jea Band.
"To understand what the Jea Band means to Delhi's wedding culture, you have to belong to the city. It's literally more than 100 years old, it's so much a part of the city's marriage ethos, you can't escape its influence at any wedding," Ali told IANS.
Starring Saif Ali Khan in a double role along with Deepika Padukone, the film releases July 31. This is Ali's third outing as a director after Socha Na Tha and the hit Jab We Met. When the Love Aaj Kal plot needed to connect the present with past, a Delhiite at heart, Ali immediately thought of the Jea Band.
"They were there at every wedding. And I told Saif why not the Jea Band to show your character's link with the past? So while recreating Delhi in 1965 we got the vintage cars, the proper clothes and roads... and the Jea Band which plays in our film in 1965. It also plays in the contemporary portion of the film."
Founded by Jealal D. Thadani in 1936, the band also performed at the wedding of Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai in Mumbai April 20, 2007. Now when brass bands are no more that fashionable and in-demand at weddings, the band was thrilled to be approached for Ali's film.
"They haven't changed. Earlier, the fathers played at weddings. Now their children play. When they were told they're part of the film and that they will be performing on camera for the song Chor bazaar, they got new uniforms stitched for the entire band at their own cost," said Ali.
A part of Delhi in 1965 in Imtiaz Ali's new film had to be recreated in Mandawa, Rajasthan, and Patiala, Punjab. And the Jea Band contributed not only to the periodicity but the film's energy levels too during shooting.
"We shot with the Jea Band not only in Delhi but also in Patiala and Mandawa because the 1965 Chandni Chowk look does not exist in Delhi any longer.
"We took the Jea Band with us to Mandawa and Patiala. After shooting, they kept us entertained for hours with old film songs," said the director.
Saif picked up many of his actress mother Sharmila Tagore's old hits from those evenings in Mandawa and Patiala with the band. But unfortunately Jea couldn't record in the soundtrack of Love Aaj Kal.
"They couldn't keep rhythm with the recording mode. Their style of playing is very unstructured," said Ali.
Old music is a looming leitmotif in the film. "We chose Man dole tan dole from Nagin when the other choice was Jhumka gira re from Mera Saaya. We wanted a sound that could linger," the director explained.