While the Jodhpur RIFF is primarily known for its live music performances, the festival occasionally also screens interesting films about artists and bands who have performed at the festival over the years. This year, Dan Coutts’ film titled ‘Heading West’ was screened as part of the festival’s 13th edition at the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. While the film is based on Scotland’s famous acid croft band Shooglenifty, the film also features Rajasthani musicians as well as the majestic Mehrangarh Fort and Jodhpur RIFF.
Maharaja Gaj Singh II of Marwar-Jodhpur, the chief patron of Jodhpur RIFF, and Divya Bhatia, the festival director and producer, were also present for the screening which marked the film’s Asia premiere. The film had its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival as part of the festival’s Night Moves Strand back in August.
For the uninitiated, Shooglenifty came into being back in the year 1990 in Edinburgh when a bunch of musicians from the Scottish Highlands, Orkney and Edinburgh came together. Since then the band regularly travels internationally. What makes the band tick is its ultra unique sound which has become the band’s signature thanks to its ability to blend Scottish traditional music with the beats of world music influences ranging from electronica to alternative rock.
Heading West can best be described as a musical journey that follows the original members of the band and their rise to international fame. The film is about the passion and creativity of the band members and their bonding. Their highs and lows, particularly the untimely death of their fiddle player and front man, Angus R. Grant. With Angus, unarguably one of the best fiddle players of his generation, Shooglenifty attained new heights. But his death at just the age of 49 back in the year 2016 proved to be a big blow to the band. However, despite the loss, the band kept the show running, operating with the same levels of commitment, passion and creativity.
Various band members of Shooglenifty including Angus have performed at the Jodhpur RIFF. Also, Rajasthani folk musicians have also collaborated with Shooglenifty, which comprises the last segment of Heading West. Divya Bhatia in his post-screening address touched upon his association with the members of Shooglenifty and revealed that all the Hindi conversations in the film have been translated by him for the film and that he rendered his services gratis for the film. He also appears in the film as one of the talking heads, sharing fascinating insights about Angus and Shooglenifty.
Heading West makes for a riveting film viewing experience for cinema and music lovers alive. At a run time of 86 minutes, the film is brilliantly paced. The editing and sound are absolutely top-notch. To those unacquainted with Angus and Shooglenifty, the film serves as a veritable primer, whether one speaks of the music, style or the personalities. And those who are already aware of Angus and the band would also find a lot to cherish in the film.