Of Bards and Beggars documents in detail, a musical ritual called Pabuji Jaagran, an all night epic recitation by Indian Rajasthani folk musicians. This story centers around a folk deity called Pabujib, a protector of livestock. The Pabuji legend is widely popular in Western Rajasthan among a shepherd community from the Rebari (Raika) caste. An oral tradition passed from generation to generation by word of mouth, the entire Pabuji epic would take 36 hours to recite. In the theatrical version, a performer known as the Bhopa performs a duet with his wife, the Bhopi. The oral recital consists of multiple stanzas which are also illustrated on a giant painting behind the performers. Along with singing the stanzas, the Bhopa plays a stringed instrument, the Ravanhatha. The performance starts at dusk and lasts for twelve hours. At dawn, the Bhopi and the Bhopa sing the final prayer.
The film not only captures the first documentation on video of an authentic, unstaged Pabujib jaagran in its natural setting, it also seeks to examine the issues of commodification of folk culture and the resulting loss of meaning for the traditional followers of Pabuji. A poor community no longer held in great esteem, the Pabuji musicians now perform in the new milieu of India's hospitality and tourism industry. Signaling their rapidly-vanishing folk culture, they must play to an audience largely ignorant of the meaning or origins of the entertainment.
This is the first documentation on video of an authentic, unstaged, Pabujib jaagran in it's natural setting.
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