“We will know our ends by our beginnings…”

Director Joshua Dylan Mellars travels the length and breadth of India, on dusty roads and bustling city streets, from historic Fatehpur Sikri to teeming Kolkata, from the modern sophistication of Mumbai to the old world splendor of Rajasthan’s royal courts to document the musical legacy of master sarodist Ali Akbar Khan.

Ali Akbar Khan, who introduced Indian classical music to the US at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1955, was “The Emperor of Melody,” a national treasure in India and the US, a Grammy nominee, and according to renowned master violinist Lord Yehudi Menuhin, “possibly the greatest musician in the world.” 

Joshua Dylan Mellars Kolkata

“…His Music is the Sound of Singing Water…” — Carlos Santana

During Maestro Ali Akbar Khan’s long and illustrious career, he influenced countless musicians from diverse musical genres. Among the musicians who have attested to Ali Akbar Khan’s artistry are: Pandit Ravi Shankar, master violinist Lord Yehudi Menuhin, jazz fusion great John McLaughlin and English classical guitar and lute master Julian Bream. Carlos Santana said of Ali Akbar Khan that he was one of the few who like Bob Marley and Coltrane had the universal tone, a tone which shares the spirit of compassion of Desmond Tutu, Mandela, Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama.

Play Like a Lion

“His sarode cries, but it’s a happy cry…” — John Handy

Play Like a Lion–shot to a soundtrack of Ali Akbar Khan’s music–features exclusive interviews with Carlos Santana, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, blues slide guitarist Derek Trucks, and jazz saxophone great John Handy.

The documentary also features intimate conversations with Indian musicians who followed Ali Akbar Khan to the United States: world class percussionist and tabla artist Ustad Zakir Hussain, master tabla player Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri, master Indian flutist Pandit G.S. Sachdev, and Ali Akbar Khan’s eldest son–master sarodist Ustad Aashish Khan.

“If you only see one movie at this year’s Mill Valley Film Festival…watch Joshua Dylan Mellars’ new documentary…”

“Music gives us a certain cadence and tone that drives our lives toward a destination, and tuning into this sense of direction — discovering who we are and where we are going — is the theme of Joshua Dylan Mellars’ music documentary Play Like a Lion…”