Directed byMani Kaul
Written byMani Kaul
Produced byFilms Division
CinematographyPiyush Shah
Edited byLalitha Krishna
Release date
  • 1989 (1989)
Running time
123 minutes (without cuts), 92 minutes (with cuts)

Siddheshwari (Hindi: सिद्देश्वरी) is a 1989 Hindi documentary directed film by Mani Kaul. It is a cinematic portrait of Siddheshwari Devi, a Hindustani classical music singer from Varanasi, India.[1] It was produced by the Films Division of India. The film was awarded the National Award for the Best Documentary for that year in India.[2]


Although the film defies a linear plot structure, it begins with a bilingual scrolling text in Hindi and English that indicates the dominant thematic that film is knitted with. The narrative meanders between the biographic moments of Siddheshwari Devi's life, that describes her relationship with her guru and her benefactor, intertwined with the mythic history of thumri and tappa as a musical form located in the medieval ghats, gullies and mansions of Varanasi. For Mani Kaul this film, was a “poetic documentary,” [3] in an interview he says: “in my own way, I have tried to bring poetry, documentary and fiction together. We would call it non-linear narrative.”[4]



Critical Appreciation

Srikanth Srinivisan wrote in The Hindu that in Siddheshwari, instead of simply presenting biographical details or passively documenting the singer's artistry, Kaul turns the genre of cine-profile inside out, amalgamating literary, theatrical, musical and cinematic forms together to construct an experience of music. "The sprawling film blends multiple timelines, realities and geographies to sketch a unique portrait of the artist," he wrote.[5]

In a review for The New York Times, Caryn James compared the film with an abstract painting, "wildly open to interpretation". Siddheshwari is "beautifully photographed but impenetrable," he wrote.[6]


In 2014, critic Mark Cousins and filmmaker John Akomfrah voted for Siddheshwari on Sight & Sound's list of "The Greatest Documentaries of All Time", with the former describing the film as "Visconti meets Satyajit Ray".[7]

This film has been categorized by Amrit Gangar as a Cinema of Prayoga film.[8]


  1. ^ "Siddheshwari". IMDb. 30 September 1990. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
  2. ^ "111th Edition – Mani Kaul's Siddheshwari". Films Division. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
  3. ^ "An Interview with Mani Kaul". 16 November 2005.
  4. ^ Udayan Vajpeyi (2013) "In conversation with Udayan Vajpeyi", p. 16 in Uncloven Space: Mani Kaul in Conversation with Udayan Vajpeyi. Quiver Books
  5. ^ Srikanth Srinivasan (9 April 2013). "Outtakes – Mani Kaul". The Hindu. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
  6. ^ Caryn James (30 September 1990). "A Modernist Approach to Biography". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
  7. ^ "The Greatest Documentaries of All Time – all the votes | Sight & Sound | BFI". Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  8. ^ "THEIR EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH « The Big Indian Picture". Retrieved 10 July 2019.