The trailer for what sounds like a fascinating film about the survival of the poetry and music of the Sindhi Sufi Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai (or Bhitai), directed by Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar. The trailer includes one of Bhittai’s poems. Let me just copy the description from Vimeo:
Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, a medieval Sufi poet, is an iconic figure in the cultural history of Sindh. Bhitai’s Shah Ji Risalo is a remarkable collection of poems which are sung by many communities in Kachchh and across the border in Sindh (now in Pakistan). Many of the poems draw on the eternal love stories of Umar-Marui and Sasui-Punhu, among others. These songs speak of the pain of parting, of the inevitability of loss and of deep grief that takes one to unknown and mysterious terrains.
Umar Haji Suleiman of Abdasa, in Kachchh, Gujarat, is a self taught Sufi scholar; once a cattle herder, now a farmer, he lives his life through the poetry of Bhitai. Umar’s cousin, Mustafa Jatt sings the Bheths of Bhitai. He is accompanied on the Surando, by his cousin Usman Jatt. Usman is a truck driver, who owns and plays one of the last surviving Surandos in the region. The Surando is a peacock shaped, five-stringed instrument from Sindh. The film explores the life worlds of the three cousins, their families and the Fakirani Jat community to which they belong.
Before the Partition the Maldhari (pastoralist) Jatts moved freely across the Rann, between Sindh (now in Pakistan) and Kutch. As pastoral ways of living have given way to settlement, borders and industrialisation, the older generation struggles to keep alive the rich syncretic legacy of Shah Bhitai, that celebrates diversity and non-difference, suffering and transcendence, transience and survival. These marginal visions of negotiating difference in creative ways resist cultural politics based on tight notions of nation-state and national culture; they open up the windows of our national imaginary.
For more on the film and its directors, including some reviews, visit its website.
Click the four-arrows icon on the bottom right to watch this full-screen: a musical, modern-dance interpretation of a suite of poems by Akka Mahadevi, A.K.A. Mahadeviyakka, the great Saivite bhakti poet. These are Jane Hirshfield’s translations from the 12th-century Kannada. For more on Mahadevi, see Kristen McHenry’s Obscure Poets column on Mahadevi at Read Write Poem.
There’s full nudity in the last few minutes, so this may not be entirely work-safe, depending on where you work. Mahadevi, like many of her male counterparts in Indian ascetic practice, dispensed with clothes.
The description on Viddler gives the full credits:
Live performance, March 3, 2007, in New York City’s Dance New Amsterdam. Amy Pivar Dances presents Songs For Solo Dance and Voice. “Emptiness,” music by Paula M. Kimper, translation of Mahadeviyakka (India, 12thc.) by Jane Hirshfield. Amy Pivar – dancer/choreographer, Elaine Valby and Gilda Lyons – vocals, Paula M. Kimper – guitar. Video by Vanessa Scanlan.
Thirteen Mahadevi poems in English translation are available on the Poet Seers site.
Tomorrow: More Akka Mahadevi vachanas, as interpreted by a contemporary Indian filmmaker.
“A North and South Indian classical dancer collaborate to evoke love, loss, and the slippery relationships between self, friend, and lover, in this contemporary abhinaya (emotional expression) piece loosely inspired by a poem by the 17th century Telegu poet, Ksetrayya,” says the blurb on the Vimeo page. Since I’ve featured a number of other dance pieces here, I thought I’d add this one to the mix. The poem quote goes by rather quickly in the video, so here it is again:
I wore myself out watching the road.
Counting the moons, I grieved,
Holding back a love I could not hold.
Telugu is a Dravidian language spoken by 95 million people in the state of Andhra Pradesh and adjacent areas of south India. Kshetrayya, a prolific composer and poet, is credited with the composition of some 4000 devotional (bhakti) poems to Krishna.
He perfected the padam format that is still being used today. His padams are sung in dance (Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi) and music recitals. A unique feature of his padams is the practice of singing the anupallavi first then the pallavi (second verse followed by first verse). Most of the padams are of the theme of longing for the coming of the lord Krishna.
Poem by Vishwajyoti Ghosh, narrated by Ramesh Venkatraman
Animation by Nilratan Mazumdar
According to the credits at the end this is one of 60 one-minute films commissioned by motiroti, “a London based international arts organisation.” A link on its 60×60 secs page leads to another site that describes the project in somewhat more detail:
60×60 Secs is the first project of the 360° programme, and comprises of 60 one-minute films from 60 artists, 20 each from Britain, India and Pakistan.
Commissioned via open call both established and emerging artists, working in a variety of mediums and spanning a wide age range, present their unique views on ‘home’. Looking beyond media, political and religious definitions, 60×60 Secs unravels complex identities and stories, and redefines cultures that are evolving in an age of globalisation.
The site includes pages for all sixty films, including this one, containing low-, medium- and high-quality Quicktime versions, a brief description, and more detailed credits. Evidently the poet was also responsible for the drawings used in the animation, and directed it as well.