[Reader-list] Qasba Sanskriti – The Small Town Stories (Film screening)
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22 April 2015
Qasba Sanskriti – The Small Town Stories
Film presentation by Yousuf Saeed
In today’s India where the corporate media focuses only on big cities and urban glitz, Qasba Sanskriti, a short series of documentary films, travels to some historic qasbas or small towns in Uttar Pradesh which continue to carry the age-old traditions of sycretic culture and shared living between people of different religions and sects. These films were directed by Yousuf Saeed and produced in 2009-10 for Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi.
Film: Qasba Sanskriti: Amroha, 41 mins
This documentary explores the material culture, performative arts and crafts of Amroha, a small town near Delhi in north India, especially focusing on the evolution of Islamic and syncretic cultural values and interdependence between different communities and sects of people, through their arts, crafts, religious rituals and iconography. Amroha is not only famous for its handicrafts such as woodwork, handlooms, embroidery, and percussion instruments, but also for being a centre for the production of Urdu literature, poetry and music. The story of Amroha’s communal harmony is told in the film in the voices of its Hindu and Muslim residents.
Film: Qasba Sanskriti: Bilgram, 41 mins
This film is a cultural sketch of Bilgram, a small town near Lucknow in north India, especially focusing on the performative arts associated with the Shia rituals of Ashura on Muharram. For many centuries Bilgram has been a rich centre of refined culture and literature, producing several scholars, poets as well as administrators for the historic province of Awadh and beyond. The film also looks at the syncretic or plural values ingrained in the daily lives of the people of Bilgram, where the Muharram is commemorated by Shias, Sunnis and Hindus with equal passion, using local iconography and plural symbols.
Yousuf Saeed started his career in 1990 with the TV science series Turning Point and moved on to make several acclaimed documentary films such as Inside Ladakh (1997), Basant (1997), Jannat ki Rail (2006), Khayal Darpan (2006) and The Making of the Taj (2013) among others that have been shown at several film festivals and TV channels. Through his short films and illustrated lectures Yousuf tries to promote cultural pluralism in south Asia. He is currently the project director of Tasveer Ghar, a digital archive of India’s popular art, and is the author of Muslim Devotional Art in India (Routlege, 2012), besides other publications.
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