A Space for Poetry
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"The river of love runs in strange ways. One who jumps in it drowns and one who drowns gets across." Amir Khusrau's poetry comes alive in Yousuf Saeed's voice, as the author and independent filmmaker strikes a chord with his audience. He has been working on the poetry and music of Khusrau for the past 16 years and has made several films on the the 14th century poet. Here on the invitation of the Chandigarh Literary Society, Saeed presented musical compositions and cultural symbols that are still alive in India and Pakistan, through various audio and video clips, including short documentaries directed by him, such as Basant and Sufi Sama. The films beautifully capture the intrinsic link between poetry and music and how qawwals in various dargahs across India perform many of Khusrau's long poems, dohas and verses. "No tradition is complete without his poetry and many of his pahelis have come to us in the oral tradition," says Saeed who has travelled extensively to capture the heritage of his poetry through documented and oral traditions.
Saeed, who has recently written Muslim Devotional Art in India, reflects on Khusrau's wide ranging personality and how his poetry encompassed Indian style and aesthetics. Starting from the combined shrine of the 14th century saint Nizamuddin Aulia and his disciple Khusrau, Basant showcases how Sufis started the tradition of Basant celebrations in India at dargahs. "I have tried to capture the spirit of the dargahs, not just those in bigger towns but also in smaller towns, to depict how Sufi shrines are shared spaces that we are losing now," says Saeed.
Having travelled and researched present-day memory of Khusrau, Saeed notes that there is a lot of poetry that needs to be shared with people. The aim of making short documentaries is to reach out to larger audiences. "We need to start a tradition of showing films in schools, colleges and gatherings and that's my effort now,'' says Saeed, who is also the director of Tasveer Ghar, an international initiative to archive South Asia's popular culture.