Last sarangi, uss paar

Updated: 06 September, 2020 06:56 IST | Meenakshi Shedde | Mumbai

The Chalta Phirta online edition opened with Berlin-based Bani Abidi's The Lost Procession (on the trauma of displacement) on August 22, followed by Indus Blues on September 5

Illustration/Uday Mohite
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Meenakshi SheddeIn February this year, distinguished German filmmaker Wim Wenders presented Pakistani filmmaker Anam Abbas with the Mastercard Enablement Programme Award for 'impactful social initiatives' at the Berlinale Talents, part of the Berlin Film Festival, for her work as a founding member of the Documentary Association of Pakistan (DAP) collective. This volunteer-driven group organised a Chalta Phirta Doc Festival in 2019, screening 14 films in 11 cities in Pakistan. This year, the festival has gone online, screening critically acclaimed Pakistani documentaries from August 21 – November 24, for free, globally, on DAP's YouTube channel. There has been a recent resurgence of internationally acclaimed Pakistani content, including Asim Abbasi's web series Churails (Zee 5), Saim Sadiq's Darling that won Best Short at the Venice Film Festival, Hamza Bangash's short 1978 that screened at the Locarno Film Festival, and much more. In fact, one of the ongoing Chalta Phirta Doc Festival Online Edition's films, Jawad Sharif's magnificently shot documentary Indus Blues — The Forgotten Music of Pakistan, shown yesterday, also won Best Documentary Feature and Best Cinematography at the Jaipur International Film Festival last year.

The Chalta Phirta online edition opened with Berlin-based Bani Abidi's The Lost Procession (on the trauma of displacement) on August 22, followed by Indus Blues on September 5. Indus Blues explores the uncertain future of the rich musical heritage of Pakistan, which has so much in common with India's Hindustani classical and folk music, showcasing instruments like the sarangi, saroz, sarinda, banjo, chardha and alghoza, at a time when music is widely banned in Pakistan as haram. There was also a live Q&A after, with Jawad Sharif and Zohaib Hassan, one of the last sarangi players in Pakistan. The other documentaries include Tazeen Bari's Vote for X (September 19), on transwoman Nayyab Ali who contested in Pakistan's general election in 2018; Mahera Omar's The Rebel Optimist (October 3), on Perween Rahman, Pakistani architect and urban planner who dedicated her life to the poor, and was shot dead; Danyal Rasheed's Mela Chiraghan (October 17) on the festival commemorating 16th century Punjabi Sufi saint-poet Shah Hussain. In Fahad Naveed's Puff Puff Pak (October 31), the filmmaker tries to quit smoking in New York and returns to Karachi, where his mother is battling cancer. Gulzar Nayani's No More BackSeaters (October 31) is on women bikers in Karachi. In Shehrezad Maher's This Shaking Keeps Me Steady (November 14), a prompt to two ambulance drivers in Karachi to reconstruct recurring dreams, becomes an exploration of memory and fiction. Umar Riaz's Some Lover to Some Beloved (November 29), weaves together a recitation of Faiz Ahmed Faiz's poetry by veteran actor Zia Mohyeddin (Lawrence of Arabia), with an exploration of Mohyeddin's life. All the screenings are at 6 pm.

India has a long, rich tradition of films on cross-border stories, including Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Veer Zaara. As well as of Indo-Pak film collaborations, including Sabiha Sumar's Khamosh Pani (starring Kirron Kher, co-written by my fellow columnist Paromita Vohra); Naseeruddin Shah in Shoaib Mansoor's Khuda Kay Liye; Mehreen Jabbar's Ramchand Pakistani; and Maheen Zia and Miriam Chandy Menacherry's documentary Lyari Notes, on children learning music in Pakistan, even as terrorists bomb a school—and much more.

Meenakshi Shedde is India and South Asia Delegate to the Berlin International Film Festival, National Award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist. Reach her at meenakshi.shedde@mid-day.com

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First Published: 06 September, 2020 07:00 IST

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