Duration: 52 mins
A Public Service Broadcasting Trust Production
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 Beths 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 India’s national imaginary.
IDPA Silvers for Script, Sound Design and Cinematography, 2011
Best film, International Folk Film Festival, Kathmandu, 2012
Basil Wright Award, RAI International Festival of Ethnographic Film, 2013
Open Frame, New Delhi, 2011
Film South Asia, Kathmandu, 2011
Indian Panorama, 2011
International Film Festival of India, 2011
International Folk Film Festival, Kathmandu, 2012
Goettingen International Ethnographic Film Festival, 2012
Vibgyor International Film Festival 2012, Kerala, India
Mumbai International Film Festival 2012
Signs 2012, Kerala
Madurai International Film Festival, 2012
Intimalente Festival of Ethnographic Film, Caserta, Italy, 2012
RAI International Festival of Ethnographic Film, 2013
Culture Unplugged International Online Film Festival, 2013
Parramasala, Sydney, 2013