Telling the Stories of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai with a Cinematic Touch

While many lament the decline in culture, or lack of international awareness regarding the Pakistani identity, there are efforts that can be supported to change that view. Adnan Hussain is undertaking one such project.

As a filmmaker and artist with an animation career, including Disney and Sony in Los Angeles, he is in a unique position to apply his skills for this purpose.

Through grassroots efforts he has showcased Pakistani culture in projects through his company, Mad Guru (www.madguru.com), in the past. Those efforts have included animation, comics, music videos and albums as well as paintings. His current project, fundraising on the website Kickstarter ( http://kck.st/1GPzcId) , is a feature length film called "Risalo", connecting Sindhi folk music with Rajasthani puppetry and telling the stories of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai with a cinematic touch.

Sufi poets, such as Shah Latif, help to define the culture of Pakistan. Travel the length and breadth of Sindh and you will find that even those lacking the benefits of literacy can recite the deep wisdom of Shah Latif's verses. Yet, internationally there is little knowledge of this important literary and social figure. In the 1700s, he took folk tales known in Sindh, Rajasthan and Gujarat and used them to challenge notions of love, standing up for justice and the beauty of Sindh. Yet, today if we ask most educated Pakistanis about his work, we will be lucky to come across people who know his name, much less his poetry.

At the same time, we find cherished art forms like folk music and puppetry in serious decline. Musicians and artists of all kinds find it ever more challenging to make a living, practicing generations-old traditions. Without the ability to earn, these traditions will not be handed down to future generations and may cease to exist. Preserving culture is not just about recordings to be put in archives out of reach of the general public. Culture must be nurtured, shared in new ways and financially supported in order to remain relevant and approachable by younger generations. This does not mean that we need to dilute the arts; rather, by creating new collaborations we provide opportunities for growth and a gateway to enable a curiosity for traditional forms of these arts.

"Risalo" aims to bring to life the stories of Shah Latif, in his own poetic language. Stories of Bijal, the musician who had the audacity to stand up to Raja Rai Diyach, or Sohni, who risked her life for love and other beautiful stories that remind us of who we are and what we have felt important enough to pass down. Thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, the power to make this project and those like a reality lies in our hands. Many of us do not hesitate to purchase all manner of possessions. Why not support a bit of culture, a celebration of who we are and those that help to remind us of why that is beautiful? Learn more at http://www.madguru.com/risalo

 


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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