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Had Anhad - A film screening hosted by Citizens for Peace on September 7, 2008 in Mumbai

Kabir is not only one of India’s greatest poets, but considered amongst the finest mystic poets in all world literature. In the current milieu of religious intolerance and terrorism Kabir’s irreverence for ritual, dogma and institutionalized religion resonated with the audience at a film screening organized by Citizens for Peace on September 7th in Mumbai.

Citizens for Peace organised a small screening of select individuals who would be a in position to disseminate this film widely to the mainstream. The audience included Mr. Om Puri (Chairman, National Film Development Corporation) and Ms. Nina Lath Gupta ( MD, National Film Development Corporation), Jeroo Mulla ( Head of Sophia College, Social Communications Media) , Faroukh Waris, Principal of Bhurani College, organisers of Film Clubs, and development organisation representatives.

Had Anhad – Journeys with Ram and Kabir, a film by Shabnam Virmani is an attempt at exploring the living traditions of Kabir while juxtaposing them with the reality of religious divisiveness that exists in our society today. Journeys to central and western India and across the border to Pakistan reveal an interesting tale. The film opens a door to the world of Kabir through the public and private lives of folk singers of central India, Rajasthan and Pakistan. These singers coming from distinctive regional and religious background recite Kabir in their own style. The mystic strength of Kabir and the rich musical tradition would leave a listener almost mesmerized.

The film profiles Prahlad Tipaniya of Ujjain a compelling Dalit folk singer, who has grown into a popular Kabir singer of the Malwi folk tradition. Tipanya’s journey with Kabir reveals the impact Kabir’s poetry could have on a common person.

The film also portrays Mukhtiar Ali, who was born into a Mirasi family, of traditional singers from Bikaner, Rajasthan. He beautifully blends the Rajasthani folk idiom with refined classicism while singing Kabir and other Sufi poets like Mira and Bulleh Shah.

Finally we move into Pakistan to encounter the charismatic Fariduddin, a traditional qawali singer whose enthralling music and poetry stir our souls.

Besides the beautifully rendered music and poetry, the film raises several issues relevant to the modern day discourse on secularism and peace. The Sufi tradition effectively disintegrates the concept of organised religion and the dogmatism it entails. It also exposes organised religion’s tendency towards oppression, exclusion and deliberate marginalisation of communities.

These traditions are essentially reformist. More often than not it blurs the boundary of physics and metaphysics and creates a condition for individual metaphysical rebellion — something that modernist political thinkers would warn a society against. Can the spiritual energy, which oozes out of Kabir and similar Sufi traditions be channelized into a formidable force for societal change is the question that needs debate.

If your community, youth group, organisation, film club, or interested people would like to host a screening, do contact us or visit the Kabir Project to get in touch with Shabnam Virmani. 


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