There are few things in the post post-26/11 world that can shake our cynical view of communal harmony. Bi’shar Blues, a National-Award-winning documentary that presents the tolerant, inclusive worldview of fakirs, the Muslim minstrels of Bengal, is one of those rare things.
The fakirs, whose unique belief system is close to Sufism as well as to Vaishnavism, sing of Radha and Krishna in the same breath as Allah and Mohammad. They believe in the primacy of the fine piece of creation that’s the human body and prefer not to observe the norms of roza (fasting) or namaaz (prayer). While going for marfat, the mystical heart of Sufism, they mostly avoid the shariat, the normative path. That’s why they are be-shara or bi’shar by the Islamic orthodoxy.
The film has at its centre the annual fakir fest of Patharchapri, a village near Shantiniketan. The fest and its unique culture is changing. Director Amitabh Chakraborty, who shot the film between 2004 and 2006, says there’s less music and more shops these days. “Three things are responsible for it — the entry of the mainstream, of orthodox Islam and of the market... they go hand in hand,” says the filmmaker.
Not all is lost yet. Some of the fakirs will convince you that their tolerant worldview, expressed through their electric music, is still the best antidote to our cynicism. Soak up some of that electricity this weekend from the film.
Bi’shar Blues airs on NDTV 24x7 today at 3 pm and tomorrow at 1 pm