I unfold the realms of the past, I define the paradigms of age, and I tell tales about the times immemorial, I am a monument. The winds of change had for long whispered many secrets into the ears of these forgotten forts; Gurcharan Singh Channi, 60, along with his son Gyandev, 30, has endeavoured to unravel many such secrets in a documentary that will be screened at the Tagore Theatre on Thursday.
"This festival is the first ever of its kind here in India," claimed the 60-year-old. "My daughter has been coordinating and organising this event," he smiled, pointing towards Sukhmani, 27. "Why are we not empathetic towards our forts?" he asked.
The quandary about the same was evident from the way his eyes twitched, "the indifference is apparent, I was in Patiala for 30 long years and wasn't aware about Qila Mubarak which is perhaps the only fort which was built and nurtured by the Sikhs," he said. "They want to trade the forts of Bijapur for malls, why? They are such a feast for the eyes; you can take Ibrahim Ka Roza for instance."
"The problem is that our education system doesn't teach us enough about the cultural and aesthetic importance of these forts," explained Sukhmani. "We aim to trigger an informal group discussion. That's what the seminar is all about, all we want to do is to generate an opinion," she shrugged her shoulder.
"My son and I have shot a series of documentaries on the 26 biggest forts of India which is being telecast on Doordarshan National and Doordarshan India as weekly episodes," said Channi, as he arranged his khadi jacket. "Also, these documentaries are screened at the Jhansi Museum, Allahabad Museum, Sri Krishna Museum at Kurukshetra and Salarjang Museum at Hyderabad.
Various agencies, including INTACH, train their guides using our films," he adds. When questioned about the commercial restoration of monuments into hotels, Channi turns red in rage, "Heritage does not belong to the uber-rich, take Umaid Bhavan at Jodhpur for instance, and a common man is not even allowed to enter it.
We forget that our ancestors gave their blood, sweat and tears in the form of revenue for these monuments to be erected." After sipping some water, Channi exclaimed, "Surprising as it may sound, Aurangzeb, perceived to be the most ruthless amongst the Mughal rulers, was indeed the most capable administrator.
You shall see that at the Daulatabad fort, where he spent 25 years of his life and ruled India, staying 800 miles away from Delhi. Also, the Purana Qila at Delhi was essentially designed by Sher Shah Suri and the Red Fort that we now have is a mere 15% of its actual glory which was very systematically looted by the British who built barracks there instead."
The festival will run from March 22 March to March 24 at Tagore Theatre, 7 pm daily.