One hardly gets to listen to soothing, introspective Sufi songs in Hindi films nowadays but filmmaker-poet Muzaffar Ali says it is not Bollywood’s responsibility to promote this form of music.
The 72-year-old artiste, who is the convener of the three- day Sufi music festival Jahan-e-Khusrau, says he is happy that Hindi films are trying to discover the philosophical shades inherent in the Sufi sound, but it is understood they are doing it to earn money. “Why should Bollywood promote Sufi music? It’s not their agenda and it should not be done like that anyway. The fact that they are doing it is good. At least, people have become more accepting towards this style of music in one way or the other. But it is obvious that they are doing it for commercial reasons. They are meant for the screen. And once it is visible onscreen, it does not remain a matter of the heart anymore,” says Ali.
The cultural aficionado feels the medium of films is meant for people who are impatient and Jahan-e-Khusrau is aimed at people who connect with the Sufi music at another level. “This festival is for those who are searching for a spiritual ambiance. I’m not disregarding what our films are doing but I won’t get carried away by that either. Bollywood often asks someone to play on an Urdu catchphrase here and there, but that’s not what it is. They might build some nonsense around it and all is Sufi,” adds Ali.
The Umrao Jaan filmmaker says the poetry that was written in times of ordeal cannot be recreated today and Jahan-e-Khusrau aims to re-explore writings by such poets. “I don’t have the guts to write such poetry. I don’t think anyone in India can do it now. That’s why we try to unearth them. At Jahan-e-Khusrau, 15 new poems are introduced every year and we try to find the right melody, tunes and verses,” he says.
Giving an insight into how the Indian youth can hold on to the Sufi in them and lead a more enlightened life, Ali says they need to go on a poetic journey. “The younger generations need to get in touch with their real selves to understand the meaning of Sufism. They need to embark on a journey to understand poetry. Unlike India, this current is much stronger in the West. For example, Rumi is the one of the most read poets in America. Writing such poetry is not easy today. People are too distracted to do it. The poets who wrote that poetry had given up their lives for it. They had just one mission in life - love and harmony.”
The veteran says India has that poetry in abundance which needs to be discovered all over again and losing touch with Urdu after the Partition is one of the main reasons of the disconnect. “Somehow we have lost touch with our poetic journey. To a great extent, Urdu was the language in which this poetry was written. We are disconnected from it although our ancestors knew the language. But the present generation doesn’t know Urdu, regardless of the religion. Further, it has been labelled with the language of ‘x’ community. At one time, it was the language of all. We don’t know the script, which is tragic,” says Ali.
He admits to not being fully adept at the written Urdu, despite it being his mother tongue, but says he continues to work on it even today. “I myself didn’t know Urdu too well. Now, I know some. I’ve struggled myself. Without the Urdu script you cannot explore the journey of poetry.”
Jahan-e-Khusrau begins today.