World Heritage Day | Storyteller Maroof Umar’s love for heritage takes him places - Hindustan Times
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World Heritage Day | Storyteller Maroof Umar’s love for heritage takes him places

Apr 16, 2024 11:42 PM IST

Ahead of World Heritage Day, on April 18, we spoke to Umar Maroof ‘Culmen' (29) about his work in the field and love for heritage storytelling.

The passion project of heritage storyteller Maroof Umar ‘Culmen’ has taken his work across borders. His love for Awadhi culture, art and architecture made him start his Instagram page in 2021 and what followed is viral reels, recognition from celebrities and accolades for his work.

Heritage storyteller Maroof Umar makes content for his Instagram page @maroofculmen
Heritage storyteller Maroof Umar makes content for his Instagram page @maroofculmen

Ahead of World Heritage Day, on April 18, we spoke to Maroof (29) about his work in the field and love for heritage storytelling.

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Spreading awareness

Drone shot of Asafi Imambara by Maroof Umar(Instagram/MaroofCulmen)
Drone shot of Asafi Imambara by Maroof Umar(Instagram/MaroofCulmen)

“My thought was to make people aware of our rich heritage — kuchh aisa karein jisse log sheher ko jaane. Back then, there were many influencers highlighting food, fashion and so on but not divulging this aspect. Lucknowites usually know of Imambara, Rumi Darwaza and Ghantaghar (Clock Tower), but beyond that we have Baag Hazara Baba, Musabagh, Mehmudabad Fort, Nadan Mahal, Bilehra Fort, Imambara (Khairabad) and so much more,” he says.

“Government and trusts can do their bit but once the public starts taking pride in it, cares for it and takes the ownership then only it can be conserved. Else, we will lose our heritage for which we are known globally. Without the architec-tural and cultural heritage what is Lucknow?” he adds.

Beyond building

A panoramic view of Clock Tower in Lucknow(Instagram/MaroofCulmen)
A panoramic view of Clock Tower in Lucknow(Instagram/MaroofCulmen)

Maroof took his work beyond architecture and buildings.

“We started exploring crafts like zardozi, chikankari, itra, heritage doors and windows, people and food. Apni khushi ke liye shuru kiya aur logon ko pasand aane laga. I noticed that there is lot of misinformation about our history so I started researching and referred books on Awadh. Soon, the followers started pouring in and my reels went viral. Getting followers like music legend AR Rahman, receiving appreciation from director Hansal Mehta and collaborating with chefs Ranveer Brar and Kunal Kapoor, actors Ali Fazal, Sakshi Benipuri and others made me devoted and responsible to my work and research.”

Earlier, Maroof was running his design agency which is now on an autopilot mode and earning well for him.

A house at Nakkhas with a fine work on the balcony(Instagram/MaroofCulmen)
A house at Nakkhas with a fine work on the balcony(Instagram/MaroofCulmen)

“I am producing commissioned work for brands in Uttar Pradesh, other states and even abroad. Sheher ki khidmat has surely translated into good commercial work but wherever I go, be it Rajasthan, Delhi, other parts of Uttar Pradesh and recently Singapore, I take out time to capture the heritage and elements which I can reflect on my page. In Lucknow, there is still so much to be explored,” he says adding “Currently, I do short 90-second content which I want to take to a longer format on YouTube. Bahut kucch seekhna hai abhi but for now I am not looking forward to direct-produce films or something. I want to keep my focus intact — compromise nahi karna hai. I refuse a lot of work but thik hai!”

Full-time job

A panoramic drone shot of Mehmudabad Fort in Sitapur district (Instagram/MaroofCulmen)
A panoramic drone shot of Mehmudabad Fort in Sitapur district (Instagram/MaroofCulmen)

He feels that learning curve is more important than fancy equipment. “You can shoot from a basic phone if you have the aesthetic sense. Social media is a full-time job and I need to work day and night to curate content, script, shoot, prepare music and present it to the world. But, that’s the thrill!”

And, what’s the trill? “If you look at modern buildings and malls, they usually look similar across the world. But, every heritage building is unique and what amazes me is the skill, time, architecture and living science involved in erecting it,” he adds.

 

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