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Spiritual Meditations ( 12 May 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Seeking a Sufi in Bollywood

By Muzaffar Ali

May 11 2010

Spiritual and cultural maturity of its people makes a nation invincible and influential. After 1947 we should have used the language of moving images to its best and highest use, to keep the country abreast of the world, and mature and educated enough to understand the dialectics of history to man a powerful democracy like ours.

Over the last six decades our narrow commercial sense has continued to underestimate our people and this is evident in our films. There is a huge disconnect between the large philosophical outlook of our people and a mentally sub-standard product which not only embarrasses the intelligent child of today but also makes us hang our heads in shame.

The child of today is extremely exacting and demanding. S/he expects a lot from what is made to sensitise him/her. They expect authentic feelings, authentic sources, even when they are served illusions.

First of all the right creative energies have to gravitate towards Hindi cinema. Sufiana concepts and characters have to find their rightful context.

You have a sacred task of taking a sacred idea into sacred space — you have to be cleansed of impurities to do so. You need writers burning with the desire to put spirituality, humanity and aesthetics in an intriguing and dramatic format. Then you need poets fired by love to create lyrics that will rock the soul. You need composers who can compose with the same ecstatic abandon as such poetry may demand. Singing Sufiana means singing Sufiana and for this you have to see the Sufiana in every form of singing and in every relationship in life. You cannot sing Sufiana if you are ungrateful, if you are petty and jealous, competitive and aggressive. Some can make the connect and in some cases their ego interferes. The audience is not coming to you directly. It is taking the same route as the singer... the divine route. Few understand this as commerce and intellect often comes in between. First you have to receive light from that divine connection to pour out your soul.

As a filmmaker I have journeyed through the realm of poetry and music that touches the soul and reality at the same time. Like many of us, I have evolved from poet to poet, from poem to poem. I have seen the process as an unveiling of mysteries in a modern strife-ridden life. For me it was finding a woman in a courtesan and not a courtesan in a woman. It was the discovery of the soul through poetry and music that takes one into a mystical realm. Umrao Jaan steered clear of the megalomania, a trap that films of such genres have found themselves landing into, taking away from a spiritual awakening that would be awaiting round the corner.

And in such a journey you find tassawuf (Sufism) in everything and everything in tassawuf. The power of music on the big screen is still untapped. The power of the voice has to rise to meet the challenge of a harsh changing world. Sufi films and music that is waiting to be born on Indian soil very soon, in these music will become the reality of the subject. You can’t pay lip service to tassawuf in cinema. It has be the ethos the film, it has be the ethos of the reality the country is steeped in.

Thus this journey has taken me to a realm when poetry and music, soul and reality, singer and the listener have become one. However, it is here where the challenge lies and needs to be addressed.

In the words of Jawed Kamaal, an Aligarh/Rampur poet Wahshat ne vo bhi loot li dam bhar mein dosto Jo muddaton mein ayi thi shayastagi hamein That moment of madness took it all away The refinement that had come over centuries

Muzaffar Ali is a filmmaker and painter. He is the Executive Director and Secretary of the Rumi Foundation. He can be contacted at

Source: Asian Age, New Delhi