My friend Yousuf Saeed, a filmmaker from Delhi has been in the States since mid-September showing films made by him and others, including Girish Karnad, on the syncretic culture of India. Yousuf’s latest film is a beautiful exploration of the classical music in Pakistan (quite an antidote from the usual horror stories about madrassas etc.) Boston University has a nice article about him and his films, the following is an excerpt from that article. If you are in a position to see these films, hope you will take the opportunity to do so.

In front of a small but attentive crowd last night in Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences, Indian documentary filmmaker Yousuf Saeed presented two documentaries detailing cultural diversity, prompting a discussion among those in attendance.

Beginning at BU and working his way across the country — to as far as Chicago and Austin — the award-winning director said he plans to expose American students to the diverse cultures of Southeast Asia.

Saeed said he believes now is as good a time as ever to spread his message.

“As the world becomes smaller, not everything has to be uniform,” he said. “The diversity of cultures has to be respected and appreciated.”

In the first of a two-part series, Saeed showed two documentaries, his own — Train to Heaven — and Indian actor and director Girish Karnard’s Niche in the Lamp. While Niche, about Islamic Sufism, was filmed in a familiar documentary style, Train took the form of a short musical.

Train to Heaven draws together a harmonious montage of images. Train, primarily drawing a Hindu audience, features Sunni and Shiite imagery together in a rhythmic array of colorful posters.

“[It] portrays the diversity of culture . . . even religions are not monolithic,” Saeed said. “[In India], every few kilometers, you can find a different language.”

By presenting his films across the United States, Saeed “would like to introduce the fact that there are more than just Bollywood films in India.”

While Bollywood is the more mainstream and melodramatic Indian medium, Doordarsham, India’s national television station, features educationally and historically insightful documentaries.

Saeed came to the United States and BU on a grant from the Humanities Foundation and with help from modern foreign languages chairman and professor Chris Maurer.

You can read the rest of the article in the BU paper. Here is a schedule of the screenings.

Oct. 03, 2006: 1:30 pm to 4 pm
Wellesley College
Also at the Music department, Wellesley College the same evening:
Khayal Darpan – A Mirror of Imagination (105 mins) A film about classical music in Pakistan

Oct. 06, 2006:
University of Texas, Austin (Center for Middle Eastern Studies)
1. Films on Syncretic Festivals of North India
2. Khayal Darpan: a film about classical music in Pakistan

Oct. 11, 2006, 12:30 pm
Columbia University, Southern Asian Institute (SAI) at NY
Theme: Multifaith Festivals of South Asia 
Film 1: Basant (13 mins) about the sufi festival of spring held at Delhi every year. 
Film 2: Muharram (12 mins) rituals of Muharram at Amroha (north India)
Film 3: Lahore Basant (23 mins): Directed by Samina Aslam

October 16, 2006: 5 pm
Chicago University (South Asian Studies)
Theme: Plural Symbolism in the Literature, Images and Rituals of South Asia
1. Sukhan: a film about Amir Khusrau, a 13th century poet (30 minutes)
2. Basant: a film about a Sufi festival of spring (12 mins)
3. The Train to Heaven