Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Know yourself

What is literature, and how does it affect you? Understanding this might be more important than we usually presume. I am starting a series of posts on this subject and shall try to make them interactive.

The following is a clip I use in my workshops on this topic. As you watch the clip (sub-titled in English), try to answer this simple question: Where are you in this clip, or Who are you in it? Please post your answers as "comments" below.

After you have posted your "answer", you may like to visit the next post on this blog to see a follow-up and wind-up (page will be posted on Friday, June 18).

Note: the clip is from Ishara (1969), a film written, directed and produced by Waheed Murad (1938-1983), who also plays the artist Amir in the movie. I find this movie to be an excellent entry point into that entire discourse on literature which is so crucial to our civilization today.

Other posts in the series:


Rehan Damani said...

I guess sir I'm one of those paintings, jis ke qadardaan bahaut hain par khareeddar koi nahi !

Urooj Malik said...

I just think that i am the person to whom Amir is telling about his life and world around him.

Akhtar Wasim Dar said...

How much I wanted to give a precise answer to this question: Where are you in this clip? Or Who are you?
But as I ventured harder and harder for that one precise answer with which I can honestly and accurately identify with, it transpired that there was no single person or character that was the one which fitted exactly with my choice.
As the clip opened with the nostalgic credits of Masroor Anwer, Sohail Rana and Waheed Murad, I was already there in the clip.
It seemed I was also present in the street along with the “people” right there without any name, without any specific identity, but fully live and vibrant part of the composition that is called awam(the ordinary people).
I also perfectly identified myself with Khairo Chacha, as off and on and various occasions I have acted like him.
What to say of Zulaykha Bai, and her general forgetfulness and her particular alertness, which is so much close to my basic makeup as a person, where I am forgetful about others’ rights but so much conscious and alert about my own.
I am so very much like Aamir also, painting my world with those colors which are not attuned with current demands of the world, but I still persist with that as it might work some day.
How I loved the comments of the children on Aamir’s painting: wonderful, Nothing Special and Completely Useless, all these three musing are my usual attribute as a bystander when I cast myself in the judgmental role, praising, diminishing or remaining aloof with the others.
Mr. Bezar is also so close to me as whatever I have to say generally falls on deaf ears or receives cold response, but I know my part is to continue what I have to do without losing my focus.
So I cannot exactly say who and where I am in this clip, I am all over it.

Komal Khan said...

I am the one whom Amir is calling 'You'...

So I am there wherever Amir takes me in this clip.

CN said...

I am Amir telling this story deceptively simple yet so profound and universal. Genius Waheed through Amir takes me into both my own memory of such places in real life or from such artistic literary movies.

So, soon, I am introducing you to another similar little community of painter-artists, musicians, booksellers (none very successful) and a kindly and skillful chef who cooks for a church named St. Francis which feeds the homeless.

I too include the children who wonder about the station with or without someone older. I too ask for their opinion and gladly show you their remarks.

Then, I lead you to an amazing guitarist who will break your heart with his songs of love and longing - a singer who comes from a different land.

This little collection of people look after one another like a kind of family -- in and around Penn Station New York City.

Thinking said...


I think I am one of the innocent children Amir gathered.

They dont know what they are looking at and what they want to see in ART. As they dont at all understand yet.

But...just because they LIKE the artist (Aamir)- they are there to give him courage or support.


Khurram Ali Shafique said...

Rehan, Urooj, Akhtar, Komal, Connie and Thinking, thanks.

One thing which seems central to all interpretations offered here is the viewer's interaction with the artist's world, or even his inner space.

Ishara opens with subjective camera, which means the viewer's point of view. So, when the camera enters the street in the opening shot, it is you who are entering the filmmaker's world.

Waheed Murad became fascinated with Ulysses by James Joyce while still in university, and subsequently studied much stream of consciousness work.

As you know, "stream of consciousness" is a technique in which the story is told by describing only what happens in the mind of a character.

In Ishara Waheed is apparently taking us inside his mind, using stock elements of cinema as symbols.

It might be an intesting world to explore in detail :).

Unknown said... guitar can easily replace that sitar played by Mr. Bezar in the end :)

Akhtar Wasim Dar said...

Thanks Khurram sahib for this topic.

Literature is something that must address the common person; it must describe the lives, dreams and aspirations of ordinary people, the masses.

The one who writes literature must hold in one hand the pulse of people and of course pen in the other. If his hand is not on the pulse of time he can write anything but literature.

Literature is opening a window in the mind that opens into the heart of the people, who are the main source of inspiration for all great writings.

Literature is like a flower blossoming in a garden where it attracts birds of all season; it is not a flower which is just used for decoration in a vase, for aesthetic appeal of few.

Literature is only written when the writer dives in the heart and soul of ordinary people and synthesis their dreams and passions into his vision in such a manner that the reflection that manifests gives each individual his own missing voice.

Vagabonds' Ventures said...

I would agree with Dar Sahib as I could see images of myself in various characters.
However, it is clear from Amir's narrative that he is addressing "me" - the viewer.

Faraz Haider said...

I feel connected 100% at a precise point when the actor is addressing the children - that entire section of the clip - the rest of the clip I do not feel connected - certainly not 100% .

:) I wonder...let's hope its not the bad guy!

Unknown said...

Before reading any comments (which i deliberately avoided) i could not connect myself to any one character. after doing that, i cant connect myself 100% to any character but to some extent i can connect to zulaykha bai ..(concerned about myself ... not forgetful of my reponsibility to others but cant fulfil them the way i should)

Unknown said...

I think I am Amir - someone who has a comment on whats going on around me.

CN said...

Upon second reading, I still most identify with part of the writer, director, film-maker. Maybe this is only a wish yet always I'm "writing little films" in my heart/mind's eye...

Also noticed this 2nd time the genius and simple yet deep perfection of the maker, player, director...truly a pro from past which many current film-makers should study for improvement...

I noticed as well the richness here of the comments, especially that of Dar Sb's understanding of literature which I'm secretly hoping he will make into a post of his own as it, I'm sure will gather the audience those comments so deserve. :)

Rida Salman said...

I believe my understanding of this topic was quite restrained till you broadened our vision on it through your lectures. I live amongst every character. I am the camera that encaptures every sight, that observes, I'm the person somewhere in the crowd, trying to make something out of his life. I'm even Aamir, who's living through his own quest, trying to gain appreciation, trying to bring people together, trying to say something that cant be said directly otherwise.

karachikhatmal said...

i feel i am the camera in it. i am obviously the viewer, but what i chose to view as well as how i am being addressed are both in sync with the camera's movements.

it is a very intriguing statement to make, because its a position only film allows. the written word can not address its reader, and make the reader one with its pen as well. but in this opening scene, the "pens" at waheed murad's disposal - the camera and the sound - are completely made into the viewer's POV.

Anonymous said...

Appreciating everyone!

Ranu 802 said...

I think I am a bystander outside looking in.

Ranu 802 said...

I still think I am the bystander watching what is going on.To me it's the only way to get acquainted with all the people in it.