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Bringing colours of Lahore to Goa

Bringing colours of Lahore to Goa

Goa based journalist Rahul Chandawarkar is hosting a screening of his documentary titled ‘Building Bridges’ which shows a slice of life in Lahore, Pakistan. In a candid chat with NT BUZZ he speaks about his journey that lead him to Pakistan, its people, culture and why he finds Lahore similar to Delhi

It is quite an unusual sight to see a person waving two flags – that of India and Pakistan – together and that too in Pakistan. This visual is part of a 45-minute documentary titled ‘Building Bridges’ filmed by Goa based journalist Rahul Chandawarkar. It was shot in the year 2004 and it focuses on Lahore, the cultural and intellectual hub of Pakistan. The background score for the film has been provided by the popular, Pakistani pop-rock band, Strings.

While speaking about this documentary, Rahul mentions that when he intended to go to Lahore, he had no idea that he would be actually feeding his handy-cam with a footage which would be a source for his documentary. “As I was going to a new place and that also in Pakistan, I just thought of carrying my handy-cam (analog). I ended up shooting for all 12 days and collecting eight hours of footage,” says Rahul who was inspired to go to Pakistan after watching a play he had seen while in Pune.

“I got this idea of going to Pakistan after watching a play called ‘Jis Lahore Nahin Dekhiya’ which is made by a Pune based theatre group. When I watched this play as a reviewer, I was spellbound and I wanted to show this play in Pakistan. The play is based in Lahore and it speaks about the time just after the Partition and the tensions between Indian and Pakistan,” says Rahul.

Before taking this play to Pakistan, Rahul staged this play at Bhopal where 20 Pakistani citizens had come to attend a conference. “After watching this play, all 20 Pakistanis had tears in their eyes,” says Rahul who then got the confidence to take it to Pakistan. The play was part of the World Performing Arts Festival at Lahore. However, not all the group members managed to get a visa. “Visas were given to 12 people, because of that I landed up doing a role of a gunda in the play,” says Rahul.

Coming back to his documentary, he says it is not in the conventional documentary format, but it shows the troupe interacting with the people of Lahore from different strata of society.

The background score of the documentary is by the famous Pakistani music band, Strings. Rahul says, “This idea came to me when I was discussing about it with my video editor Mihir Apte. He has wonderfully used the sound track. But, before that, I requested the band members of Strings to use their music and they agreed and also the music distributors.”

When it comes to Pakistan our preconceived notions about that place compel us to think of it as a backward, rigid place filled with terror. But, Rahul says that it was nothing like that. He could draw many similarities between Lahore and Delhi. “It is just like Delhi with Mughal architecture, big parks, broad roads and also same weather. Interestingly, Lahore was known before as the Paris of the east. It is a place where you will come across intellectuals, artists, sufi poets, musicians. Many well-known people studied here like Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar. One thing that really impressed me was their hospitality,” says Rahul.

Speaking further about hospitality, he narrated an incident where he went to one small shop to get some engraving done on the mementos, which they had taken to present at the Festival. The craftsmen there declined to take the money when they realised that Rahul and his troupe members are from India. “They said we are his guests and they declined to take that money,” says Rahul.

Rahul adds that people from Pakistan have a high regard for India, as they love Indian music, Bollywood, and their favourite singer is Mukesh.

In his documentary, he has tried to showcase a slice of Lahore which he believes is slowly fading away. “This is your chance to see Lahore of 2004. Now after 12 years the political situation there is quite bad. The recent terror attack in the park on Easter was something one could never imagine before in Lahore,” says Rahul.

Another interesting aspect of this documentary is that it has a foreword by none other than veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal. The foreword says: “A charming and fascinating record of the cultural engagement that a Pune theatre group has with the local community of Lahore with a play that deals with Lahore soon after Partition. The candid quality of Rahul Chandawarkar’s film gives it a wonderful freshness.”

Rahul mentions that Benegal was the chief guest when he hosted the screening of this documentary at FTII Pune in July 2012.

On a concluding note he informs that he now wants to make many documentaries on Goa. “I am interested in documenting life of fisher folks of Goa and also on the tribal community. I want to spend some quality time with them, eat with them and ask them about their views on socio-political situations of Goa.”

(‘Building Bridges’ will be screened at 6 Assagao, Assagao, on May 9 at 8 p.m. and at Carpe Diem, Majorda on May 10 at 8 p.m. Both these screenings are open to all.)

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