Jawad Sharif’s Indus Blues is one of the nine documentaries to be screened at DAP’s Chalta Phirta Documentary Festival this year. It comes across as a work that is as morose as it is beautiful and informative. Exuding a somberness with plaintive music sequences running in the background, the documentary film takes you on a visual journey all over Pakistan, stopping at culturally significant localities and introducing you to their musical instruments; some chiseled out of wood and some made out of clay. The information it provides is about a large number of our country’s musicians and their talent. The sadness inherent in Indus Blues stems from the idea of a culture eschewed to the extent that it is now almost non-existent. We caught up with the film-maker, Jawad Sharif to ask him a few questions regarding his documentary.
The News on Sunday (TNS): How long did it take you to complete this documentary?
Jawad Sharif (JS): It took us four years. The first year was spent in the pre-production process, the middle two years in the making and the last year in the post-production activities. As for traveling, we explored all of Pakistan, undertaking a journey of about 2,000 kilometers, covering nine musical instruments. I wanted that the musical instruments be filmed in the regions to which they belong so that the cultures those are attached to, are shown alongside. It was in Sui in Dera Bugti that we filmed saroz so that we could show glimpses of the forgotten culture. I cannot say that it was cumbersome, for traveling is something I love and one of the reasons why I shifted from fiction to non-fiction was the advantage in travelling and covering real-life subjects. So, from travelling all over Pakistan to meeting musicians who take you to an altogether different world, it was a spiritual journey for me.
TNS: The documentary has a somber look to it. Is it a deliberate effort to complement the idea of the loss of a rich culture?
JS: My background is essentially linked with cinematography. I wanted the look of this documentary film to be as organic as the instruments and the artists. The pale look of the film carries the idea of the region’s soil. The gray tones throughout the film reflect the pain the artists are suffering owing to a negligent attitude towards their craft. This was done deliberately. Documentaries are expected to be lacking in visual appeal. I wanted my film to be both informative as well as aesthetically pleasing so that people could enjoy every aspect of it.
TNS: Of all the stories you have narrated in your documentary, which one attracted you the most and has stayed with you?
JS: While I love all of them, the instrument which inspired me the most with its intricacies is saroz, a Balochi string instrument. I started crying the moment Ustad Sajju Khan started playing it, and I continued listening to it during the post-production. This helped me in creating the over-all aura of the film.
TNS: Do you think the documentary will inculcate a sense among viewers of what they are doing to their culture?
JS: Definitely. In fact, it has created an awareness. Its trailer got viral the day it was released giving lie to the view that documentaries don’t attract people. A discussion ensued on its theme of probing into the dying music culture of Pakistan. It was seen as a quest for the reasons why we are detached from that culture. The documentary is also meant to pull Pakistanis out of their identity crisis. The main reason behind this is their lack of awareness regarding what is their own. Being a filmmaker, I was personally attached to the project as well. I can understand the pain of being called a useless person doing something that is not considered acceptable by so many in our society. I am really grateful to the digital media for allowing independent film-makers to send their unique ideas across through the visual medium. After over-coming the difficulties in the filmmaking process, when the film finally got released, I realized that there are people out there who actually wish to watch quality content and are not driven by extremist ideologies.
The interviewer is an MPhil student in English literature at Government College University, Lahore, and a freelance journalist