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Risalo is a puppet film featuring Rajasthani puppetry with Sindhi folk music set to the poetry of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai in cinematic style.
Risalo is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Risalo must be made payable to Fractured Atlas only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
What is the funding for?
Test photos, preparing for shooting the film.
In addition to recording music for the film, I recorded additional tracks which I am assembling into a series of albums to promote and raise funds for these artists. This is how we keep culture alive.
Below is the Kickstarter campaign that got things started. You can read my blog to get a sense for the process.
This is a feature length film (about 1 hr and 15 mins). Based on the initial Kickstarter funding, I collaborated to record all the music, create puppets, backgrounds and other commissioned art work which has served to support the artists involved. People, unfortunately don’t buy music much, so that is not enough to get this culture out there. A full length film can be screened around the world. To shoot the puppetry portions, I need to bring Puran Bhatt from India to Los Angeles, to work with a few local puppeteers with a DP (Director of Photography), Gaffer (lighting setup) and a couple of support staff to shoot the film. As you can imagine, it takes more funding than I have to do that. I’ve already put in everything I have to get this far. If this film is to be made, I need your help. I have a fiscal sponsor, so that means that US based donors can make tax deductible donations.
Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai (1689-1752)
Shah Latif was the greatest poet of Sindh. His sufi poetry is the inspiration and narration of this film. He used folk tales to express his philosophies on women’s empowerment, the struggle for justice, love, resilience, class issues as well as the celebration of his native Sindh’s people, wildlife and geography. I began work on the project using Shaikh Ayaz’s poetic Urdu translation of the Shah Jo Risalo. Once in Sindh, I sought out help from Mehboob Ali Shah, Javaid Solangi, Muhib Ali Rajper, Shafqat Qadri and Abdul Hafiz Qureshi. In addition, I have closely consulted the “Melodies of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai” books by Agha Saleem.
Why does this matter?
So why create a project like this? Besides my love for the source material, culture and artists, I feel there is an importance to doing this. These art forms are in danger of disappearing. By creating new works in collaboration with traditional folk artists, not only are they being financially supported, but their work is able to reach a far wider audience. It has the potential to encourage others to hire them and create new works which will sustain and encourage them to pass their traditions to future generations. In terms of Sindhi culture, it is important to create non academic works that wider audiences can connect to, in order that they can maintain strong ties with their roots. This translates to greater compassion and support for the developing needs of that region.
Besides this, I recorded the music in the original Sindhi and Urdu translation based on Shaikh Ayaz’s poetic translation. This allows the work to reach Urdu and Hindi speakers all over South Asia, whether they are literate or not. In addition, English and possibly other language subtitles will allow the work to reach the rest of the world. Creating respect for mutual values and enjoying one another’s cultures helps us to break down bigotry and create understanding between communities.
Phase 1 Completed
Help support this effort to bring new opportunities to traditional Rajasthani puppeteers and Sindhi folk musicians.
I need your help to create a feature length puppet film called “Risalo”.
“Risalo” is an adaptation of sufi poetry by Shah Latif. In the 1700’s he combined local folk tales with themes of love, social justice and a celebration of his native Sindhi culture. My background is in animation. I’ve worked in feature animation and visual effects.
I want to leverage those skills to combine Rajasthani puppetry from India with Sindhi folk music from Pakistan and create a brand new cinematic experience to tell the stories of Shah Latif. This will be a film with traditional puppetry. I’m adding things like animation style staging, and cinematography, but rather than alter the warmth and beauty of puppetry, I want to showcase it.
The most important thing here is to support these puppeteers and musicians. If we don’t create new projects with these traditions we are at risk of losing them. If these artists can’t make a living with their art they are less likely to hand it down to future generations. I want to make sure that this art is shown as being relevant to today, and is showcased in new art forms to new audience around the world. With your help, we can make that happen.
Shah Latif’s poetry will form the narration of this film. In adapting it, I chose three main stories from his work, as well as a few smaller vignettes as connecting pieces. The stories include that of Bijal, a musician who confronted a king, Sohni, a young woman who risked everything for love, and an allegory on social justice played out in a battle between a peacock and a cobra.
I started with a book of Shah Latif’s poetry and my imagination. Since then I’ve been fortunate to be able to bring aboard a few amazing collaborators. I met a puppeteer named Rajesh in Rajasthan a few years ago. I was struck not only by his skill as a puppeteer, but by the variety of puppets in his shop and his passion for the art.
I created brand new designs for puppets.
On the music end of things we have the Girnari Jogi Group. I’ve worked with them before, on an animated film called “Gul” and on a music album benefiting them. Thanks to the Institute of Sindhology and their support, I’ll be able to create excellent recordings of all the musicians involved in the project. In addition to the Jogis, I’ll be able to reach out to other Sindhi folk musicians and create a really good sampling of Sindhi folk music for the soundtrack of “Risalo”.
The musicians who work on “Risalo”, will also benefit from recordings of an entire album of their work, that I will put together in much the way I did the Girnari Jogi Group album, with all proceeds going to support the musicians in the future. Thank you so much for your support. Every bit helps. Check out the Kickstarter page for rewards and how you can support. If you can’t afford to meet any of these rewards, share this project with people who might enjoy it. Thank you.