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Khayal Darpan – A Mirror of Imagination

Posted by ElJay Arem (IMC OnAir) on February 13, 2008

A documentary film exploring the classical music traditions
of urban Pakistan: A journey by an Indian filmmaker

In a quest to explore the impact of India’s Partition on the classical music traditions of South Asia, Delhi-based filmmaker Yousuf Saeed spent about 6 months in Pakistan in 2005. After traveling in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad – interviewing musicians and scholars, attending music concerts, and observing the teaching of music in various institutions, Yousuf not only documented some of the surviving practitioners and patrons of classical music, but also raised many vital questions, about cultural identity, nationalism, legitimacy of music in Islam, Pakistan’s popular culture and its affairs with India, and the survival of classical music itself in South Asia. This quest has resulted in a musical documentary film, Khayal Darpan, featuring some well-known as well as many lesser known but talented musicians of Pakistan.

Following are some of the artists, musicians, scholars and others who participated in this film:

Aliya Rashid Singer from Lahore who visited India
Amir Zaki Guitarist, Karachi
Arifa Syeda Professor at NCA, Lahore
Babar Niazi and Javed Niazi Singers, Islamabad
Badruzzaman and Qamruzzaman Classical singers, Lahore
Beenish Parvez Ghazal singer, Lahore
Fateh Ali Khan Classical singer, Islamabad
Ghulam Hasan Shaggan Classical singer, Lahore
Ghulam Hyder Music composer, Lahore
Malikzada Hafeez Khan Dhrupad singer, Lahore
Nafees Ahmed Sitar player, Karachi
Naseeruddin Saami Classical singer, Lahore/Karachi
Noor Zehra Veena Player, Lahore
Parvez Paras Musician, Lahore
Raza Kazim Lawyer, musicologist, Lahore
Salamat Hussain Ghazal singer, Karachi
Sarah Zaman Classical singer, Lahore
Sarwat Ali Columnist, Lahore
Sharafat Ali Khan Classical singer, Lahore
Shehroz Hussain Sitar player, Karachi
Taimoor Khan Sarangi player, Lahore
Zulfiqar Ali Classical singer, Lahore
And many other singers at the Amateur
Melodies Club, Karachi, and at National
College of Arts, Lahore

Screenings so far (or forthcoming):

August 18, 2006: Media Preview in Delhi
(Grey Zone Film Club, New Delhi)

October 3, 2006: Wellesley College, Massechusettes (US)

October 6, 2006: University of Texas, Austin (US) See details

October 11, 2006: Columbia University, New York (US) See details

November 17, 2006: Sarai/CSDS, New Delhi (India) See details

November 17, 2006: World Performing Arts Festival (Rafi Peer Theatre Group), Lahore, Pakistan

December 17, 2006: Film Festival on Arts and Artists, JD Centre of Art, Bhubaneshwar, Orissa

December 23, 2006: India International Centre, New Delhi. See details

January 12, 2007: Concordia University, Montreal, Canada

January 28, 2007: The Attic, New Delhi (Grey Zone Film Club)

February 5, 2007: ITC-Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkata

February 7, 2007: Goethe-Institut (Max Mueller Bhavan), Kolkata

February 9, 2007: Vikalp monthly screenings, Mumbai (Bhupesh Gupta Bhavan, Prabhadevi)

February 10, 2007: Neela Bhagwat’s centre (Mumbai)

February 16, 2007: CSSS Calcutta

February 17, 2007: Lahore Chitrakar, Lahore, Pakistan

February 22, 2007: Bring Your Own Film Festival (BYOFF), Puri, Orissa

February 25, 2007: Gallery Alternatives, Gurgaon

March 3, 2007: Bhavan’s Cultural Center, Andheri, Mumbai

March 11, 2007: Piparia Film Festival, Piparia, Hoshangabad, MP

March 16, 2007: Chandigarh Sangeet Natak Academy, Chandigarh

March 24 and 28, 2007: Hong Kong International Film Festival, Hong Kong (See detail)

April 1, 2007: 2nd Gorakhpur Film Festival, Gorakhpur

April 14, 2007: Vikalp, Bangalore

April 19, 2007: Jamia Millia University (Yasir Arafat Hall)

June 15, 2007: India Development Foundation, Gurgaon

August 12, 2007: Asia Society, Mumbai (as part of 4-films on partition)

August 18, 2007: Gulmohar, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi

August 26, 2007: Kino Kandivali, Kandivali, Mumbai

September 19, 2007: Academic Staff College, Jamia Millia, New Delhi

September 25, 2007: School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, New Delhi

October 11 and 15, 2007: Film South Asia Festival, Kathmandu, Nepal

October 18, 2007: Lyon Asian Film Festival, Lyon, France

October 22, 2007: Museum für Völkerkunde, (Vienna, Austria)

October 24, 2007: SCM, Sophia College, Mumbai

October 25, 2007: Little Theatre, NCPA, Mumbai

November 1, 2007: Ansari Auditorium, Jamia Millia, Delhi (Talimi Mela)

November 10, 2007: Pakistani Film Festival, Glasgow, UK

Nov 7-11, 2007: Mahindra Indo American Arts Council Film Festival, New York, USA

November 24, 2007: Sampurna, Karachi

December 16, 2007: IVSAA, Karachi (org. by APMC, Karachi)

December 20, 2007: Delhi International Arts Festival, Alliance Francaise, New Delhi

Feb.3-9, 2008: Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF2008), Mumbai

Feb.13-17, 2008: ViBGYOR Film Festival, Thrissur, Kerala

More updates on

The film/video production work at Ektara is mostly carried out under the direction of Yousuf Saeed, along with some of his associates. Here are some details on the past experience and films produced by Yousuf:

Yousuf Saeed finished his Masters in Mass Communication at the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, in 1990, and began his career by producing the well-known science series Turning Point on Doordarshan, with Times TV (the Times of India). He co-produced and edited about 45 episodes of this series that was hosted by actors Naseeruddin Shah and Girish Karnad. In 1993 he left Times to start on his own and directed many documentary films for Doordarshan and other agencies. Some of his important films include a 5-part documentary series on Ladakh, a 4-part series on the Sufi poet Amir Khusrau, and a short film called Basant. Many of these films were screened at national and international film festivals such as the Mumbai International Film Festival (1998 and 2000) and other fora.
Through Amir Khusrau, he developed a special interest in south Asia’s multi-cultural traditions, music and literature, and their role in maintaining communal harmony. In 1998 he started an Internet platform called the Amir Khusrau website to promote these values of pluralism ( This website is visited by a large number of people everyday.

In 1999, Yousuf joined Encyclopaedia Britannica (India) to work on their website and other design/photo related products. He was the photo editor for the 7-volume “Students’ Britannica on India”, the 2-volume “Britannica on Indian History”, and the recently released “Encyclopaedia of Hindi Cinema”. He also collaborated with noted vocalist Shubha Mudgal to produce Internet features on Indian music for the Britannica website. Currently, Yousuf is on his own, producing more documentary films and other multimedia products. His most recent film is a one-hour documentary on the Indian scientist Prof.Yashpal, produced for Indian govt.’s Department of Science and Technology.

With his interests at resolving communal issues in India, Yousuf wrote and published a trilingual book called “What kind of India shall we give to our children?” enlisting some practical suggestions on how to reduce communal prejudice in the society. This book, published during the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, was widely distributed especially in the educational sector, and well received. Yousuf is now working on the second, more expanded, edition of the book. He has also been visiting many schools in Delhi to show films and talk about plural cultural identity. His film Basant has been screened at Springdales, Blue Bells, Vasant Valley, and St.Mary’s schools in Delhi, besides at various symposia at the universities of Berkeley and Harvard in the US, at Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris, and at the Wolfson College, Oxford, UK. For last two years, he, along with many friends, has been holding a festival of Sufi Basant in and around the dargah Nizamuddin area of Delhi, in the month of February, incorporating Qawwalis, film shows, heritage walks, and general celebration of spring.

In the techniques of television and video production, Yousuf specializes in editing and has worked on almost all platforms of linear and non-linear editing in the last 18 years. In 2003, he spent about three months instructing the students of M.A. in Mass Communication at AJKMCRC on the Final Cut Pro software on Mac.

Educational Qualification:

  • M.A. in Mass Communication (1990) AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, New Delhi, India
  • B.Sc. (Hons) (1988) Aligarh University, Aligarh, (UP) India
  • Senior Secondary School (1985) Jamia Higher Secondary School, JMI, New Delhi
  • Certificate in Arts Appreciation – 1992, National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Professional Experience:

  • Currently working as an independent filmmaker and researcher (Since Sept. 2001), also the project director of Tasveer Ghar, an international initiative to archive south Asia’s popular culture and arts
  • Worked at the Encyclopedia Britannica (India) from Sept. 1999 to Sept. 2001 as the Arts/Design Editor, as well as for developing their Internet site. Arts Editor on the 7-volume Students’ Britannica on India, the 2-volume Britannica on Indian History, and the recently released tome Encyclopedia of Hindi Cinema.
  • Worked as an independent documentary filmmaker (from July 1993 to Sept. 1999)
  • Worked as an associate producer/editor of the television science magazine Turning Point at Times TV, the Times of India, co-producing about 45 episodes (Dec 1990-July 1993).
  • Worked as an independent producer of educational films (June 1990-December 1990)


  • SARAI Fellowship 2004: A short research fellowship entitled Syncretism in the popular art of Muslim religious posters in north India, awarded by the Centre for Studies in the Developing Societies, SARAI, New Delhi. Details found at
  • Asia Fellowship 2005: to conduct a documentation project on Amir Khusrau’s living musical traditions in Pakistan, awarded by Asian Scholarship Foundation, Bangkok. The project concluded with a research paper and two documentary films Khayal Darpan (100 mins) and Khusrau in Pakistan (15 mins).
  • Visiting fellow at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris. It involved 3 presentations of films and other audio visual material at different venues in Paris between 25 May and 1st June 2006.
  • Traveling fellowship from the Boston University, Boston, to visit many institutions in the United States to present films and talk about India’s plural culture (September to October 2006). Lectured and screened films at universities such as Harvard, Boston, Tufts, Texas (Austin), Columbia (New York), and Chicago.

Some Published works:

  • Basant – the Rites of Spring, essay in Speaking Tree, The Times of India, Mumbai, February 1998
  • What kind of India shall we give to our children? A small booklet in English, Urdu, and Hindi, enlisting some practical suggestions on reducing communal prejudice in the society, self-published after 2002’s communal violence in Gujarat. New Delhi, June 2002
  • Popular Art Bridges Divide, published in The Times of India, New Delhi, February 18, 2006.
  • An Image Bazaar for the Devotee, essay in ISIM Review 17, Leiden, 2006, International Institute for the Study of Islam & Modernity, Leiden, The Netherlands.
  • Khusrau’s Hindvi Poetry, An Academic Riddle? Essay in Hu, the Sufi Journal of the Rumi Foundation, May 2007, Delhi (also at the Amir Khusrau website –
  • Classical Music in Pakistan: The Impact of Partition, in Biblio magazine. July-August 2007, Delhi
  • This is what they look like – Stereotypes of Muslim Piety in Calendar Art and Hindi Cinema, a virtual gallery visual essay at Tasveer Ghar website ( ) September 2007
  • Mecca versus the Local Shrine: The Dilemma of Orientation in the Popular Religious Art of Indian Muslims, essay in India’s Popular Culture, a Marg book, 2007, Mumbai, []
  • Developing many websites including one dedicated to Amir Khusrau and related subjects: Many of my write-ups are available at this website.

Conferences/Academic events attended:

  • Presented the paper Contemporary Challenges to Pluralism in the Popular Devotional Art of South Asian Muslims at the workshop “InVisible Histories: The Politics of Placing the Past”, held at Amsterdam, organized by International Institute for the Study of Islam and Modernity (ISIM), Leiden, on 2-3 September, 2005.
  • Presented two multi-media lectures in September 2004, to the students at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Jamia Millia Islamia University, Delhi: (1) Cross-cultural Interactions in Indian Music – Amir Khusrau’s Contribution, and (2) Finding Syncretic Symbolism in the Religious Art of Muslims.
  • Presented the paper Pluralism in the popular devotional art of Indian Muslims at the Second International Conference on Religions and Cultures in the Indic Civilisation, 17-20 December 2005, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, organized by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi.
  • Presentations on Syncretic Symbolism in Muslim Popular Art at the Gallery Alternatives, Gurgaon, Haryana (26 Nov.2005), and at Miranda House, Delhi University (13 Dec.2005)
  • Presented the paper Telling Devotional Stories inthe Muslim Popular Art of India:Images in the Ritual of a Pilgrimage, at the workshop “Building a scientific database for visual and audiovisual media” at University of Heidelberg, Germany, May 2006.
  • Presented the paper Amir Khusrau and Indo-Muslim Identity among the Art Music Traditions of Pakistan at the 6th Annual Asia Fellows Conference at Bangkok, Thailand, (3-4 July 2006).
  • Presentation on Stereotypes of Indian Muslims in Popular Media, at the Annual Conflict Transformation Workshop at WISCOMP (Dalai Lama Foundation), India International Centre, Delhi, December, 2007

Some Documentary Films Directed:

  • Khayal Darpan (A Mirror of Imagination): A feature-length film exploring the development of classical music in Pakistan post-1947, featuring many famous Khayal singers of Pakistan. 100 mins. DVCAM. Screened at Hong Kong Int. Film Festival 2007, Film South Asia Kathmandu 2007, Lyon Asian Film Fest 2007, and many academic venues. This film was screened at Concordia University on January 12, 2007. see details at
  • Jannat Ki Rail (The Train to Heaven): A 7-minutes experimental music video celebrating the spirit of India’s popular Islam, illustrated by popular devotional art and music. 2006. Featured at many film fests.
  • Yashpal – A Life in Science: A biographical film about India’s senior scientist Prof.Yashpal, exploring over half a century of his career in particle physics, satellite communication, and science education. 40 mins, 2004, DVCAM/Betacam, UGC, New Delhi
  • EFBS – A Safer Pest Control: A training film for farmers on reducing the use of harmful chemical pesticides while growing vegetables such as eggplant. Dubbed in 5 Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali, Oriya, Gujarati and Khasi. DV/Betacam, AVRDC-Taiwan, 2004
  • Basant: A short film about how a primarily Hindu festival of spring called Basant is celebrated by some Muslims in North India. 12 mins. Betacam (Oct.1997). Screened at Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF’98), and the 6th International Short Film Festival, Dhaka (Bangladesh) 1999, and other venues.
  • Muharram: A short film that portrays the colourful and highly passionate observance of Muharram in north India’s Amroha town. 15 mins, 1998. Participated in MIFF 2000, Mumbai
  • Inside Ladakh: (with Iffat Fatima) A series of 5 documentary films that study the concept of change in 5 ethnic regions of Ladakh, Himalayas. 5×30 min. (June 1997-Doordarshan). Featured at MIFF 1998, Mumbai.
  • Boojh Sakay To Boojh: A 4 part documentary series on the contemporary image of 13-century poet Amir Khusrau. (With Iffat Fatima) 4×30 min. Betacam (Jan.1997)
  • Turning Point: Co-directed and edited about 45 episodes of this Science series for Doordarshan TV channel (via Times Television) 1992-1994
  • Medicine’s New Vision: Research, camera and editing of this 3-part documentary series on medical imaging techniques, such as Sonography, CTScan and MRI. 3×24 mins. U-matic (July-Sept.1990-UGC)
  • The Gene Story – (with Aradhana Kohli Kapoor) A video documentary on Genetic engineering. 24 min. U-matic. (May 1990-Final Student Video, MCRC).
  • More films by Yousuf Saeed
(Source: 02/2008 – Ektara)

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IMC OnAir is 1st collector for promo of “Khayal Darpan” – A Mirror of Imagination
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