Where the sparks began
Directors Statement: Making this film, and, the conversation it has now been raising, has been a powerful way for the film team and me, of coming to grips with the Solastalgia (a term coined by the environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecth for the distress caused by environmental change) caused by the changed face, landscape and culture of our hometown, Hyderabad.
Other Kohinoors, The Rocks of Hyderabad is a love letter to Hyderabad and its unique terrain and culture. Hyderabad is an Indian city with a distinct history, language, culture, cuisine, and physical features. The film anchors itself in this regional tapestry showcasing how all of these are tied together with the rocks.
The profound interactive relationship between culture and nature in Hyderabad has as its ‘bedrock’, a respect for and dependence upon the landscape. This relationship is strikingly manifest in the city's sensibility and culture: in its art, crafts, textiles, poetry, prose, architecture, literature, daily language, nomenclature, popular art, jokes, personal as well as its collective memory... In all these and more, the culture robustly, respectfully, affectionately acknowledges the beauty of the rocks and the role they play in the ecological health and distinct aesthetic identity of the city.
Hyderabad’s relationship with the rocks has changed remarkably within the last couple of decades. We have witnessed catastrophic destruction of these unique and irreplaceable ancient rock formations. This has been accompanied by the destruction of ecological sustenance that the terrain provided to the city, as well as a loss of the culture that is enmeshed with this terrain.
Uma Magal, upon returning to her hometown Hyderabad after a long stint abroad studying and working in film, was deeply affected by this loss. She decided to put her skills and personal funds to use for the matter and began to make a film. She then approached an old friend and fellow Hyderabadi, Mahnoor Yar Khan, to join her. Both Uma and Mahnoor have been driven by their personal affections and memories of growing up around the rocks. They strongly feel the need for a heightened and widespread dialogue to save what is left of the rocks in the city. Even as the city grows in response to the compulsions of 21st century urban realities, it can still do so with a sense of balance, that retains wisely what is left of a stunning and unique geoheritage.
Two years of research findings came together to form a distinct narrative. We sought out and were enormously rewarded in meeting so many people who knew so much about the rocks. Ecological experts spoke with us of the primordial formation of the rocks aeons ago and demonstrated their importance in creating an ecosystem in which animals, plants and people could all thrive. We researched beautiful rocks spaces, now important spiritual sites, where over the ages, saints, seekers and gurus were inspired to make their home. We delved into the writings, languages, lore, humour, poetry, prose, songs, films, textiles, art, characters, crafts and cuisine of the region and found – with delight - where/how they were inspired by and featured the rocky landscape. As we sought, we found plentifully, a treasure trove of material. In the making of the film, rock lovers, rappers, geologists, urban planning experts, linguists, scholars, writers, translators, poets, animators, folk theatre performers, balladeers, songwriters, singers and all other manner of contributors gave of their expertise demonstrating a signature Hyderabadi generosity of spirit!
We have shared these findings so far in an 18-month bi-monthly series called Rockscapes, written by Uma, for The Hindu Hyderabad Metroplus newspaper (Click to view). We look forward to sharing our findings further through the release, distribution and exhibition of this film. We have planned and are implementing screenings and discussions at a wide and diverse range of spaces of deliberation and dialogue. Through all of this we wish to pay homage to the rocks and forge ways to protect this uniquely attractive and life sustaining dimension of our city.
This film is a visual essay that entertains as well as educates. Stylistically it interweaves live action footage with animation. The film’s soundtrack is a mix of Telugu film songs, Dakhani-Urdu shairi, original poetry in English, original background music composition & sound design. There is a minimal narration in prose and the main narration (Sutradhar) is via a multilingual ‘Rap’ with original lyrics and music, to which city poets and musicians have contributed generously (Click to view). One press review of this 'Song of the Kohinoors' states that ‘It might well become the anthem of the city’ (See Press).
The animations have been created by contributing artists. Each animation relates to a particular aspect of the city culture that we wish to celebrate, and, we have styled the animations in a range of remarkable local art and craft forms: the Amir Ali story in the style of Tholabommalata/ Shadow Puppetry, that of Renukamma Yellammma in that of Cheriyal painting ; the story of the Kagazi Burj is done as a combination of live action and animation in the Deccan miniature painting style. The live action footage throughout the film presents the current transitioning city. The film utilizes all of this to engage and entertain. It has triggered overwhleming response in viewers so far, towards valuing and sustaining the rocks & allied eco-culture that still remains in Hyderabad. We are strongly encouraged by the thrilling responses so far to the Outreach Program (Change - Click to view)!
The state of Telangana is located in the Deccan, a unique region of central and south India that has Hyderabad as the crown city. Ancient rock formations are a beguiling feature of Telengana’s physical landscape. With many dating back to 2500 million years, several of these rock formations are amongst the oldest in the world. The rocks affect the water, soil and weather of the city. They nourish life sustaining water sources: rainwater runs wherever the curve of the rocks takes it, forming varied water bodies like waterfalls, springs, ponds, and lakes. Rocks have gaps, aquifers and ducts that gather and hold water and recharge the groundwater table. The rocks provide a barrier to sharp winds, they enrich soil with minerals, and they, very importantly, impact rainfall. They form critical lung spaces for the city. They are part of a larger ecology and serve as biotopes for flora and fauna. They are inextricably linked to wildlife that abound in the lakes such as flamingos and buffaloes, the snakes and peacocks they house, and the goats and cattle that graze in their shade and much more. In short, they have been invaluable to humans, flora and fauna alike. Other Kohinoors celebrates these beautiful rocks, and, showcases how consciously, subconsciously and unconsciously, they have been valued and woven into the cultural fabric and collective memory of Hyderabad.
The mission is to raise awareness of this unique natural geo-heritage, to appreciate the consequent culture that the city is blessed with, and, to advocate for related interventions in the planning of Hyderabad’s development. It suggests ways to balance Hyderabad’s rapid urban growth with the retention of a healthful intersecting aesthetic, ecological, geological and cultural landscape that renders the city unique.
In a lighter but related vein, the film recognizes a need to wrestle with the well-known Hyderabadi laid back temperament. A wry mocking self-awareness about this temperament is a part of the archetypal Hyderabadi persona. Jokes, banter, even poetry about this character trait enriches and enlivens living in the city. One small example is the local saying: Susti ke Aadi, Hyderabadi!
The phrase translates as: low key behaviour is the Hyderabadi default. It underlines the above-mentioned ability to laugh at oneself.
Perhaps, especially, because of this attitude, the film focuses on being a catalyst and an ongoing wake up call for the precious rocks and what they mean for the city of Hyderabad. Through a strategic outreach plan of film screenings and distribution, the film is reaching people in different neighbourhoods and communities in the city, and, children and youth in schools & colleges. This has received an overwhelming response from people in the city so far. It is assisting in the making of a cultural moment that is reaching beyond the choir: in which likeminded as well as unlikely bedfellows are coming together, reignited by the connections the film is evoking, for the cause of saving and celebrating the rock spaces that remain.
The Other Kohinoors Project (see here) offers some actionable ideas to make children, citizens, policy makers and planners more geo-aware, and, suggests roadmaps to retain our stunning geo-heritage. If this balance is struck, it could set Hyderabad up as an exemplar modern city that does not sacrifice conservation of natural heritage to urban development. Indeed, the city’s development alongside its natural heritage and allied remarkable cultural sensibility may suggest an ideal that other cities could aspire towards.
We are proud and happy that so many friends and supporters have joined us in this journey of making the film.
© Other Kohinoors