Here in Hyderabad to promote his film, 'Deccani Souls', Canadian filmmaker Kaz Rahman speaks of the lure that Hyderabad has held for him all his life and the inspiration for his movie. He lived in Hyderabad for some time and began to explore this city through his work. Part of 'Deccani Souls' was filmed here. His interest in the city and the texture of its life are reflected in his film.
“I was inspired by the tales of the city told by my father and it grew after I spent a few years in the city. There are many stories waiting to be told here. The unique locations and atmosphere form an integral part of my two feature films Salaat and 'Deccani Souls',” says Rahman.
He listened to historical accounts of the Paigah princes and erstwhile princely states as bedtime stories from his father. All this inspired him to be a storyteller on the big screen.
The name of his production house is called Charminar Films. “The monument is still very beautiful and makes its presence felt in the city. It is built for everybody just like I want my films to be,” says Rahman.
Talking about 'Deccani Souls', he says, “The themes of Deccani Souls include dreams, memory, and emigration. A specific undercurrent of the story is the forgotten and painful aftermath of the accession of Hyderabad State back in 1948. The style of filmmaking is influenced by classic European and Iranian cinema; the content of the film plays with time while capturing the eroding yet important pulse of Islamic culture in the Deccan region.”
Bringing out the lost culture of the Nawabi City
The film evolved over time. The original concept and outline was inspired by the character ‘Chichikov’ from Gogol’s 19th century novel Dead Souls, that was back in 1999, admits Rahman. “I wrote a script in 2000 but never filmed it. From 2004 to 2007, I was living in Hyderabad and the story for Dead Souls evolved into the script Deccani Souls absorbing the history and culture of this city. I wrote a different script in 2007 and the final edit is remarkably close to that version even though organic changes developed in post-production,” he says. Rahman spent a lot of time visualising the locations, scouting them and stayed in these places to get their feel. He read books on Hyderabad’s history and Operation Polo (The September 1948 military operation in which the Indian Armed Forces invaded the State of Hyderabad and ended the rule of Nizam, annexing the state into the Indian Union). He got an insight into the incidences by interviewing and talking with older Hyderabadi Muslims (who lived through it) in Toronto, Hyderabad and Bidar.
Rahman is also an artiste—painter and poet. He studied fine arts at the University of Northumbria, UK, before studying films in City University New York.
Making films his way
“If I am going to spend years researching, scouting, writing, producing, directing and editing a film then obviously it has to be something I am passionate about. So of course I make films the way I want to. I believe any good film eventually gains its own momentum and those who are interested can appreciate it long after the director has moved on to other projects,” says the Canadian filmmaker.
Message through films
In his own words, Rahman says “With Deccani Souls I want people to think about the film long after the screening. People in Hyderabad and all over the world should know what happened in 1948; no country, state or community can move forward until they have come to terms with their past. That’s something I am saying with this film.”
About the film
It is a mystical journey that begins with a character Hamza wandering through a strange landscape of assorted debris in the winter snowscape. He dreams of Hyderabad, of another place and time. In Hyderabad, Babu is a ‘census’ officer who initiates elaborate conversations with people to get into their minds and listen to their version of history. There is also an Urdu poet Siddiq who struggles to understand the nuances of the essay his grandfather had written, says the filmmaker. The 106-minute film features characters portrayed by M A Siddiq, Sathya Bhama, HKS Babu, Sultan and Syed. It is written, photographed, edited and director by Rahman.