The portrayal of Tipu Sulthan as a religious bigot is often disputed at many levels and several sources suggest that he embraced religious pluralism.
It is in this context that Abbas Panakkal and his crew have conceived their major documentary project Misery of History, that deals with Tipu’s seventh generation and how society handles them today.
Much light is thrown to convey the ‘truth’ that the Tiger of Mysore was a secular human being. Abbas Panakkal, a visiting research fellow at Graffiti University, Australia, says that it is his passion for the history pages as such that compelled him to throw light into this sensitive historic issue.
In the historical journey he was accompanied by his best pals Ajeeb and Akhil, who served behind the lens for Misery of History.
The trio had together brought out several short films and documentaries about a panorama of topics across the globe.
“Much has been told and cited in our own records referring to Tipu Sulthan as a successful Islamic ruler who never hesitated to massacre the Hindu population. But in my research I found that he was a generous ruler who allowed grants to temples. Solid records are also available which highlight the correspondence between his court and temples, and he having donated jewellery and valuable gifts for temples. There are further records which show that Tipu’s army had many Hindus and people from other religions too. His relation with the Sringeri temple was much hailed. It was in this background that Misery of History was carved out,” explains the curator.
The 30-minute documentary was shot in Sreerangapatnam, Kolkata, Mysore and London. “This was a project that required much research. We were assisted by four historians- Dr B Sheikh Ali, Dr Sebastian, Prof K K N Kurup and Dr Hussain Randathani - in this task. They helped us track several places and various important historical moments in the Sulthan’s reign and life. It was during such travels to these places that we got to know more about this subject,” says Ajeeb.
The film has thrown light into Tipu’s seventh generation descendants who are living a less charming life in Anwar Shah street in Kolkata. Most of them earn their living by pulling rickshaws on the streets. Misery of History opens with such a middle-aged man who is believed to be one of those living descendants of the majestic ruler. “They live a miserable life there and some migrants from other states exploit them left and right. These people even prevented us from shooting at those places with these people,” says Abbas Panakkal, who had also carved important documentaries for Tripunithura Hill Palace, philately of Indian Postal Department, the chaos in Palestine, to name a few.
Apart from local sources, the crew had also travelled up to Victoria Albert Museum in London for more materials.
“We also had fetched references from the much-hailed work Tipu’s Tiger by Susan Stronge. She had shared many important discussions with us for this subject, giving us more reference materials from their collections,” he says.
The multilingual documentary was screened in Kozhikode recently. The curators are further planning to screen the documentary for several colleges in the state as well.