About Yousuf Saeed
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 (http://www.alif-india.com/).
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 14 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
- 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
- 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 http://www.alif-india.com/popart/
- 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 - www.alif-india.com)
- 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 (http://tasveerghar.net/mstereo ) 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, [http://marg-art.org/popularartbk.html]
- Developing many websites including one dedicated to Amir Khusrau and related subjects:
http://www.alif-india.com. 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 www.khayaldarpan.info
- 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. 5x30 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) 4x30 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. 3x24 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
Current Projects (2008 onwards):
- Documenting the cultural practices of Indian Muslims on video
(for Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi)
- Documentation of popular art forms (Tasveer Ghar)