“Language predates architecture and art”

How did this project come about?

This project is the outcome of an art history documentation which began in 2012. Anyone who has grown up in Hyderabad is familiar with the language. When I started to meet poets, literary people in the community and mushaira organizers, I realized that outside this community, the word Dakhani, was not even known! Thus, a narrative film was the outcome of an art history project.

The movie is shot across the Deccan, from cities and towns to dusty rural outposts, and includes wide visual material also showcasing the architectural splendor of the region… The movie looks at the literary history of Dakhani through – its most popular form – tanzo mizah or the human satire. We travel across the Deccan, talking to people, meeting historians, visiting Sufi shrines (the place where the language originated) in Golconda, Bijapur and Aurangabad (now Sambhaji Nagar). A great many miniature paintings and illuminated manuscripts from the Deccan region feature in the film as a visual narrative device, as do the works of poets including Gilli Nalgondavi, Chicha Palampuri and saints like Mukta Bai. I travelled through the footprints of the Deccan to film the architecture of these places which is unique. In some sense, language predates architecture and art.

What were the stories that surprised you?

Dakhani is simply the language of the Deccan; however, a common response we heard was that ‘we did not know’. One of the strong elements of this story is that this literary form predates modern Urdu. Classical Dakhani generated a great amount of prose, poetry and literature, which accounted for the growth that links it to modern Urdu.

What is the relevance of the language today?

Dakhani is no longer a language, it’s a spoken form. Languages come into being when literary works are being created and there is active engagement. That distinction is important. However, it is a living spoken form, across Telangana, Karnataka and Maharashtra. It is still alive and retains its unique characteristics. There is also some scholarship of it and classical Dakhani is taught as a part of Urdu curricula.

Now there is Dakhani poetry, rap, YouTube shorts and some amount of film (though it is low-brow humor that has not evolved); this is the time for serious literary, cinematic artistic work to come into the public realm, it will influence the landscape. Can it survive beyond just humor? We’ll have to see.

Sadly, Dakhani is looked down upon. Any reasons?

That is one of the central points of the film. There is of course a northern gaze because to them, this language sounds funny. It is deemed as a lesser and impure version of something else.

A new skylit nook to hang out with friends over delicious food!

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