Thursday, 24 October 2019

My Curriculum Vite ..


NAME Rahat Saeed Khan Yusufi
ADDRESS ‘Ashramshala’. Panhale. Lanja,
Ratnagiri, Maharashtra. 416 701.
CELL-PHONE 9960305867
BIRTH November 18, 1946, Lucknow, UP, India
CRAFT Film Making


B.Sc. University of Allahabad
M.A Aligarh Muslim University
DC (D) Film Institute, Pune


I have been an independent film maker since 1987, making films and videos under the banner of Saramedia Consultants, Bangalore. I have made approximately fifty documentary and short features. Most of the more recent work has been rooted in progressive sociological insight which is in the process of constant renewal. These films have been done on live locations with non-professionals chosen from the field. They have been produced in several Indian languages in various parts of this Country. Having lived worked and travelled extensively in various socio-linguistic & eco-regions have left me with a sort of a mercenary feeling. I am, therefore, staying as Artist in residence here, in a remote village in a school for tribal & nomadic children, who are first generation schooled. During the past five years or so of my stay here, I have received in-depth perceptions of community coherence and produced over fifteen films in DV format, that I can show to people of Konkan as a mirror unto their own ‘human condition’.


To research, write scripts and proposals, visualise and direct shootings, supervise editing and other studio and laboratory based work. Nowadays I shoot with a good DV camera and edit on PC at my rooms, in Panhale. Generate, sift and validate fresh ideas. Solicit support and funding for a specific kind of work and look after productions in all aspects till completion; then distribute DV copies and exhibit from place to place, in Konkan region, South Maharashtra.


My materials are being used by a number of Voluntary Groups in West Bengal, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and more recently, in Karnataka. I have participated in screening sessions and seen the enjoyment with which my films have been received by communities concerned. They have proved to be good catalyser of discussions and / or introspection. I have several National and International awards for cinematic excellence to my credit, apart from the love and joy of sharing my work with people among whom I make my films. I have been actively involved in social, cultural, and ecological movements in India and have successfully articulated their ideals, debates and struggles in film form.

  • I was appointed Professor and Head of Department of Film Direction and Screen writing at the film and TV institute at Pune from June 1982 until June 1987.

RESPONSIBILITIES: Teaching and working with students for a three year specialisation course.

ACHIEVEMENTS: This course of studies was re-instituted at my joining. I was able, therefore, to restructure and update the curriculum with current knowledge to make it challenging and meaningful to the next generation of film makers. I was able to make teaching methodology participatory in nature. For the first time in the history of Film and TV Institute, I was able to take out groups of students to make demonstration films, thereby bridging classroom theory and field experience in practice.

  • In charge of media production at the Centre for Development of Instructional Technology (CENDIT) at New Delhi from March 1980 until June 1982.

RESPONSIBILITIES: CENDIT initiated the idea of using video for community conscientization. I designed and implemented the program in a cluster of ten villages in the adjoining state of UP.

ACHIEVEMENTS: I was able to make participatory, process oriented video films with active support of the communities, show them and include feed back into further work to create a link and a web of communication in the project area. I was able also to de-mystify media for illiterate / semi-literate men and women of the community and receive tremendous response in our conscientization program.

  • Director at the Films Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India, from March 1975 until 1980.

RESPONSIBILITIES: Researching, scripting and directing films for the user ministries, mainly Defence and Agriculture. I also attempted social subjects while in employment with the Government.

ACHIEVEMENTS: I was able to travel quite extensively throughout the remote and distant parts of India. Camping and spending plenty of time in different geo-political and eco-regions while on official tours. I was able to create a stylistic difference in the set pattern of documentary / training film of the Films Division. This was recognised in the form of several international awards in specialised film festivals.

  • Collaboration with Mani Kaul on his feature film, ‘Uski Roti’ as assistant director.

RESPONSIBILITIES: To assist the director in all aspects of conceptualising and operationalizing the experiment we were trying out. Scripting and dialogue writing, improvising during shooting and other post shooting work.

ACHIEVEMENTS: Though I cannot claim any individual achievement in this case, I am proud to say that the film was a pioneering experiment at the inception of the New Wave in India and the team involved was making history


  • I am a founder member of the trust, Gokul Prakalpa Pratishthan (GPP), an NGO working in Konkan area of Southern Maharashtra. I have done several films with the folk forms of this region and on the efforts of our trust in conservation of local land and human resources.

  • I have been a member of the Governing Council of Film and Television Institute, Pune.

  • I have awards for cinematic excellence from Toronto, Karlovi Veri and Caracow. I also have two National Awards in 1991 for best film on environment. My films have been screened in the prestigious ‘Spectrum India’ section of MIFF, The Mumbai International Short Films Festival and equally prestigious ‘Indian Panorama’, during the International Film Festival of India 1997 at New Delhi and at the Beirut International Film Festival 1997.

  • I have actively participated and conducted development workshops concerning media intervention, visual articulation and community media. I have written and presented papers and delivered lectures often with demonstrations, on Film aesthetics and use of Cinema as medium of communication for the alternative sector. I have helped create a new paradigm for development activism through the use of video among young filmmakers in India.

Friday, 27 September 2019

I Met Satyajit Ray & Ritwik Da'

When I met Ritwik Da and Satyajit Ray ..

I have never actually craved meeting big shots; even as a kid I have never enjoyed collecting autographs of Actors, Cricketers but still I have bumped into many, mostly per chance. It was just one of those days at The Film Institute that having got up late, around lunch time, I was escalating down the road from Boy’s Hostel toward the Canteen for some Puri Bhaji & Chai that I noticed, none other than Satyajit Ray, in person emerge out of the corner Mutari, cross over toward Studio #1 and walk up the side staircase doubtless towards the guest rooms upstairs. I think he was on the first landing when I caught his sight and greeted him from ground level, looking up. He looked down upon me hesitating and halting his step so I said that I am a resident student of Film Direction and would like to meet him with some of my class fellows. He refused to meet us, point blank, in a clipped, Oxonian accent resuming his ascent to the guest room. (period) End of meeting ! Later, I was told there was a convocation and he’d come as chief guest to distribute Diplomas. That, I believe, was his one & only visit to the FTII.

Another fine morning, in the Canteen, I was finishing my Puri Bhaji & double Chai when someone said, “Look ! That’s Ritwik Ghatak ! Sitting under the Wisdom Tree !” I looked out the window and saw an old man in Kurta Pajama was indeed sitting crouched, knees level with his chin, facing the main gate, smoking .. and I noticed the black frame of his glasses in profile. He was just sitting alone, there was no one else under the wisdom tree just at that moment. I couldn’t believe my eyes; I thought, ‘Ritwik Ghatak ! Is that him?’ ... but I got up at once, carried my half finished glass of tea to the door of the Canteen and then across the road, looking at and approaching the Man. He just kept staring right ahead, blankly as though he was expecting someone. Placing my glass on the plinth I said, “Namaskar Dada” with joined hands and sat down next to him. His vibe was so close & cool, he almost felt like an old relative of mine ! Soon someone brought him some Chai, Old Kokje, the projectionist emerged from Main Theatre and said projection was ready and we all drifted in. Dada still smoking and carrying his cup of tea went straight down the isle to the middle seat in the front row, (my seat!) and we looked at what he was watching, say reel #3 of “Viridiana” ...

Later, we went to the Book Library at the rear of Studio # 1, opposite the Sound Dept. He pulled out some twenty or thirty volumes from many shelves and asked Madam to send them to his Guest Room. In the evening when we went to see him there was a record player & Western Classical music, many open, half read books scattered upon the carpet and table, a bottle of wine from which he swigged without offering a drop to anyone else ... and HE TALKED ! He rambled, he kicked anyone who asked a stupid question and we sat upon the floor, transfixed, just imbibing I know not what all that he spoke about between swigs from his bottle of wine.

This went on till late, very late in the night. The next morning getting up late as usual, when I twaddled down toward the canteen for Puri Bhaji he was up there on the balcony ! A bottle of wine clutched in one hand and a bidi stuck between his middle & fourth finger, nearer the cleft. He was loudly showering his blessings upon passers by. And then more films, marathon sessions; none of the films will he watch completely; “THAKO !” He will shout over the projector noise and sound track and we will all repeat the command till Kokje will stop the projector. He will then demand to watch reel# so & so from so & so movie !! While Kokje and the assistant from The Archive, search and thread the new order, he will talk, talk like a good Bengali, he will speak in English, standing facing us with his bottle in his hand and his bum resting on the edge of the stage, the screen behind his tall figure. He was a man with long limbs, like Siddhartha, The Gautama Buddha.

This went on, day & night for a timeless period of time and one fine morning there was no Dada upon the balcony, smoking & drinking & cursing and blessing us all, those who were passing by down below upon the central sloping street of the then Film Institute.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019


Caption: Opium of the Masses. 
Speaker: Rahat YusufiNov.01.1999 ISI Bangalore

These are just ‘talking points’ for something akin to a workshop or a brain-storm; we must all contribute to illuminate the darkness of our time! To set the ball rolling, therefore, and since our theme allows, let us look at some theory first. Perhaps a brief sketch of history of use of media and then we come to present day situation, look upon shape of things to come, or how we can shape future with the use of media.

This last point requires some preparation on vision as well as possibilities offered by chosen medium, or combination used, what is called mixed-media or multi-media.

So we take some primary ‘key-words’ such as:

1/ What is a ‘medium’?
Money, the witch, roadways, railways, air & water ways; Print, Radio, Video, Telephony, pager, cell-phone, posters & hoardings, LCD / neon signs, net and the world wide web. We can make this list longer if we try. In a way, all these are instrumentalities, some one-way others two-way substances or vehicles through which an effect is transmitted / transported. The ‘medium’ is usually understood to be inert (like a truck, wheel barrow or a bullock-cart!). The active ingredient, usually language, images or coded effects or messages can be contained, stored, transported between those who ‘make’ & those who ‘receive’ / ‘access’ them. In this transaction, ‘meaning’ is said to be made, or it is supposed to emerge. We shall address the idea of meaning & meaning making a little later.

2/ What is communication?
Associations that a word like this throws up are manifold. Let us put down some allied and root-words and look at their meaning; what follows is straight out of my dictionary:

* Commune` (as noun) in France means co-operation. A small territory with some form of self governance.

* Commune (as noun) in Communist Countries means an agricultural community; or a group of people living with common ownership.

* Commune (as verb) to feel as one with, be in close touch with, to share, give or receive.

* Communicate to have means of passage. To succeed in conveying one’s meaning to the other.

* Communism to hold all things in common.

* Community Common enjoyment of rights, beliefs, language etc.

* Com-mutual reciprocal

* Communication the process of achieving all this.

3/ Communication, by the looks of the meanings that we have gleaned from preceding exercise seems like it could and would flow freely, any which way in the community. With the advent of www & so on, notions of territoriality associated with communities are also fading. It would appear that there is potentially an endless, seamless, free-flow of ideas, images, dreams, opinions, stories, information, even myths & legends constantly sliding and forming, fading, emerging and shifting around in an ebb & flow which seems like a lot of fun, very robust, very invigorating and empowering indeed.

BUT, implicit in this schematic word image, even at this sage, we detect that there is an assumption of use & knowledge of English language, for instance, let us say as a unifying factor. What happens immediately is that all the rest of cultural and linguistic nuances are set aside, to be able to ‘get on with the net’ as they say.

THEN, there are service “providers” and a separate set of “consumers”. And why /& what ought the providers provide and what makes the consumers consume and pay for it?

SO, between the idea (conception) and the practice (execution), there is a major block (shadow) called the ‘interest”. In whose interest is it to practice the idea of communication?

4/ Let us examine cutting and building a new road. It will facilitate communication, they say, the builders. Now, first of all, whose interest or need activated the idea of the said road? Who decided which are the points and places that the road is connecting? The villages and people where the road will take up land will be compensated, but did they actually need the road, & do they really want compensation money? Do they want to go where the road is leading them?

To be sure, then, communication channels / net-works are designed, built and put in place for & by vested interests in society. This can be seen as ringing true even in case of making / receiving a phone-call. The ‘you-call-me / I call you’ scenario is all too familiar. The pager, for instance, has been always a top down one way tool & now passé. Now every body carries a cell-phone but the under-dog will always give you a missed-call!

5/ The media shell, therefore, may be value neutral by definition but its use is not so; is indeed manipulating opinion & manufacturing consent. The ‘form’ of a particular medium and ‘content’ it can communicate often contain a menu-driven, built-in, semblance of choice, which is not a real choice at all. It is virtual. It is possible, however, to use form & content of any medium either to achieve clarity or obscurity. It can be manipulated to mystify / de-mystify.

If they do it, it is propaganda
If we do it, it is education!

6/ Since we have come so far, I don’t see why we ought to go back into history of media, specially Film medium, because history of film is the history of its magnitudes and powers of manipulation. How documentary cinema altered the mind-set of an entire generation. How big, the ‘Big Grossers’ really were. The Imax. Dominant politics and profiteering economics, greed for power and mind management, history tells us, have been prime movers of media.

NOW, can we reverse or alter this trend? Do we want to? If yes, then how can ‘we’? First of all, do we wish to quantify ‘alternative media’ by the same measures the main-stream has? Can we present a viable choice to ‘end users’? (For the moment let us call them that).

At this point I have to take a side and count myself among “makers” of media’ I can now begin to shift the emphasis of this exercise from an objective perspective to a subjective one. That is that of a Film-maker.

7/ So, if I were a young woman, or man, fired by a passion for social change, revival, resurgence, revolution; and if I wanted to use the media; first of all I would have to choose one. If I wanted to be autonomous, I would choose the film medium. The ‘authorship school’ of film-making would suit me perfectly. I would imagine I was like Ruskin Bond, living and writing from Missouri and becoming famous all over the English speaking world.

BUT, am I ready for my social intervention? To create a rough & ready paradigm, I may choose to find ‘functionality’ by situating my attitude orthogonal to main-stream. My indicators, as to what I should do, would then spring from a series of observed characteristics of the main-stream media. Cinema, for example, would show up as:

8/ Some characteristics of main-stream cinema.
# powerful sensational dramatic
# mass media
# professional actors
# dialogue driven
# commentary based
# box-office oriented
# monolithic conception of ‘audience’
# riddled with obscene innuendos & overt violence. (we can increase the list)

9/ My antithetical schematic paradigm would then look somewhat like:

Magnitude 35mm. 70mm. Imax Surround Sound
Powerful (in itself)
Generalized as mass-medium
Dialogue driven &/or illustrating commentary text
Use professional actors and deep bass voices
Box-office return
Territorial audiences
Anybody paying is welcome

DV. 16mm
Empowering (the viewer)
Culture and Language specific
Visually oriented, resonating with sounds
Work with non-professionals & use location sync sound
Value for money
Viewers, select audience
I choose my viewers

Sub-Textual Values:

Mainstream: Morbid, violent, macho, full of song & dance signifying nothing, time-pass. Anaesthetizing.

Alternative: Educational, healthy, concerning quality of life. Transparent, democratic, secular, nurturing, peaceful, justiciable, significant, anesthetizing.

09/ Some of the properties of film medium, however, I shall not be able to escape while I develop my antithetical model of Alternative film-making. Those, such as, the quality of my craftsmanship, clarity of my conception, composition, structure, dynamics of Editing and use of Sound. My eye for the light, either available or artificial. Timing, perspective, magnification, control & use of color & contrast and of course, the quality of my observation. These I have to share, whether I like it or not. There is no alternative there, no choice. One can not avoid the climate and context in which one’s work would eventually be placed and received. Socially embodied norms and cliches. Attention spans. Stereotypical structures, stories, issues, acting and gender related attitudes. Our work will have to eventually co-exist with all this and more. Quantitatively, it is always going to be minimal, vernacular, inward looking.

10/ Media do not pro-actively do ‘development’. It merely helps to create a climate conducive to change. It can alter the ecology of mind; catalyze certain trends, attitudes and values among people affected by that climate. We live in a climate saturated with media; much of it might actually be canceling each other before hitting us; nevertheless, both as makers as well as users of media we have to be discreet, we have to know that it can merely indicate, it can not actually take aim, shoot to kill.

11/ Creativity, Quantification, Satisfaction:
Most media, I should imagine all media could be de-constructed in this way and open ended, informed choices can be made both by the ‘users’ and the ‘makers’. Life projects can be chalked out and often, this is how these vocations work best; even the commercial world is full of dedicated artists and craft-persons.
Creativity sets in, if we regard the process as, as important if not more precious & alive than the product; and again, merely because one is playing with the medium, as is not the real thing. It only looks like real but it is a re-presentation; it looks authentic but it is not a fact, it is like a dream. The experience of watching a movie, in a movie-hall, is like a dream. It is a catalyst. It exists in our imagination, our consciousness.
No box-office gross figure, no critical acclaim column length can match the satisfaction of watching the film you made, with the folk you made it with.
For our ‘model’ to be complete and be truly viable an ‘alternative’; Alternative Media must have, acquire or develop its own distribution & exhibition infrastructure. In time, it must aim to create a niche of viewer ship and must attract support from each socio-lingual and ecological region in the Country, wherever it is being received. Like other channels it must invite viewer’s participation. This alone would complete the ‘Cycle of Communication’... and create vital ‘feed-back-loops’ to nourish and enrich it. This is a lot of work, nearly three quarters of the entire enterprise; and how all that is to be accomplished; that is another story.


Saturday, 17 March 2018

A Complete Artist

LEAVE IT FOR IMAGINATION....some excerpts.

To my mind the rural ideal in art, philosophy & life, so deeply embedded in Chinese consciousness must be responsible for national and racial health today. Creators of Chinese pattern of life did more wisely than they knew in maintaining a balance between civilization and primitive habits of living. A sound instinct guided them to choose agricultural civilization, to hate mechanical ingenuity and love the simple ways of life; to invent comforts of life without being enslaved to them; and to preach from generation to generation in their poetry, painting & literature, ‘the return to the farm’. For, to be close to nature is to have physical & moral health. Man, in the country does not degenerate, only man in the city does. This aspect subtly but profoundly accounts for the long survival of Chinese civilization.

Chinese culture is one of the truly indigenous cultures of the World. Culture is a product of leisure and Chinese have had immense leisure of over three thousand years to cultivate it. In these three thousand un-interrupted years they have had plenty of time to drink tea and look at life quietly over their tea cups; and from gossip over tea cups they have boiled life down to its essence. And from this gossip & pondering came a great meaning. It came to be spoken of as ‘the Mirror’ which reflects human experience for the benefit of the present; which is like a gathering stream, un-interrupted, continuous. In this they crossed the threshold of all arts and entered the hall of the Art of Life itself; and Art & Life became one. They achieved that crown of culture, the art of living, which is the end of all human wisdom.

 Calm & harmony distinguish Chinese Art. The Chinese Artist is a man who is at peace with Nature, who is free from shackles of society & from temptations of gold. Above all, his breast must brood no ill passion for a good artist must be a good man. He ‘chastens his heart’ and ‘broadens his spirit’ chiefly by travel & contemplation. The Chinese artist does not learn painting by going into a room and stripping a woman naked. It is strange that spiritual evolution goes with physical elevation upon this planet & life always looks different from an altitude of five thousand feet. Thus, from the god-like heights the artist surveys the world with a calm expansion of spirit and this Spirit goes into his painting. Like ‘the fool on the hill’ who sees ‘the world going by’.

It is this spirit of calm & harmony, this flavor of mountain air, always tinged with recluse’s passion for leisure & solitude which is seen in all forms of Chinese Art. It is not supremacy over nature but harmony with her that Calligraphy, Painting, Poetry & architecture all have in common with a way of life. And through it all pervades The Spirit of Man, happy with himself and his Universe; poor in possessions but rich in sentiments, discriminating in taste, experienced and full of worldly wisdom; and yet simple hearted, contented & wisely idle. In China, man knows a great deal about the Art of all arts, The Art of Living. A younger civilization may be keen on making progress, but an old civilization must have a different standard of values for it alone knows ‘the durable pleasures of life’ which are merely matters of senses; food, drink, house, garden, women & friendship. That is what life comes to in the end, in essence. Any Nation, therefore, that does not know how to eat and enjoy living is uncouth and un-civilized.