Beyond Borders: This Duo Performs Urdu Poetry and It’s Super Cool!

These two young boys from Pune have been taking social media by storm with their unique Urdu poetry YouTube channel.

5 min read
Beyond Borders: This Duo Performs Urdu Poetry and It’s Super Cool!
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When art transcends age and people, you discover that most boundaries are psychological.

At a time when Pakistani artistes are banned from working in Indian movies, there are youngsters who have not only let Urdu set up home in their hearts but even managed to inspire others. The popularity of The Mansarovar Project (TMP) – a young effort by two Pune boys – is taking poetry places through the use of social media at its best.

Shivam Sharma, a business analyst who has a room full of posters of poets like Amrita Pritam and Manto, had been restless about starting a project related to Hindi storytelling and poetry – much like a podcast – but he found out that ‘Hindi Kavita’ and Neelesh Misra’s Yaad Sheher were already filling that need.

(Photo Courtesy: Video screengrab)

Later, a poem written by him titled Tu Kavita Ho Jaana was lauded by friends who suggested that he record it in some way. Says the 27-year-old who hails from Bulandshahr, UP –

I immediately set up my phone camera and recorded a rough take and uploaded it on Instagram. The response was phenomenal and this motivated me to put it out on YouTube as the first video for the channel that is now called The Mansarovar Project.

For the Love of Urdu Poetry

The name of the channel is inspired by the legendary Hindi prose writer Premchand, who had written hundreds of short stories – which were later collected and released in eight volumes by the name of 'Mansarovar’, loosely meaning a lake of thoughts in the mind.

We had a few collections of Premchand’s short stories that were a part of Mansarovar. The name is thus inspired and dedicated to the legend.
(Photo Courtesy: Video screengrab)

Shivam owes a large amount of his gratitude to his father – for this passion has been cultivated. His dad, being a connoisseur of Hindi poets, had created a little home library with enough literary food to nibble on.

We regularly watched and attended kavi sammelans in Moradabad, and the love for Hindi poetry came from the many humorous poetry books we had – Kaka Hathrasi, Ashok Chakradhar and Hullad Moradabadi to name a few.

Loaded with an engineering degree and a TV direction degree from FTII, Shivam found poetry to be a powerfully expressive art in the 6th standard when he found a tattered book called Rashmirathi at home.

(Photo Courtesy: Video screengrab)
Written by ‘Rashtrakavi’ Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’, my father said this book was one of the best he’d ever read. I had never read a 200-page-long poem before. A semi-epic, Rashmirathi changed my whole perception towards poetry. I realised how transformative a piece of verse can be. I keep going back to the book and know most of my favourite verses by heart.

While Shivam had already started writing poetry, it was in college that he fell in love with ghazals and Urdu.

(Photo Courtesy: Video screengrab)
The quest to know who Mirza Ghalib was started after I saw Hazaron Khwahishein Aisi. Thus, I dived into the vast and fascinating world of Urdu poetry which extended beyond the clichéd lyrics on the lines of heartbreak.

Our Very Own Sing Street

With nine videos ( that are out doing successfully, TMP has grown magnificently in less than a year.

The project, run by Shivam and his buddy Anant Nath Sharma, grows a little each day as the two meet to read, listen and jam.

Says Anant, whose family in Dehradun cultivated in him a love for music and Ghalib –

Some poems hit right through and the words lead us to striking visuals. We look up shoot locations and work on the music. Finally, we develop a rough storyboard. Every poem leads us to new things and we are learning and unlearning a lot of technical aspects. The process is quite enjoyable because our passions coincide.
(Photo Courtesy: Video screengrab)

Since their work is unique and there aren’t many reference points, the freshness breaks through both – the traditional lovers of poetry vis-à-vis complete novices who have not heard or seen poetry this way before. While English poetry has had a great revival in India thanks to the emergence of performance poetry as an art form, regional poetry – though way older – has suffered.

The duo hopes more people discover the beauty of kavi-sammelans, mushairas and regional authors through TMP.

The 27-year-old finds it hard to believe when artists are targeted unfairly in politics.

Artists work on bringing people and cultures together and it’s a shame that we find them soft targets for any unnecessary outrage. We might be divided by a border but we can’t be blind to the fact that our culture is one, we share our folk stories and history and so much of our art derives from our collective oneness rather than our unfortunate separation. I am always hopeful that things will be better – we have nothing if we don’t have hope.
(Photo Courtesy: Video screengrab)

Poetry connoisseurs can soon expect performance art, live musicals and even a film based on The Mansarovar Project. As Shivam concludes in the words of Majrooh Sultanpuri,

Main akela hi chala tha janib-e-manzil magar, Log saath aate gaye aur karwaan banta gaya...

(Runa Mukherjee Parikh has written on women, culture, social issues, education and animals, with The Times of India, India Today and IBN Live. When not hounding for stories, she can be found petting dogs, watching sitcoms or travelling. A big believer in ‘animals come before humans’, she is currently struggling to make sense of her Bengali-Gujarati lifestyle in Ahmedabad.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  YouTube   Urdu poetry   Storytelling 

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