An exiled Pakistani poet finds fresh inspiration in his new home, while reflecting on the tragedy of partition that has left a legacy of war and strife in his beloved land. Fragments of a globalised world seem to coalesce here on Fifth Avenue, strung together in the poet’s mind.
Directed by Sofian Khan
Cinenmatography – Bob Blankemeier / Original Score – Joshua Green / Sound + Mix – Evan Manners / Animation – Will Clark / Makeup – Jackie Push / Starring – Arik Hartman/ capitalkpictures.com
About the poet
Hasan Mujtaba is a poet of Urdu, Punjabi and his native language Sindhi, who wrote extensively as a journalist for the English language publication Newsline in Pakistan during the 1990’s. His hard-hitting investigative reporting took an unflinching look at the urban sprawl of Karachi and the politics of the Sindh province. His political writing got him in trouble with the regime, and in the late 1990’s — feeling that he and his family were in danger — they left for the United States.
The following years were spent in obscurity, seeking asylum in New York City. While journalism remained part of his soul, poetry became his salvation. His recently published collection of poetry is a product of these difficult years in New York, including ‘Fifth Avenue’, originally titled “For Allen Ginsberg”, which recounts a key moment of inspiration that spurred him to write about his new home in New York.
About the poem
The poem “Fifth Avenue” is part of Hasan’s recently published collection of Urdu and Punjabi poetry. Koel Shehr Ki Katha, released this year by Saanjh Publications Lahore, Pakistan.
The poem recounts one summer day when, sitting on 5th avenue in Manhattan, Hasan witnessed a parade of Hare Krishna devotees making their way down the avenue. Amongst them, he saw a man who looked like Allen Ginsberg — one of Hasan’s favorite American poets. Though it was not him, the sight of this lookalike gave Hasan an important thought. If this American poet once journeyed to India in search of inspiration, why could Hasan, a Pakistani, not come to America and likewise find some spark of beauty to write from. Hence began his journey to create this singular collection of poetry that fuses his new home with images of that which he left behind.
About the filmmaker
Sofian Khan is the founder of Capital K Pictures. His documentaries have played at festivals around the world and been aired on PBS and The Documentary Channel. His work has also been featured online at The Atlantic and Huffington Post. You can learn more about his work at www.capitalkpictures.com
On Fifth Avenue
By Hasan Mujtaba
English translation by Manan Ahmed
Amid the crowd of Hare Krishnas,
an old man who looked like Allen Ginsberg
Amid the riot of saffron color
the cymbals, the drums
whites, blacks, and rainbow colors
in June’s silvery light
as if he was the exclamation point of this whole philosophy
In the walking crowds of Fifth Avenue
I, a lost child
He, an old man who looked like Allen Ginsberg
Holding his thought’s fingers,
I walked far away
far to the lanes of Sehwan
“in public, I dance”
It seems a vision from a dream.
I take Fifth Avenue
I take the lane of Sehwan
Written on the shores of Indus, I take all of Rig Veda
I take Qur’an
I reject Chagai
I refute Pokhran
I deny the whole of Aurangzeb’s creations.
when I sing
songs of my exile
I return to my self
But they speak back to me
in the language of bullets
they do not read
what is written on the walls
“A donkey pisses on the General’s Uniform”
Those blood soaked lanes of Delhi
that naked Sarmad
Now your Gaze
Soils the purity of the Holiest, the Righteous
That woman inside me
These vines of grapes
That moon over Hudson
This silvery dusk over Indus
descends like revelation on a Prophet.
‘سر بازار می رقصم‘
اترے اسطرح جیسے وحی اترے محمد پر