Archives at the National Centre for Biological Sciences
Public Lecture Series
47th edition
In collaboration with St Joseph’s College
Monthly talks framed around explorations in and around archives. Discussions by artists, archivists, academics, lawyers, teachers, journalists and others.
Like A Furious Storm
Friday, Jun 17 2022
Lecture Hall – 1 (‘Haapus’), NCBS
Archiving an Oral Tradition, building an Ajab Shahar
Prashant Parvataneni | 4:00 PM
Like A Furious Storm: Approaching Faith and the Sacred with Kabir
A performance lecture by Shabnam Virmani | 5:00 PM
Saturday, Jun 18 2022. 
St Joseph’s College Auditorium
Ajab Mulakaatein in Ajab Times: A Festival of Lockdown Films
Shabnam Virmani & Prashant Parvataneni | 1:30pm-4:30pm.
Free and open to the public
4PM. Fri, Jun 17 2022
Lecture Hall - 1, NCBS
Archiving an Oral Tradition, building an Ajab Shahar is an audio-visual web archive, an online city, that offers a collection of songs, poems, conversations, and stories collected from Kabir Project’s journeys into the oral traditions of Bhakti, Sufi, and Baul songs from regions such as Malwa, Gujarat, Kutch, Bengal and Pakistan. In this presentation, Prashant Parvataneni and Shabnam Virmani will reveal the city plan and wander down its alleys, while reflecting on the politics of documenting, curating, and distributing an oral knowledge tradition for the digital age as well as the aesthetics that shape the experience of Ajab Shahar.
Like A Furious Storm: Approaching Faith and the Sacred with Kabir
A performance lecture by Shabnam Virmani
The ideas of the radical mystic poet Kabir continue to be expressed and practiced through folk songs in a vast, vibrant and thriving oral tradition in different rural reaches of our land. Perhaps our times mimic Kabir’s own times back in 15th century Benares? Perhaps then too, as today, the polemics around religious identity may have assumed a raucous fever pitch, else why would his poems speak so directly to us today? Clouds begin to gather, bearing down upon us with tumultuous and penetrating questions.
Why do we need faith? Where do we turn to find the sacred? What is belief and what, the truth? How can we relate to our tradition? Aayi gyaan ki aandhi . . . Like a furious storm, Kabir’s wisdom sweeps in, blowing away the roof of our many precious, collectively-held delusions.
1.30PM. Sat, Jun 18 2022
St Joseph's College Auditorium
Ajab Mulakaatein in Ajab Times
A Festival of Lockdown Films by Shabnam Virmani & Prashant Parvataneni
The Ajab Mulakaatien film series by Kabir Project was an attempt to travel and meet in wondrous ways despite the odds of the pandemic and its many lockdowns. Stumbling through virtual roadblocks, breaching borders and creating new digital intimacies on Zoom, we connected with diverse folk musicians of Kutch, Malwa, Rajasthan and Sindh to listen and share the gift of conversations and songs from the oral traditions. These songs and conversations were woven together into a set of films which establish a dialogue between poetry of mystics like Shah Latif and Meerabai and some of the crucial personal and political questions of our contemporary times. This day-long festival brings together the films made by Kabir Project during the lockdown along with one of our older films.
About the films:
Meera, Thaare Kain Laage Gopal?:
Meera, Who Is Krishna To You After All?
40:45 mins, 2022. A film by Shabnam Virmani and Prashant Parvataneni
Saint. Lover. Devotee. Rebel. Who was Meera after all? We sense her through her songs. We taste her rage, her love. We feel the power of her radical surrender. And yet Meera, one of the most well-loved saint-poets of India, remains an enigma.
How Can I Forget?: The Legend of Marui
45:00 mins, 2022. A film by Shabnam Virmani 
Shah Latif’s Sur Marui is a layered tale of home, memory, loss and resilience. There is something contemporary about Marui’s story, in the way that it echoes the longing for a lost homeland among Sindhis displaced during the partition. There is also something ancient, a fundamental quest for that divine home - a place of origin without any divisions and binaries.
Don’t Fall In Love With Those Who Wander In Boats: 
Meditations on Separations
21:46 mins, 2021. A film by Shabnam Virmani 
Taking inspiration from the poetry of the great Sindhi Sufi poet of the 18th century Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, this film brings to life the poems of separation and loss from ‘Sur Samundi’, gently juxtaposing a spiritual and existential sense of separation, with the pain of socio-political partitions that mark our present day.
Shabnam Virmani is a filmmaker, singer and artist in residence at the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore, India. In 2003 she started the Kabir Project – a journey of travelling with folk singers in Malwa, Rajasthan and also in Pakistan in a quest for the spiritual and socio-political resonances of the 15th century mystic poet Kabir in our contemporary world. Among many things, these journeys also gave rise to four award-winning musical documentaries on Kabir, and books of poetry in translation. 
Prashant Parvataneni is a writer and researcher based in Bangalore. He works with The Kabir Project and teaches courses on cinema and literature. His work has appeared in The Bombay Literary Magazine, Nether Quarterly, and Seminar.