Poetry in Motion

Actor Mita Vashisht talks about her fascination with Lal Ded,the Kashmiri mystic and poet.

Written by Parul | Published: July 17, 2012 12:09 am

Actor Mita Vashisht talks about her fascination with Lal Ded,the Kashmiri mystic and poet.

Some journeys don’t need a destination,for they continue to unravel experiences that chart new routes. This is exactly what actor and director Mita Vashisht lived,as she headed from Mumbai to Kashmir in her car to continue her relationship with the poetry and life of medieval mystic and poet of Kashmir,Lal Ded.

Lalleshwari (1320-1392),also known as Lal Ded,is the creator of the mystic poetry called Vatsun or Vakhs,literally meaning ‘speech’. Known as Lal Vakhs,her verses are the earliest compositions in Kashmiri language and are an important part of the history of Kashmiri literature. The Vakhs have also been translated into English.

Since 2004,Vashisht has been doing a 75-minute solo theatre performance titled Lal Ded based on her life and poetry. She’s now looking forward to the release of her documentary-feature She of the Four Names,based on Lal Ded and commissioned by Public Services Broadcasting Trust (PSBT),India.

The play was a result of research of many years,admits the actor who was in Chandigarh as part of the play August: Osage County. “But there was so much more to be said,known and understood about Ded. There’s a big difference between doing a play and a film on the same subject,” says Vashisht,adding how the exploration in theatre is a sum of the intellectual and emotional self. The film,her directorial debut,gave her a chance to completely reinvent and see a new side to herself,shares the actor. The road trip,with her equipment and assistant,took Vashisht to Jammu,Srinagar and the interiors of Kashmir,and she discovered how Ded and her mystic musings continue to have a deep impact on the psyche of the common man in Kashmir. “I stepped back and did not judge any emotional outburst of the people,but created an emotional space to understand the 5,000-year-old culture,” says Vashisht,who started her theatre journey from Chandigarh’s MCM-DAV College.

Making the film,she says,also gave her a chance to learn from people who love Ded and in whose minds she still lives. “Her story is magical,and she is a woman who is larger than life,yet real. The film traces her life,poetry,impact on the common people of Kashmir and I have also incorporated some fictional parts in the film,” informs the director. The soundscape of the film,adds Vashisht,is unique with Vedic chanting and primal sounds of the breath. “She was a yogini too and the sounds in the film have been drawn from her poetry,” says Vashisht who plans to distribute the film in an “off-beat manner” and will also stage the play on Ded across India. “This is a new phase in my life,and next on the cards is a theatre production like Broadway. A musical is on my mind,” says Vashisht.

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