‘Subh-e-Azadi’, Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s poem-turned-theme song for Indian VR docu-drama Child of Empire, is out now

Updated 28 Aug, 2022 07:47pm

Images Staff

Amira Gill and Vasundhara Gupta's song is part of a Sundance-nominated film by Project Dastaan, an initiative that reconnects displaced Partition refugees through VR.

Revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz penned only one poem on Partition and it has now been turned into the theme song for an animated VR docu-drama called Child of Empire. Composed by Amira Gill and Vasundhara Gupta, the track is now available to listen to online!

The Sundance-nominated film is a work of Project Dastaan, a peace-building initiative that reconnects displaced refugees of the Partition of India with their childhood communities and villages through bespoke 360-degree digital experiences. The animated Partition project was released this year.

Released on all streaming platforms, the people behind ‘Subh-e-Azadi’ believe that its launch will be a landmark moment in South Asia’s art and music landscape. It’s extra special as its release coincides with the 75th anniversary of Independence.

In a conversation with *Images,*Gill and Gupta revealed why they chose Faiz’s poem. “Sparsh Ahuja, founder of Project Dastaan and director of Child of Empire, had envisioned that at the end of said film, the only poem Faiz ever wrote about the Partition would be put to song. He wanted a song made to the poem which would be the theme track for the film.”

Ahuja approached the composers and exactly a year after they began their journey, the song was launched separately. Featuring musicians from across Asia, ‘Subh-e-Azadi’ brings together the worlds of traditional Indian music and modern electronic music production. The theme track was produced with full support of the Faiz Foundation and Faiz’s daughter, Salima Hashmi.

“It was important to use the words of Faiz, a man who directly experienced and lived through the tragedy that was the Indo-Pak Partition when we are trying to tell the story of Partition inspired by real life experiences of two characters,” explained the duo

They find it fascinating that Faiz’s poems are still chanted and sung by the youth of South Asia today, despite having been written decades ago. Commenting on the timelessness of his words, they said, “This goes to show that his words are relevant to us even now and they move and invigorate an audience that wasn’t even alive during his time. We wanted the message to reach the audience of today and I think Faiz’s words do just that.”

The release of the song was intentionally set after August 14 and 15. The artists were aware that the significance of the 75th year of Independence will have the dams of content bursting and consequently drowning their track out. “This song is extremely special to us and we wanted to do our best to allow the song to reach as many people as possible and have maximum visibility,” the pair added.

This project is very important to the composers who felt both personally empowered and professionally challenged by it. Being connected to it historically through their family trees, Partition felt like a very personal topic.

“When this opportunity came to us, we felt so delighted and grateful. It felt like, and it truly ended up becoming, something that was larger than us. We were getting a chance to explore how to write music to someone else’s words, emotions and experience.” Differentiating between writing one’s own story and another’s, they continued, “It’s a very different creative muscle one has to use — you almost have to be more mindful and sensitive in that situation than when you’re writing music to your own story or experience.”

Bringing a very “real and honest story” to an audience that goes beyond South Asia, Child of Empire has been touring Europe. It is taking the stories of Partition and Faiz’s poem-turned-song with it to be heard by an international audience that may not even understand the language.

“We really believe that music and stories have the power to penetrate man-made borders and we really hope that this song achieves that, even if it’s just with a handful of people,” said Gill. The team hopes that ‘Subh-e-Azadi’ will find a listenership in South Asians at home and abroad, who are very much entrenched in the same history.