Coming as it does from the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, this video could be called a design solution to a problem: How can the perception of Mughals be brought closer to history and away from rhetoric?
Made by a group of students and members of the faculty at NID for an open elective course, Mughlai Wrap (above) is an attempt “at amity and peaceful co-existence” in this context. Neither a history lesson nor a hip-hop or rap music video, it is a mash-up, combining reminders of the cultural legacy of the Mughals with the vigour of street music.
Arun Gupta, head of the film and video department at NID, spearheaded this project along with Prahlad Gopakumar. He told Scroll.in, “Given the climate that exists in India today of trying to erase a part of our history, specifically the Mughals, as being negative or as not being there, I thought about how one can intervene in this and look at the Mughals positively, instead of just seeing them as Muslim invaders, or outsiders. We wanted to debunk the whole idea of them being outsiders.”
“There are no outsiders or insiders in India, India is a melting pot,” said Gupta. “We have all been coming in and mixing with whoever had come here earlier and creating new cultures and interesting new assimilations. So did the Mughals. If they hadn’t come, we wouldn’t have so many of the things we take for granted, like even gulab jamun or biryani, for example.”
Thus, the students and faculty taught themselves Mughal history, as well as rap and hip-hop. They chose music as the medium for its appeal to younger audiences and for its traditional use as a form of protest. The video was also inspired in part by a satirical Malayalam rap video titled Native Baba (bottom).
It was shot entirely in Ahmedabad, at several heritage sites. “A large part of old Ahmedabad is very ‘Mughal looking’. In fact, it is very much like Chandni Chowk, it has a flavour of its own,” said Gupta. It’s interesting to note that Ahmedabad is strongly influenced by Sultanate ethos, exemplified by the architecture and the locations seen in the music video.
“Our aim was not to provoke anyone,” clarified Gupta. “Our aim was to underline the assimilative powers of history. And to understand history, once again, in such a manner that we can understand nobody is an outsider in India. Or everybody is an outsider.”
To quote the song, “So here we go, listen to the Mughal flow.”