US-bred Bollywood stylist Sapna Bhavnani’s ‘Sindhustan’ to premiere at New York India Film Festival

The documentary explores the Sindhi migration to India during the Partition.

The 19th edition of the New York India Film Festival will be held in Big Apple from May 7 to 12. The festival will be screening a host of India diaspora- and India-inspired films.

Sindhustan, a film by US-bred Indian stylist Sapna Moti Bhavnani, will be premiere at the festival.

Sindhustan is a fascinating exploration of the Sindhi community’s migration to India, narrated through a series of extensively designed body tattoos, all of which are illustrated on Bhavnani’s body.

Through the documentary, Bhavnani attempts to also dwell into her roots and the history of the Sindhi community, which migrated in large numbers to India from Sindh during the India-Pakistan Partition. The title Sindhustan also refers to the River Sindh, which is one of Asia’s largest river flowing through India and forms an important part of India’s history.

Sindhustan was inspired by an interesting conversation that occurred between Bhavnani and her maternal grandmother many years ago. Bhavnani was visiting India after living in the United States for 14 years. At time, Bhavnani, who was considerably inked, was desperately trying to hide the tattoos. Her grandmother, who sported tattoos, remarked “Sapna, you are so old fashioned.”

Bhavnani was taken further aback when her grandmother said, “You know, when we first came as a human race, we didn’t have countries or governments, we lived in extended families and we all had our markings. We all looked like you. I’m happy to see to you are going back to our roots, your roots.”

Bhavnani was surprised by this statement made by her grandmother, as till then she believed the tattoos were her way of rebelling against the Indian culture.

She then set out to chronicle the Sindh community’s history; and thus Sindhustan was born.

The documentary includes several stories from India and Sindh. It also includes Bhavnani illustrating the Sindhi community’s journey through the tattoos inked on her legs, which traces the history of the community. The tattoos on her legs are designed using the art forms Ajrak and Madhubani which originate from Sindh and India respectively.

Sindhustan derives its title from the Sindhu river. Also, when the Persians came to India, they had difficulty pronouncing “se” and used the alphabet “h” instead. So Sindhu became Hindu, and the Hindustan was used instead of what could have been Sindhustan according to Bhavnani.

The celebrity stylist has worked on the documentary for a period of 7 years. During the process, she spoke to people from India, as well as Pakistanis hailing from the Sindh region, as she wanted to cover all the perspectives of its fascinating history. She also took the help of her friends from Pakistan for shooting footage of the Sindh.

Talking about Sindhustan and its selection at the New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) 2019, Bhavnani said, “Sindhustan comes from a very personal space. I wanted to chronicle the history and heritage of the Sindhi community so that their legacy can be passed on to newer generations.  I am really glad that the film has been chosen for NYIFF 2019. It is a great platform to tell our story to the world and introduce them to history of the Sindhi community who were part of the largest migration to be ever witnessed. I am eagerly looking forward to the audience’s reaction to the film and hope they embrace it wholeheartedly.”

As part of NYIFF, the film’s premiere screening will be held on Thursday May 9, 2019, at 6:00 pm, Auditorium 2 at Village East Cinemas, 2nd Ave at 12th Street, NYC. The screening at AIFF will be held on May 11, 2019, at 5:15 pm at Aurora Cineplex. Both the screenings will be followed by a Q and A.

Check out the teaser

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