Friendly Fridays Chapter 66: Shivam Sharma, The Mastermind Of The Mansarovar Project

By Ishani Chakrabarti

“Wish we could turn back time to the good old days!”

Hey hey, we’re almost there and here’s who you should thank: The Mansarovar Project. A mere effort to revive what was lost in the abyss of time.

The project is a synergic effort undertaken by two Pune boys, Shivam Sharma and Anant Nath Sharma. This duo not only reminisces forgotten Hindi and Urdu poems but also resuscitate the same through short videos.

Sit back, put your earphones on and relax as we take you through this soothing and FILTER-FREE tete-a-tete with Shivam Sharma, the mastermind of the project.

ED: We’re absolutely mind blown by your work but before we get to that, would you like to tell us something about yourself?

Shivam: I was born and brought up in various places up North (mainly UP) because of my father’s transferable job. We always had a culture of literature and poetry in the family, thanks to my dad being a connoisseur of Hindi poets. Our little library had enough literary food for us to nibble on.

Having lived in Moradabad, Delhi, Mumbai and Nagpur for the major growing up phase I completed my degree in Engineering from Nagpur and discovered theater there.

After working for a few years, I joined FTII for a course in TV Direction and completed the same in 2014. I rejoined the corporate field as a Business Analyst and I currently work in a firm in Pune.

ED: When and how did you decide to come up with this brilliant idea of collaborating not only two languages but also two cultures?

Shivam: A project related to Hindi storytelling and poetry had been brewing in the mind for a while last year. I happened to write a poem ‘Tu Kavita Ho Jaana’ and recited it to a friend who loved it and suggested that I should record this and put it out.

I immediately set up my phone camera, recorded a rough take and uploaded it on Instagram. The response was phenomenal and this motivated me to put it up on YouTube as the first video for the channel.

ED: We’d love to know how the two of you coordinate, divide and analyze your work.

Shivam: I and Anant both work in corporate jobs and whatever time we get off it, we put it into TMP. We try and meet almost daily and work on something or the other. Thankfully most of our passions and tastes coincide so the process is quite enjoyable.

We try and do every video passionately and put it out without really worrying about the feedback. The response has been overwhelming and the kind of feedback that we get only helps to work on the next video. What has really helped us is that the work that we are doing is new.

Some poems hit right through and the words lead us to striking visuals as we discuss and then we move to planning the shooting locations and work on the music. There are not many reference points for this and that uniqueness breaks through both, the traditional lovers of poetry vis-à-vis complete novices who have not heard or seen poetry this way before.

“Somedays we just read, some days we listen and some days we jam.”

ED: The Mansarovar Project, how did you come up with such an innovative name for your project?

Shivam: Premchand, my favorite Hindi prose writer, wrote hundreds of short stories in his illustrious lifetime. These were later collected and released in 8 volumes by the name of ‘Mansarovar (मानसरोवर), loosely translates to a lake of thoughts.

My father had a few collections of his short stories which were a part of Mansarovar which I read and loved. Thus, the name ‘The Mansarovar Project’ is inspired by Premchand and dedicated to him.

 “Main akela hi chala tha janib-e-manzil magar Log saath aate gaye aur karwaan banta gaya.” – Majrooh Sultanpuri

ED: It’s a pleasure to watch your videos! You’re an inspiration to the youth, but we’d like to know who your inspiration is.

Shivam: Some poets and their works have had a lasting impact on me. Namely, Ramdhari Singh’s ‘Dinkar’, Rashmirathi & Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s ‘Ham dekhenge’ etc. Honestly, the list is a long-long one!

Gulzar’s “Dil dhoondhta hai phir wahi fursat ke raat din” interpreted from a Ghalib nazm happens to be one of my most favorite poems made into a song. Other than that Urvashi Mirza Ghalib, Pablo Neruda Ahmed Faraz, Ashok Chakradhar Rumi, Bulle Shah also happen to inspire me.

ED: All your videos are a must watch but which is your personal favourite?

Shivam: Sabse Khatarnaak is close to my heart personally as it has impacted me a lot but Aakhiri Mulaqaat happens to be my favourite!

ED: TMP triggers waves of nostalgia for all. As an artist how important do you think is it for the youth to find out about our roots?

Shivam: English poetry has had a great revival in India, thanks to the emergence of performance poetry. Our regional poetry, however, has had a history of performances and kavi-sammelans, mushairas, etc.

I want more people to discover the same and read our regional authors as well. I wish that more people discover our videos and I hope that our work leads them to discover Hindi/Urdu poets on their own. Art leads you to new things and if someone rediscovers poets through TMP, nothing like it because that is all we are aiming for.

“We are discovering so much ourselves and making these has been a personally enriching experience.”

ED: Art is a medium of communication across the globe; however, there exists a certain cultural divide and barrier pertaining to art and artists. What’s your take on that?

Shivam: I find it hard to believe when the artists are targeted unfairly. Artists work on bringing people and cultures together and it’s a shame that we find them as soft targets for any unnecessary outrage.

We might be divided by a border but we can’t be blind to the fact that our culture is one, we share our folk stories and history and so much of our art derives from our collective oneness rather than our unfortunate separation. I am always hopeful that things will get better; we have nothing if we don’t have hope.

ED: TMP is doing a great work by reviving the roots. What do you have in store for your audience?

Shivam:  We have made 10 videos and are working on more currently. Also, we hope to keep putting out new stuff with the same passion. We also have gone live on Instagram. We plan to do more of our live jamming sessions on FB and YouTube.

It’s great to interact with a live audience and we surely want to work on those lines.

ED: We wish you all the luck in your future endeavors! We’ll be awaiting more videos from the TMP. With the kind of love you’ve been receiving from your viewers, is there something you’d like to tell them?

Shivam: If you watch us, keep sending feedback and suggestions, most of our videos have come about that way. Watch more, read more, learn more!

This was Shivam Sharma from the Mansarovar Project, the freshness of the project does break through the shackles of conventional norms.

So it’s a wrap for this week’s Friendly Fridays, tune in next week to find out who’s next on the list!


You’d also like to read: Friendly Fridays Chapter 65: Purani Jeans Host RJ Sayema Rehman Of Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM

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