An Urdu newspaper hand crafted by calligraphers
“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.” -- Verse 51 of Edward FitzGerald's translation of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
In a digital era where speed and immediacy of news reports has gained currency, The Musalman stands tall as perhaps the last hand written newspaper in the world today. From its small office in Triplicane in Chennai, all four pages of this Urdu daily are created by calligraphers or katibs and circulated to a small group within the Urdu reading population. In a film made by Ishani K Dutta last year, she speaks to the calligraphers who have dedicated their lives to the newspaper. At the office of The Musalman, no one has ever quit. It takes around three hours for the katibs to complete a page, before it is turned into a negative and printed to be made ready for the market. The film tracks the history of the newspaper that was established in 1927 by Chenab Syed Asmadullah Sahib and after his death, was being managed by his son Syed Faisullah and then his grand son Syed Arifullah. They believe that the handwritten pages are crucial to preserving the tradition of handwritten Urdu.
The film has been filmed and created by Carrot Films and produced by the Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs.