THE HIDDEN STORIES OF 1947
Lost Migrations is a three-part animated series which tells the untold stories of the Partition through the voices of the colonised.
Most of the literature and cultural exploration of Partition has focused on the division of the province of Punjab by British authorities in 1947. Whilst the Punjabi experience of migration was terribly violent and heart-breaking, it has become the defining migration experience of the Partition. We want to focus on the untold stories of 1947 from other regions and communities in South Asia.
Each 6-8 minute episode focuses on a community that has been excluded from South Asian literature and historiography: women, the Chettiar diaspora and the stateless. We aim to showcase the diverse voices of the subcontinent in an engaging way, combining local artistic styles and traditions to celebrate the individuality of each community. These stories have never before been showcased to popular audiences.
Project Dastaan is collaborating with brilliant creative teams across both India (Sandhya Viswanathan and Aniruddh Menon) and Pakistan (PuffBall Studios – Lahore) to produce the series – with the Project driving the narrative vision and educational content, and the animation studios serving as lead artists.
EPISODE 1: WOMEN
Traversing through a series of dreamscapes, and inspired by Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain’s 1905 feminist magic-realism, Scattered Pearls depicts the various experiences and traumas incurred by women during Partition. The episode begins with an elderly woman based in present-day Calcutta, and through flashbacks to her migration, explores themes of forced conversion, abuses, abduction, and others.
The art style blends dreamy blues and blatant hues, alongside vast landscapes of rural Punjab, modern Kolkata, and artistic depictions of women inspired by Abanindranath Tagore and Raja Ravi Verma.
EPISODE 2: THE DIASPORA
Over an intimate conversation whilst cooking with her mother, Meenakshi, a chef from South India’s Chettiar community, learns of her family’s escape from Burma during World War II, and how Partition cut her mother off from her childhood home in Rangoon. This episode shows the ripples of Partition far from the subcontinent’s borderlands, and its wider impact on the Chettiar diaspora, who were forced overnight to choose between their ancestral land of India, and countries in South-East Asia, where they had lived for generations.
The artistic style combines rich coastal imagery of South India with Burmese architectural designs. As we weave between close-cut visuals of cooking and flashbacks of the journey, Chettiar cuisine, the only constant in a story of intergenerational loss, becomes a metaphor for the diaspora’s unique sense of identity and belonging.
EPISODE 3: THE STATELESS
This episode recounts the dark comedy of Ghulam Ali, who is an Indian citizen, but finds himself in Pakistan when the border is drawn in 1947. Thus begins a chain of arrests and paperwork, that see him cross the border a dozen times, and eventually abandoned in the no-mans land between the two countries.
Ali’s means of crossing become progressively more absurd, as do his belongings. In one instance, he is sent back through the desert to India on a camel. In another, via boat to Karachi, and then train, car, etc. As his travels continue, he finds he is carrying more and more paper, until he disappears an aged man, under a pile of immigration paperwork.
Influenced by Manto’s Toba Tek Singh and Kafka’s The Trial, this episode’s satirical depiction of bureaucracy and statelessness is a story all South Asians can resonate with.