We support local roots: Project Dastaan seeks to empower dedicated student filmmakers across the subcontinent, teaching them how to use cutting-edge VR tech. Our strong academic brand name, as well as our diverse institutional partnerships, will allow us to source passionate individuals from the best universities in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
We work with passion: Each of the team members has a personal connection to Partition and the subcontinent, and is accomplished professionally and academically. Many of our own grandparents survived the experience and have their own stories to tell.
Founder & CEO
Sparsh Ahuja is a documentary filmmaker and the founder of Project Dastaan. He is a 2020 National Geographic Explorer, the youngest-ever recipient of the CatchLight Fellowship, a 2020 Webby Nominee, and has been shortlisted for the Alexia Foundation Student Grant and Lucie Emerging Artist Scholarship. Sparsh graduated as a FitzRandolph Scholar in PPE at the University of Oxford and currently works as the Partnerships Director of the National South Asian Heritage Month Campaign.
Co-Founder & Operations Lead
Sam Dalrymple is the Co-Founder and Operations Lead of Project Dastaan. He graduated as a Sanskrit and Persian Scholar from the University of Oxford, where he served as president and co-founder of the Oxford University Silk Road Society. Sam has been published in The New York Times and Conde Nast Traveller and worked with BBC Radio 4, The Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Turquoise Mountain and Vagaband. Sam is currently writing a book on the Five Partitions of India, to be published by Harper Collins in 2023.
Co Founder & Pakistan Lead
Saadia Gardezi is the Co-Founder and Pakistan Lead of Project Dastaan. She is a journalist and cartoonist, and has worked as the Op-Ed editor for The Nation, one of Pakistan’s leading daily newspapers. She graduated as an M.Phil scholar in South Asian Studies, of the Weidenfeld Hoffman Leadership Program at Oxford University. Saadia is currently a Ph.D candidate at the University of Warwick.
Director, Child of Empire
Erfan Saadati is the Director of Project Dastaan’s interactive VR experience, Child of Empire. An award winning storyteller, Erfan Saadati has been a leader in immersive media for five years. He has received global recognition and his work has been featured at Sheffield Doc Fest, IDFA and Future of StoryTelling. In 2016 he directed a documentary following a Sudanese refugee, Home: Aamir, which won the “Grand Jury Prize” at Encounters Festival, as well as the “Best Director and Journalistic Achievement Jury Prize” at the Social Impact Media Awards (SIMA).
Ollie Cameron is an artist and designer, helping to coordinate visuals and distribution for Child of Empire and the Lost Migrations series. He is currently completing an MA at the Royal College of art in Visual Communication and was recently awarded BBC Visual Journalist of the Year at the SJA awards.
Volunteer Coordinator & Bengal (India) Lead
Jayosmita Ganguly is the Bengal (India) Lead and Volunteer Coordinator for Project Dastaan. She is an aspiring co-creation practitioner, currently pursuing her MA in English Literature from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. She has previously freelanced with Times Internet, interned with Orient Blackswan and been the screenplay and content writer for Ghaav Films. Alongside, she also has directed two college plays and headed eight college magazines.
Lead Artist, Child of Empire
Being a graduate of Animation and Motion Graphics, Stephen has a strong technical background in a wide variety of practices throughout the development process, backed up with years of industry experience in VR and new technologies.
Based in London, he has created pieces with leading brands such as Google, Sky and National Geographic.
Director, Where the Birds Live
Shahbano Farid is the Director of Project Dastaan’s featured doc, Where the Birds Live. As a Creative at VICE Media, she’s worked with brands such as Timberland, Cadillac, Adidas and Nike to create culturally relevant and inspiring branded content. With a passion for storytelling and a background in various mediums in visual art, her work sets out to share personal narratives – specifically those of South Asia – in an artistic and engaging way.
Umair Hashmi is a British-Pakistani filmmaker based in the UK and Pakistan. He is a graduate of the Cambridge School of Arts (Anglia Ruskin University) Cambridge and has worked as a photo-journalist, photo-documentarian, director/producer, post-producer, creative head and also as an independent filmmaker throughout the years.
He has directed and produced shorts, commercials, music videos, documentaries, ad-films and art films for local and international clients. His recent art film has been finalised for Pakistani Film Festival Australia.
Ludo is a PhD student in the Department of Physics at Oxford University. He was Editor in Chief for the Oxford Scientist, and recently managed the multi-million budget for the largest student trip in the world as Finance Director for the Varsity Trip.
Farzana Qureshi is an Outreach Coordinator for Project Dastaan. She was previously Librarian for South Asia and is now an Arts and Humanities Librarian at SOAS; working closely with Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies, Music, English Studies, Creative Industries, Media & Screen Studies and Development Studies.
In 2015, she was a Principal Investigator for the Two Centuries of Indian Print, a digital collaboration with the British Library. In 2016, she was an International Courier for the Everlasting Flame exhibition held at the National Museum, New Delhi. Farzana is passionate about storytelling, diasporas and South Asian narratives.
Ayesha Mumtaz Mir
Pakistan Local Coordiator
We thank the following translators for their contributions to our website and interactive VR Experience, Child of Empire
Hindi: Juhi Mendiratta
Bangla: Ishani Ghorai
Urdu: Abdul Rehman
Punjabi: Abdul Rehman
OUR FOUNDING STORY
One year ago, two of our founders: Sparsh Ahuja and Ameena Malak sat down over a coffee and exchanged their grandparents’ stories of Partition. They realised that their grandparents had travelled almost identical journeys in opposite directions. Both their grandparents yearned to go back home. But due to wars, old age and trauma there were still too many barriers for either to return. What if there was a way back?
They brought their friends Sam Dalrymple and Saadia Gardezi on board and came up with the crazy plan of a making sure every Partition survivor who they could find, would go home again… whether through virtual reality, video calls to locals who still remember them, or even an actual physical return, however difficult.