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Mr. Muzaffar Ali
Muzaffar Ali, essentially a painter and filmmaker deeply inspired by Sufism has developed a discerning eye and vision for aesthetics and humanity. He has established an in depth admiration for his creativity all over the world and follows his creative pursuits without compromise ~ music, fashion, craft, design.

Driven by a sense of beauty and oneness of the human race, he dreams of a world in which love becomes a reigning concern... he dreams of the human condition in relationship to nature and believes that humility in art can become a vehicle for holistic emancipation of mankind. He is constantly looking for friends in this journey to share his vision and help society and in the process bring peace and health to themselves, and thereby perpetuate a larger movement.

He has followed his heart in the journey of his life as an artist; he has been drawn towards human helplessness which became the inspiration and theme for his art. His ongoing quest for beauty has slowly drawn him towards the Sufi path of love. He has woven his way through cities and cultures and his life and art have become mirror to one another.

Known the world over by his film Umrao Jaan, the name of Muzaffar Ali to all those who know him, spells a quest for beauty and excellence, humanity and aesthetics.

Today he is instrumental in spearheading a movement in upgrading the arts, craft and culture of this fabled city with a keen sense of detailing and style, making it known to the entire world in the name of Kotwara. His house in Qaiser Bagh is a throbbing nucleus of design and a living museum of art and craft. The talent of the city gravitates here for inspiration.

Born on 21st October 1946, Muzaffar Ali is the present Raja of Kotwara, one of the oldest living civilizations in the largest district of Awadh. His father Raja Syed Sajid Husain, M.A. from Edinburgh University was a very progressive individual. He was the member of the Legislative Assembly MLA from Kotwara from 1936 to 1952, was also the Chairman of the Uttar Pradesh State Assembly for one term. He died in 1991 as Chairman of the Indian Humanist Union.

Muzaffar Ali grew up amidst an environment of turmoil and change. Partition and abolition of the Zamindari, both had a deep impact on the milieu in which he grew.

He studied in La Martinere College, Lucknow. While he underwent the upheavals of the changing social situation, he began getting involved in painting as a child. In 1966 he graduated from Aligarh Muslim University in Geology, Botany and Chemistry. The impact of the thought provoking poetry of its time in the early sixties made an indelible impact on his mind. Poets like Rahi Masoom Raza, Javed Kamal, Khalilurahman Azmi and Shahryar of Aligarh and national and sub-continental poets like Mahkdoom Mohiuddin and Faiz Ahmad Faiz formed his romantic, revolutionary and philosophical psyche.

He began his early working career in Calcutta in 1966 with Clarion Mc Cann Advertising Services, in which Satyajit Ray used to work as an Art Director. Muzaffar Ali was introduced to Calcutta by a close friend, the famous poet Subhas Mukhopadhyaya and it was here that his mind opened to the idea of using film as a medium of social comment and artistic expression. The same medium of films, which had conveyed an ethos of cultural degradation, began to be seen as a tool of cultural emancipation. In 1968 he had his one man show of paintings at the Academy of Fine Arts, Calcutta .

After a short spell in Delhi, at Advertising and Sales Promotion Co. where he handled tourism publicity, he moved to Mumbai, to work with Air India as no. 2 in the Publicity Department.

In Air - India, Muzaffar Ali had a very successful term of 10 years. It broadened his vision, promoted India abroad through its arts, crafts and culture, set up a department promoting international conferences in India. This included conceptualizing and setting up of an international conference centre and hotel in Srinagar in Kashmir. This is the present Centaur Lake View Hotel and the government owned Sher-e-Kashmir Conference Centre, of which he is on the Board of Governors.

In 1972, Muzaffar Ali exhibited his collages at Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai.

His first feature film Gaman was made in 1978 which received the special award of the jury, a Silver Peacock at the 7th International Film Festival, New Delhi.

In 1981 he resigned from Air India to complete his most acclaimed film Umrao Jaan and to fully devote his time to films and art. Umrao Jaan received several awards at the 29th National Film Festival including Best Music, Best Actress, and Best Female Playback Singer. Along with this it received the prestigious Filmfare Award for Best Director and Music. Umrao Jaan continues to evoke interest in international film circles as a land mark film and has been invited to open and be part of retrospectives at Locarno, Pompidou and Izola. From July to September 2005, it will be screened at the ‘Indian Visions’, Museum Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome.

In 1982 Muzaffar Ali entered the field of documentary and short films, mainly centered on Awadh, craft, culture, exploitation of women and Sufism.

Having left Air - India, Muzaffar Ali realized that painting expressed a more intimate form of aesthetics and in 1983 he exhibited a series of collages at the Taj Art Gallery, Mumbai.

In 1983, the then Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi appointed Muzaffar Ali on a National Committee for software development for the newly opened satellite TV in India.

In 1986 he made Anjuman, a feature film on the chikan craftswomen of Lucknow. The film was shown in the Indian panorama, at the National Film Festival, New Delhi. It was invited to International Film Festivals in Vancouver, Teheran, Cairo and Mauritius. Most recently it was screened at the Lincoln Centre Festival, New York in 2002.

In 1988, waiting to complete Zooni (one of his major films), shot both in English and Hindi, he set up a studio in Delhi and began painting a series of collages that were reminiscent of the valley. These were exhibited in 1990 in Gallery Carma, New Delhi along with craft he had designed in his studio in Kashmir. His works of art, collages, craft design and fashion were exhibited in May 1991 at the Gallery La Fayatte in Paris as part of the Festival of India.

After creating an international impact with his work, in 1991 Muzaffar Ali turned back to his roots in Kotwara and Lucknow, where most of his films were shot. He came back with a different motivation. This time it was not only film but to realize in life what most of his films were all about, to return the inspiration of the people in the form of development and livelihood .

Based on the inspiration and message of his first film Gaman migration from rural to urban centres, Muzaffar Ali began a movement Dwar Pe Rozi to provide employment at doorstep through craft with a special emphasis on silk plantation of mulberry, rearing of worms, reeling and weaving , embroidery and styling. DPR as a registered society also runs a charitable school in Kotwara for the children of that area with an emphasis on rural employment.

Furthermore, his interest in craft and clothes, through his mother and the way he used them in Umrao Jaan, Anjuman and Zooni, motivated him to design clothes with the help of his architect wife Meera. The collection is known all over the country and the world as Kotwara which evokes a bygone era known for its finesse in style and craftsmanship. Acceptance of his work in a contemporary setting gives him strength to perpetuate this movement.

Jashn e Awadh was Muzaffar Ali‘s tribute to Awadh’s unique traditional attire, cuisine, tehzeeb- the Ganga Jammuni culture of Awadh for Taj Mahal Group of Hotels. This slide and live show with the music and poetry of Awadh was held at Taj Mahal Hotels at Lucknow, Mumbai and Delhi between October to November 1996.

Muzaffar Ali is actively involved in the promotion and conservation of the culture and craft of Awadh, individually as an artist and as active member of INTACH , Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, of which he was also member of the Governing Council.

On 12th February 2000 he concluded his ninth one-man show of sketches and collages at Art Today, New Delhi. This was followed by Jaam e Ishq, a dance ballet as an inaugural event for the World Presidents Organization. He is presently working on an exhibition of Quranic calligraphy collages and sketches for the Middle East in 2001.

On 7th November 2000 he presented Tajjalli, an Indo Iranian Music Concert in collaboration with Indian Council for Cultural Relations and the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This concert was a blend of Indian dancers, singers and musicians with singers and musicians from Iran, one complimenting the other highlighting their similarities and differences. This concert was a creative effort to synthesize and present three diverse yet similar genres of musical expression namely the Kashmiri, the Awadhi, and the Iranian renditions of Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi and Hazrat Amir Khusrau. The concert was presented as a light spectacle, moving through various Maqaams (stations) of the soul and ending in a dance of surrender.

To commemorate 50 years of Independence and the partition he created music album entitled Paigham e Mohabbat, The Message of Love with Abida Parveen singing Indian poets and Indian singers singing the verses of poets from across the border. Spiritual poetry of submission and surrender began to attract him. He created an album of Sufi Ghazal with Abida Parveen, entitled Raqs e Bismil, the Dance of the Wounded.

From 2001 he initiated an annual international Music Festival, Jahan e Khusaru, in Delhi, dedicated to the 13th century mystic poet Hazrat Amir Khusrau. In this festival singers and musicians from different parts of the world and India participate creating a new genre of world Sufi music.

In 2004 he created a Rumi Foundation with a vision to promote Global Oneness, bridging the east west divide. The Foundation holds several Sufi music festival including Jahan e Khusrau and publishes a biannual journal – HU, the Sufi Way.

Feature Films

1978… Gaman
1981… Umrao Jaan
1983… Aagaman
1886… Anjuman
1989… Zooni (Held midway due to strife in the Kashmir Valley)
Short Films

1982…Vasiquedars, Pensioners of Awadh
1983…Venue India
1983…Woodcraft of Saharanpur
1984…Laila Majnu ki nai Nautanki
1984…Vadakath, a Thervad in Kerala
1984…Kue Yaar Main
1985…Vapas Chalo
1985…Sheeshon ka Masiha
1985…Aya Basant Sakhi
1985…Kali Mohini
1985…Semal ka Darakth
1998…Fragrance of Love
2003…Flying Paper Planes UNESCO
2006…Bharat ka lal, Lal Bahadur Shastri

1987… Jaan e Alam… 13 parts
1993… Husn e Jaana …27 parts
2006… Zabaan e Ishq … 14 parts
Spiritual films

1991… Seena Ba Seena
1995… Paigham e Mohabbat 1 & 2
1996… Paigham e Mohabbat 3 & 4
1998… Nisbat
1999… Raqs e Dil, the Dance within
2001… Rumi in the land of Khusrau
2002… India, the Garden of Saints
2005… Breathe into me
Art Shows


1998… Paigham e Mohabbat Volume 1 & 2
2001… Jaam e Ishq
2001… Raqs e Bismil
2001… Jahan e Khusrau 2001 Volume 1 & 2
2002….Jahan e Khusrau 2002 Volume 1,2 & 3
2003….Jahan e Khusrau 2003 1,2,3 &4
2004… Jahan e Khusrau 2004 1,2,3&4
2005… Secrets of the Divine
2005… Kaj Kulah, The tilted cap
2005… Ru e Ali
2007,,,Nazr e Salim Chishti
2007,,,Jahan e Ishq
2007… Mehfil e Rumi
2007… Karawaan e Rumi
2008…Subha Mudgal in Jahan e Khusrau

Hu, the Sufi way Volume I on Hazrat Amir Khusrau
Hu, the Sufi way Volume II on Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi
Hu, the Sufi way Volume III on the Rishis & Sufis of Kashmir
Theatre , Ballet, Operas and Festivals

2000…Jaam e Ishq, Delhi
2000…Tajjalli, Delhi
2001…Jahan e Khusrau I, Delhi
2002…Fakir of Benares, Delhi, An Indo-French Opera
2002…Jahan e Khusrau II, Delhi
2003…Fakir of Benares, Miumbai
2003…Jahan e Khusrau III, Delhi
2004…Shringaar, Adornment of Indian beauty… Delhi
2004…Jahan e Khusrau IV, Delhi
2005…Jahan e Khusrau V, Delhi
2005…Nazr e Salim Chishti… Fatehpur Sikri
2005…Jahan e Ishq… Agra
2006…Jahan e Khusrau VI, Delhi
2006…Karwaan e Rumi, Karachi
2007… Jahan e Khusrau VII, Delhi


1978 ...Gaman. Silver Peacock. 7th International Film Festival, New Delhi
1978…Gaman. Filmfare, Best Director Award
1978…Gaman. National Film Festival. Special Commendation of the Jury
1983…Umrao Jaan. Filmfare Best Director Award
1983…Umrao Jaan.West Bengal Film Journalists Association. Best Director Award
1996….Yash Bharati (Pride of India) awarded by Government of Uttar Pradesh
2001…Withrow Chair Award, Deepsprings College, California, USA
2005…Awarded Padma Shri by the President of India for cinema

KOTWARA is a designer label under which filmmaker and painter Muzaffar Ali and his architect and designer wife Meera create couture which is known the world over for the last 12 years. They have had several shows and expositions of their designs as follows.

Craft and Fashion

1991… Gallerie Lafayette, Paris France
1991… Carma, New Delhi
1992… Ensemble, Mumbai
1993… Ensemble, Mumbai
1994… Craft Museum, New Delhi
1995… Taj Coromandel , Chennai
1995… Manor Hotel, Bangalore
1996… Indian Cancer Society, Bangalore
1996… Neemrana, Rajasthan
1997… La Cachmerien , Paris, France
1997… Carma, New Delhi
1997… Fashion Extravaganza India Today, Singapore
1997… The Intrepid Sea Air Space, Museum , New York, USA
1997… Jashn e Awadh, Taj Mahal Hotel, Lucknow
1997… Womens International Club, New Delhi
1998… Sham e Awadh for Ambassadors, Hotel Maurya Sheraton, New Delhi
1998… Jashn e Awadh , Taj Palace ,New Delhi
1998… Jashn e Awadh,, Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai
1998… Kensington Hotel. London
1999… Indian Summer, Chor Bizzare, London
2000… Nehru Centre, London
2000… Bayth Lothan, Kuwait
2000… 1st India Fashion Week, New Delhi
2001… 2nd India Fashion Week, Mumbai
2002… 3rd India Fashion Week, New Delhi
2003… 4th India Fashion Week, New Delhi
2004….5th India Fashion Week, New Delhi
2005… 6th India Fashion Week, New Delhi
2006…7th India Fashion Week Autumn Winter’06, New Delhi
2006…8th India Fashion Week Spring Summer’07, New Delhi
2008…To promote ‘Cotton”, Delhi
2008…Delhi Fashion Week Spring Summer ’09, New Delhi

Current Projects:

Bio Epic Feature Film on RUMI
He has the larger vision to reinvent filmmaking out of India, to create a global cinema of peace. To bring finest of world talent together to realize his dream. For this reason he has chosen the subject after his heart, the life and message of Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th century mystic poet who the largest read poet in the west. An international feature film, Rumi, the Fire of Love is a collaborative effort with worlds most acknowledged technicians like Director of Cinematography - Vittorio Storaro , Production Designer - Eugenio Zanetti , Costume Designer - Mary McFadden, Music Director – Richard Horowitz and Script & Consultancy by Kabir Helminski, Shama Zaidi, Shahrukh Hussain, Dr Linda Seger and Dr. Deepak Chopra. Feature Film on NUR JAHAN & JAHANGIR
He is also working on a film on the legendary 16th century Mughal Empress Nur Jahan and one of the most sensitive Mughal Emperor, Jahangir. The script has been written by Meera Ali and Muzaffar Ali with lyrics by Shahryaar and dialogues by Noorul Huda Shah, Hriday Lani and Muzaffar Ali. The film is now in the process of casting.

Muzaffar Ali
Painter, Filmmaker