Legends of the Casbah (2016) - A feature length documentary film (73 min)

Durban novelist Aziz Hassim (The Lotus People, Revenge of Kali) and curator Riason Naidoo team up to track down some of the living legends of the 'DRUM decade' in some of Durban's iconic spaces, such as, the Victoria Street Market and Grey Street precinct, Victory Lounge eatery, Blue Lagoon beach, Sastri College, Curries Fountain stadium and the Durban Country Club, to name a few.


In contrast to the 'official' representation of the 'Indian' – as passive, insular and traditional – the 'legends' offer up a wealth of street-fighters, boxers, gangsters, football players (from Aces United and Avalon Athletic) and political activists such as Monty Naicker, Yusuf Dadoo and 'Dr Goonam' (author of The Coolie Doctor, 1991). The duo speak to women such Amaranee Naidoo, once a teenage motorcycle stunt rider on the 'Wall of Death'. Musicians of the ilk of Gambi George, Sam Abraham, Sonny Pillay and Dee Sharma all feature prominently. The jazz scene would not be complete without acknowledging the presence of the ‘socialite’ Pumpy Naidoo, owner of the Goodwill Lounge restaurant and jazz club.


As they take us on their journey back in time from central Grey Street through various locations in Durban, we begin to realise that the intriguing individuals on their list are characters that rose above the racial constraints imposed on them and that their stories are testament to the histories of a broader community. In this way the film’s purpose become clear – it presents an alternate history that explodes the state's stereotypes of the 'Indian’.


Photo Credits

Clockwise from top left: Pataan, 1958 - Ranjith Kally; Amaranee Naidoo with bike, 1957 - Ranjith Kally; Rita Lazarus, 1960 - Ranjith Kally; Boxing Mascot, 1957 - Barney Desai; Boxer Louis Joshua with his manager Govender, 1957 - G.R. Naidoo; Rank for 5 taxis, 1959 - Ranjith Kally.


From the photo archives...

The film makes extensive use of photographs and film footage from state archives, the Bailey's African History Archive (DRUM magazine) and Durban photographer Ranjith Kally's (b.1925-d.2017) vast oeuvre spanning 60 years. It further unearths some fascinating and private ‘unseen’ images from family photo albums.


Musically it features a soundtrack by a new generation of award winning South African jazz supremos featuring Kyle Shepherd, Bokani Dyer, Shane Cooper, Darren English, Kesivan Naidoo and Reza Khota, et al. See Production details for more information and the full soundtrack. 


With thanks to... 

Vic Pillay, Sagren Naidoo, Don Mudaly, Amaranee Naidoo, Phyllis Naidoo, Amina Khan, Aziz Hassim, Farouk Khan, Rowan Ramtahal, Dee Sharma Roopanand, Maniraj Singh , Vanitha Chetty, Judge Thumba Pillay, Judge Christopher Nicholson, Pallo Jordan, Vijayaluxmie Singh, Reggie Singh, Sam Abraham, Devi Rajab, Ronny Govender, Thashan Chetty, Marty Joshua, Thegarajan Veran, Kreesan Naicker, Ramsewak Ramdass, Super Naidoo, Nanda Sooben, Ranjith Kally.

Aziz and Riason leaving Grey Street in a vintage Chev © 2012 Big Daddy Films