For the first time in the history of conflict, a central government institution has financed a documentary ‘Ocean of Tears’ on human rights violations allegedly committed by security forces in Kashmir valley. SHAMS IRFAN talks to its director, Bilal A Jan, on the movie which has already become a hit on social networking sites.
KL: With more than one lakh views, the film is already a hit on Youtube. Were you expecting such a huge response to Ocean of Tears (OTT)?
BJ: It was a surprise for me as well since no Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) film has managed to get more than 3000 views so far.
KL: What was the reason?
BJ: Because of the conflict, the authentic voices from Kashmir often get lost in the chaos. OOT tries to give voice to the people who have been neglected and forgotten by the mainstream media. The film talks about Kunan Poshpora and Shopian cases which have become part of our collective mysteries which I think need to be cleared. Personally, I think people want to know what really happened in Kunan Poshpora and Shopian.
KL: Why did you choose Kunan Poshpora as part of subject for OOT?
BJ: Not only justice was denied to the victims of Kunan Poshpora but the very occurrence of such a crime was questioned by the mainstream media in India. It was the denial of the unfortunate event that prompted me to investigate the subject. I wanted to know what really happened in Kunan Poshpora in 1991. Entire village cannot cook such a story that would become a taboo for them.
KL: Was it difficult to get OOT passed by the censor board as it talks about human rights violation in Kashmir?
BJ: Knowing the content of my film, I was a bit hesitant to send the film for a censor certificate. But Shyam Benegal and Anand Pathwardan both suggested me not to fear censor board as long as I had done my film objectively. On the other hand, PSBT also gave me full creative freedom and authority to work on a subject of my choice.
KL: How much time it took to get a censor certificate for OOT?
BJ: Normally censor certificate is given to a filmmaker within 15 days but censor board took two months to clear Ocean of Tears. I called the censor board regarding the delay. They said the board has different views regarding your film. The film is now with the chairperson, Leela Samason. She asked the board to revisit the film.
After re-visit, the board asked me to use a disclaimer which would say that the views expressed by people in the film are their own views and they are not against any institution, government, cast, creed or religion.
KL: How difficult is it to make a film in Kashmir?
BJ: Filmmaking in Kashmir is still in its evolving stage. We have not even reached the stage from where Bollywood took off a century ago. Dadasaheb Phalke made Raja Harishchandra in 1913 and there was a cinema hall available for him to screen it. There was also a film board under the control of Britishers. Film financing body was there. Filmmaker had to worry about making the film only and not to waste time in finding a place to exhibit their films as is the case in Kashmir. No film board, no film financing corporation and not a single exhibition hall for screening is available in Kashmir.
KL: You had four girls working with you on OOT. Are girls finally getting involved in filmmaking in Kashmir?
BJ: There is still a social taboo attached to filmmaking in Kashmir. Social acceptance of girls as independent filmmakers in Kashmir is not a reality yet. Their role is so far limited to researching and assisting only. In my opinion, media institutions should groom girls to take filmmaking as a career option.
KL: You have not screened OOT in Kashmir yet. Any particular reason?
BJ: Unfortunately, we don’t have infrastructure for film screening in Kashmir. All the filmmakers in Kashmir are in a dilemma as to where to go to screen their films. All the halls are either occupied by the forces or have been turned into shopping malls or hospitals. Cinema culture has vanished in Kashmir.
If separatists have problem with Bollywood films being screened in Kashmir, they should at least allow the Kashmiri films to be screened. And it will give creative space to Kashmiri filmmakers. If separatist feel that Bollywood is promoting immorality in Kashmir, then let them stop these film and help establish a film industry on the lines of Islamic Sharia Law like Iranian Cinema. I welcome that.
People have easy access to internet, television and other new media technologies but why they blame cinema only. They want to get rid of immorality, fine, start from cable television then. For me, cinema is like a glass, it depends on you whether you are pouring milk or wine into it. Why blame the glass.