Kashmir: Fade in, Fade out

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Shams Irfan

Till late nineteen-eighties almost every Bollywood filmmaker would come to Kashmir to treat his audience with the scenic backgrounds from the land of dreams and thousand streams.

But, ironically the association of Indian filmmakers with Kashmir always remained limited to mountains, gardens and lakes. They failed to see Kashmir as a land of rich and unique cultural heritage and its people stooped by the burdens of slavery and oppression. And behind these beautiful mountains Kashmiris inside the valley suffered silently, continuously and often unheard.

Off late the pain and sufferings of the Kashmiri people was exploited by both native filmmakers as well as outsiders. They would come from different parts of the world to record painfully ‘attractive’ visuals for the delight of their audience back home and then forget the emotionally exploited Kashmiris forever.

Some filmmakers even promised the unsuspecting Kashmiris that they would present the world with their true stories, but they too portrayed Kashmiris as violent terrorists.

Kashmiris were never considered as audience by the filmmakers as their suffering provided them with stories that could be easily twisted and presented according to their own liking or ideology.

However, after the screening of Sanjay Kak’s bold visual narrative of Kashmir’s struggle for freedom titled Jashn-e-Azadi [How we celebrate freedom], at Tygore Hall, Srinagar in March 2007, young Kashmiris from within the valley and all across the world started to document their sufferings themselves. And a number of young and enthusiastic, amateur filmmakers were seen roaming around the deserted streets of Srinagar with a hand held camcorder.

They were the children of the conflict who had seen and experienced it all and were now ready to tell their stories to the outside world. But after the film is made they often forget their own people and busy themselves with all the laurels, awards and rewards which their products generate internationally.

Rarely, a Kashmiri filmmaker has bothered to return to Kashmir and showcase his final product to the people here. Even if screenings are held, as in the case of Harud [The Autumn] by a first time director Aamir Bashir, who worked in Bollywood for sometime as second kick, they are meant for a selected few.

Harud, was first shown at Toronto International Film Festival in August 2010 and since then it has traveled all across the world, but ironically Aamir is yet to showcase his work in Kashmir where the story belongs.

Aamir might be having his own reasons for skipping Kashmir for so long: security issues, lack of space in Kashmir for screening films or time, but until and unless ordinary Kashmiris are shown how their fellow Kashmiris are portraying them to the outside world, they will treat every filmmaker with suspicion. For them new Kashmiri filmmakers are no better than those Bollywood big-guns who deliberately marginalized Kashmiri Muslims and distorted their version of the story.

Similarly, Jewish-Kashmiri-American filmmaker Tariq Tapa who shot his directorial venture Zero Bridge in Kashmir never returned to the valley after he started getting good reviews for his work.

No other artistic manifestation has such a huge penetration among masses as cinema. So far, Kashmiri filmmakers failed to use the opportunity that circumstances have provided them.

But due to lack of Kashmiri filmmakers who would keep their feet grounded even if they have touched the limitless sky, Kashmiris have been exploited both in real life and reel life.

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