Kashmiri Cinema, Is It?

M Maroof Shah

Is there Kashmiri Cinema? If not when will it be born? Kashmir but not Kashmiris count for film directors! Of course its beauty and landscape has been used for selling certain romantic stories. Kashmir has been used but not depicted. Kashmir’s pain, its agony, its unfulfilled dreams, its bruised soul in search of identity, its great traditions, its magnificent Sufi culture, its great aesthetic philosophy have not been of any interest. Kashmir suits as a background, as an aesthetic effect for filming. But Kashmir that has been a cradle of civilization and confluence of cultures and exporter of great philosophies is not mentioned. The other side of Kashmir – that which questions the narrative of beautiful Kashmir, which exposes the ugly face of so many things connected with Kashmir has not been presented to the world by Bollywood. Kashmir’s glorious past is erased from memories as if it is fit to be consigned to the dustbin of history.

There is no film which mentions Kashmir’s great historian, Kalhana or even great king Zain-ul-Aabideen. Our long history of foreign rule too has been ignored. The political question has largely been bypassed. Even Lalaeshwari finds no mention. Not to speak of Sheikhul Alam. History of betrayals too could not be mentioned. It appears the best of Kashmir’s culture and the worst of its tragedies both find no mention.

There is also a question regarding politics of representation. We don’t see any great moral heroes amongst Kashmiris in any of the film narratives? Why people can’t identify themselves with the characters played in Hindi Films? No memorable character has been drawn from Kashmiris which could inspire. Stereotypical images packaged for other ends are all what we see. Mostly we see in films before militancy natural beauty and people doing petty jobs. Kashmiris are depicted as emotionally weak people. Kashmir is written off and not written about in the film narratives.

Now post militancy films do engage with violence but the picture that emerges is quite different. It is India’s war in Kargil that received attention because Kashmiris were marginal to larger narrative. It is Indian story. Indigenous stories that can be seen as presenting the essence of our culture are not interesting.

So there are lots of questions for Film directors. But there are more important questions regarding local talented film makers. I suggest adopting some well received books about modern Kashmir into films. I also suggest working towards creating authentic Kashmiri cinema. We have magnificent things to speak about, to sell. We have to tell untold stories that no outside director can afford to tell. We have to counter a huge industry of misreading. Foregrounding side stories, trite events, stereotype narratives that have so far been generally the case in Bollywood narratives only distract attention of the audience from “the untold and perhaps untellable story.”

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