‘Kashmir Before Our Eyes’, a festival of films that seeks to depict all aspects of Kashmir, starts today in the Capital.
Perhaps more than Zubin Mehta and the Bavarian State Orchestra, films communicate better the ehsaas and the haqeeqat of Kashmir. Over the years, there has been a sizable accumulation of films on Kashmir. Individually, they have been a part of different festivals, and it was only a matter of time before they commanded their own festival.
June onwards, the film festival titled ‘Kashmir Before Our Eyes’ has been travelling the country. From FD Zone in Mumbai, the film went to Asian College Of Journalism in Chennai, Pondicherry University, venues in Thrissur and Hyderabad. It has now come to Delhi.
Starting today, the three-day festival will take place at the School of Arts and Aesthetics in Jawaharlalal Nehru University. While earlier editions of the festival have been curated by filmmakers Ajay Raina and Pankaj Rishi Kumar, this time they have been joined by writer and filmmaker Siddhartha Gigoo.
“The original idea belongs to Ajay and Pankaj who put together this festival for the first time in Mumbai in June this year. That time the idea was just to have a collection of films - documentaries, a couple of feature films and shorts - and screen them…But the festival has evolved over the course of time,” says Gigoo.
Apart from the nearly 20 films that are being screened, the festival includes “readings, discussions, photography and some music as well.” These are all arranged thematically. Opening with Mani Kaul’s “Before My Eyes”, from which the festival draws its name, the programme on the first day follows the themes of ‘Nationalist Discourse’ and ‘Exile and Displacement’. These include, among others, Gigoo’s short film “The Last Day”, set in a refugee camp for Kashmiri Pandits and “Diary of an Aggression”, about the 1965 India-Pakistan war.
On the second day, under the rubrics of ‘Longing For Freedom’ and ‘Women in Conflict’, Sanjay Kak’s “Jashn-e-Azadi”, about the meanings of Azadi, and Iffat Fatima’s “Where Have You Hidden My Crescent Moon”, on the ‘disappearance’ of Kashmiris, will be screened. The last day’s programme, which follows the themes of ‘Kashmiriyat’ and ‘Marginalisation’, includes “Man Faqri” by M.K. Raina and “Apour Ya Tapour. Na Jang Na Aman. Yeti Chu Talukpeth” by Ajay Raina. The festival closes with “Valley of Saints” by Musa Sayeed on Sunday.
“This collection is one of a kind, bringing together all aspects of Kashmir. There is hardly any strand that is not covered. The purpose is to showcase the best of films on Kashmir,” Gigoo adds. “Valley of Saints” and “Harud” are exceptions among a programme dominated by documentaries. Bollywood films are conspicuous by absence.
At its last outing in Hyderabad, the festival ran into trouble when a group of right-wing activists attacked some of the filmmakers, and vandalised screening equipment. The venues too budged under pressure. “What happened was absolutely deplorable. Trouble was expected, but we never thought we would be manhandled. The films have got certain strong responses earlier too but this mob wasn’t interested in having them screened, debating or criticising them.”
The experience hasn’t deterred the organisers. They are confident that the festival will find a safe sanctuary in JNU.
(‘Kashmir Before My Eyes’ takes place at School of Arts and Aesthetics Auditorium, Friday 9.30 a.m. onwards)