Stunning trivialisation of struggle
Thus Dholakia spoils his image as an independent film maker
LAMHAA BY INAM UL REHMAN
When Rahul Dholakia made Parzania he took conscious step of not seeing it from Hindu or Muslim viewpoint but like Deepa Mehta’s Earth, based on partition, viewed it through Parsee family prism. It offered him a sort of cinematic neutrality. The film got rave reviews and an Indian national award. The award winning film was based on communal carnage in Gujarat. In his latest movie, Lamhaa, he carries the hangover of a pogrom and feels no difference between a State sponsored riots and a resistance against it. Riots and resistance cannot be same, unless you are an Indian.
There is no gainsaying that conflict has many costs. The loss of human life is the most obvious and colossal one. The population of that area bears the physical and emotional scars of terror, torture, rape, disappearance, low self esteem and vulnerability. Conflict also has dire consequences for economic and human development, as well as the environment. Then there are always elements who make a Multinational company out of it.
Dholakia tries to stuff his films with a bit of everything but shies away to show it as a political problem. And strangely while making a film on Kashmir he relied entirely Hindu migrants who call themselves Pandiths minority in Kashmir but identify with Hindu majority in India. They take privileges both in India and Kashmir for their supposed victimisation. Yet Dholakia felt to their charm and came out with a film that stunningly trivialises Kashmir struggle and the sacrifices of people. While there is no denying that some of the Pandiths live in pitiable Jammu migrant camps what is missed that most of them sold their property to Kashmiris on reasonable rates. And in case their building was burnt they got insurance money plus government allowance. Maximum profit at low cost. When you present one face of the reality, you can't neglect the other.
So it is not surprising that Lamhaa is made on the same premise that Kashmir is ‘company’ where separatists benefit. Because when you have no history of sacrifice, no history of siding with the Kashmiris you tend to put everything in terms of profit and capital benefit. And the bitter truth is a section of minority has always been seen as collaborators to the state and the film Lamhaa showcases how even a reasonable director like Dholakia gets sucked up to their reasoning. In credit rolls you won’t find who has written the story because Dholakia may have realised himself that it will discredit his movie which he, during press conferences in the Valley, repeatedly used to say is not anti Kashmir. The innovations of Hindu writers in Dholakia’s film are many that show their puerile imagination. There are suicide bombers as young as nine year old which subtly give a `plausible' excuse why troopers in Kashmir kill teenagers. That is disgusting. Now which 10 year-old kid has blown himself up in the Valley? Rather they are being maimed by troopers and as a journalist you are well aware how they are killed discriminately during mass protests. But you close your eyes on that as is your wont.
The filmmaker has also tried to show that Kashmir is no different than any other place of India. That is why he ignores the cultural and physical contradictions between a Kashmiri Muslim and his Indian counterpart. If a woman dares to go against the separatists she is stripped and her face blackened with tar in the public square. Mr Dholakia Kashmir is not like other states of India where women would be dragged and humiliated in full public glare. In Kashmir the story is entirely different. Unlike Indians Kashmiris are not lynching mobs. Women in Kashmir have led many procession and demonstration but to show them as killer machines is stretching your imagination too much. Again that is in defence of troopers who kill women or jail them without any evidence. Anyways Indians are not known for writing skills on history. For them history, rumours and mythology is one and the same. That is why it is shown in the movie that Pandiths were shooed and stoned by Muslims to get out of Kashmir! And if that is not enough Dholakia along with his Pandith writers portray the struggle what a statistical journalist from India always refer as ‘urban pockets of resistance’. The director is caught in the same illusion despite himself witnessing the humongous protests throughout the Valley during the filming of his movie. But it seems that the film is based on the personal imagination of his Pandith writers; what they do not like that must be blotted out of history.
The only messiah in the film who can save Kashmir is needless to say an Indian. Children can smile and play only under the protective umbrella of Indian troops. Otherwise there is danger that they will used as suicide bombers. Dholakia tries to show that with the control of money, men, and territory at stake, there is a fierce struggle among various contenders to succeed. Although in the movie he shows that in Kashmir the troops are perpetually in charge, the intelligence agencies are ubiquitous force but all this is justified otherwise the Islamists threaten to take over and turn Kashmir into medieval society. With all this the film wants to show people that there are no leaders in Kashmir and if there are they are incapable and fringe elements. The film shows Kashmir as corruption plagued area where you can trust no one. Throughout the film these lines are repeated because Pandits believe so. Honesty lies with Pandits. That is why only a Kashmiri Pandit journalist has the guts to ask questions and stand upright. Rest all the journalists of Valley are collaborators with one or the other agency. The portrayal of Kashmiris in the film smacks racism. Dholakia has tried hard to corrupt the Kashmiri ideology.
The scenes of crowd shouting for Azaadi, or troopers’ brutalities or New Delhi intrigues are sugar coated with subtlety of Indian goodness. Like a good film director Dholakia presents extraordinarily pictures of political mayhem and violence interspersed with punchy one liners, solid character actors, and tightly focused close-ups of long bearded guys with no moustache. Through this film the Pandits try to show that political, social, economic, and religious dynamics embedded in Kashmir are becoming more and more complicated and volatile with time. And importantly they play the card that Kashmir is less and less soluble.
For Dholakia and his ilk they cannot fathom why Kashmiris are obstreperous against India. India has always presented Kashmir as problem of unemployment and lack of effective governance. The director also plays the same thing. That is why those who take part in elections are, according to the director, good guys who do not want anything but peace. But peace in Kashmir is synonymous with status quo. Democracy cannot be built on repeated fraudulent elections that are held under curfew. After two decades of militancy, violence dropped to stunning levels. But not the deep and powerful public sentiment. De-escalation in violence makes Kashmir special among the insurgencies in present world. Earlier the clash was fought with assault rifles and grenades but now there are only stones in hand against the opponent’s bullets. Ancient mode of sloganeering and stone pelter masses are pitted against the modern equipped troopers. The director, however, closes his eye towards it. He selectively chooses his events. There is no mention of custodial killings, summary executions, molestation of women at the hands of troopers and the dreaded Ikhwanis who shamefully remained on the forefront of counterinsurgency strategy.
Dholakia, like politicians, tries to impose on Kashmiris a ‘philosophy of futility’ and ‘lack of purpose in life’. This thing is repeated throughout. That is why media tries to seduce audience by showing images which are simplified to their liking. Consistent exposure to these images makes the population to accept their ‘meaningless’ and subordinate lives. These images which are based on reality but distorted to their liking shows India values human life, its troops never attack—they ‘retaliate in self defence’. And it is this image for the past 21 years that Bollywood along with Indian media has played with which it tries to solidify its nation’s position as a peace loving country. These images are played consistently because media today has become the extension of the power. Today TV journalism has become so powerful and referential that top (means those who get more space on their own channels) journalists interview each other and in the process news becomes what these characters say it is.
Dholakia promised moon to Kashmiris during his press conference and begged people to let him shoot the film which according to him would present the real problem. But he struck to his roots and presented Kashmir as a ‘company’ forgetting it is people like him, his own country, his own army, his own intelligence, his own politicians who have made Kashmir a Multinational company at the expense of Kashmir. It is film which must be watched by Kashmiris to understand the mindset of Indian elites. From international shady deals to local collaborators to vulgarities to violence to holding rallies, everything is being played in Lamhaa.
Lastupdate on : Sat, 24 Jul 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 24 Jul 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 25 Jul 2010 00:00:00 IST
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