The valley and the celluloid

Of Bollywood bias and Kashmir story portrayed on the screen



One of the reasons Bollywood deals with Kashmir in an aggressive way can be the rise of Hindu fundamentalism in the late 1980s that resulted in the destruction of the 16th century Babri Masjid on December 06, 1992. Analysing the rise of fundamentalist themes in Hindi films, Vijay Mishra speaks of the long-time residual antagonisms that resulted the Partition of India and of the simmering, unresolved tensions, mostly because of Kashmir, have built up over the decades
With the rise of Hindu fundamentalist in India, the unresolved Kashmir issue tension seeped into the Bollywood thus making their way into mainstream Indian cinema. Apart from the ‘feudal family romance’ hits, the most successful films in the 90s and early 2000 have been conflict drama that has been categorised by scholars as “devious” and “insidious.” Bollywood filmmakers pandering to the trend of continually rendering a Hindutva outlook in the post-Babri Masjid demolition period has, according to Mishra, put India’s multicultural in peril: “The danger that this poses, especially when it is re-shaped by India’s dominant cultural form, is one of the greatest threats to precisely the nationalist secular ideal that Indian cinema has fostered.” Commiserating this view scholars say: “Fluctuating relationship between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue, the campaign to establish Khalistan and the rise of Hindu nationalism have dented the fabric of multi-religious India. What happens to India will largely depend on how powerful Hindu nationalism becomes.” (K.Moti Gokulsing, Dissanayake, ‘Indian Popular Cinema: a narrative of cultural change’)
Before the demolition of Babri Masjid there was near about silence on partition and the Kashmir conflict in the mainstream Hindi cinema. In fact the partition was represented through ‘melas’ in which family members are lost only to be reunited at the climax of the film. Post the demolition of Babri Masjid, Bollywood responded with a vengeance. Jugnath Guha observes, “War movies now found a niche in the Indian market, including films about ‘civil war,’ focusing on the tensions within.”
Roja—although made in Tamil language –the film was subsequently dubbed in Hindi and other Indian languages. The film presented Kashmir like any other north Indian state. Despite Roja being supposedly set in Kashmir the film has the characters using Punjabi language and reading and writing in Hindi. There is indigenous newspaper in the film that is also in Hindi. And it was presented not without a reason. Filmmakers may make a downright stupid film but they are intelligent people. By equating Kashmir with other Indian states the filmmakers send a message to the gullible people that Kashmir is like any other place of India. Though the militants in the film are given a cause but throughout the film it is made clear that they are fighting the proxy war on behalf of the Pakistan.
What Roja brought back, wrote Bhawna Somaya, in the film magazine ‘Screen’ was the theme of patriotism. While the earlier Bollywood films on patriotism were based on ambiguous characters, Roja gave the popular film industry of India a Muslim Kashmiri/ Pakistani militant villain. “Ratnam effectively provided the creative cues for this new wave patriotism,” wrote Amrita Shah on the tenth anniversary of that film. “The tricolour,” she continues in her write up that appeared in the daily English newspaper, The Indian Express, “rousing music, simplistic emotions and lyrical vistas have become staple treatment for commercials and television spots on patriotism and were much in evidence during the Kargil crisis. They have become an essential part of regular films as well. Even love stories and family dramas such as Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham use the redolent power of Indian national emblems." (ROJA— Dus Saal Baad, Sep 29, 2002).
But it was ‘Mission Kashmir’ that crystallised the new wave of patriotism. Vidhu Vinod Chopra partially shot the movie in the Valley. “While Pakistan was significantly absent from the Hindi film screen for decades,” wrote Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai, “the crop of new films has now taken it head on.” (Himal Magazine: ‘Pashtoons and the Terrorist Film’)
Writing in the Himal issue of August 2000, Rahimullah further agued: “These films, which target not only Pakistan but also the Pashtoons of Pakistan/Afghanistan, are now coming fast and furious. Exploiting the nationalist sentiment for the sake of box-office receipts, these films pay scant regard to the consequences of such depictions for geopolitical relations in a nuclearised Subcontinent.” 
Bollywood like the political corridors of power in Delhi, has viewed Kashmir as an object. “Bollywood’s cache of Kashmir/Muslim terrorist films,” wrote Arundhati Roy, “had brainwashed most Indian into believing that all of Kashmir’s sorrow could be laid at the door of evil, people-hating terrorists”. The image has persisted.

Lastupdate on : Wed, 26 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 26 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 27 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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