Listen to Farooq Sheikh

There is a case for investing in films on Kashmir



AT a seminar in Kashmir University, veteran Bollywood actor Farooq Sheikh had an advice for Valley’s businessmen: finance films that will portray sufferings of Kashmiris.
 “People from other states won’t come to your help. Tell me how  can Punjabi businessmen or people from other states finance films which portray the trauma of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Let established businessmen from Kashmir come forward and fund films that highlight your sufferings,” Sheikh told reporters on the sidelines of the seminar organized by Centre for Policy Analysis. The actor who is known in Kashmir for his 70s romantic movie Noorie couldn’t have been more serendipitous in his suggestion. “The pain that a region like Kashmir has gone through should be felt all around”.
 While Kashmiri businessmen would do well to heed the advice of the well-known Bollywood personality, Sheikh also makes a larger point about Kashmir: the utter paucity of literature and other artistic expressions that articulate the pain of Kashmir for its own people and for outsiders. Kashmir conflict mainly brings to mind the competing claims of New Delhi and Islamabad over the state. There is no conspicuous local discourse, no stories of people and no clear collective sense of what this state has gone through and what people want.
 There is thus a narrative vacuum. When we look back at the two decades, there is a big blankness that stares at you. What we have is a standard frame of reference that grows shallow and simplistic by the day. Yes, there is a memory and it remains raw and fresh but it lacks form, frame and context which makes it easy for others to distort it or appropriate it as part of their narratives.
 Why is it so? The fact is there is little thinking or imagining that has taken place in the state over the past two decades in response to what this place has gone through. The current Kashmir reality operates under the framework of mainstream-separatist political divide. But even taken together they hardly encompass the full gamut of this reality. Despite being now all over the place, mainstream politics remains hobbled by a crisis of legitimacy and credibility. A large part of their politics is nothing but window-dressing and pretence. It is something that is there to pander to a constituency rather than as a desirable end that they should strive for. And separatists, on the other hand, remain woefully stuck in the hangover of 1989. Their politics hardly makes allowance for the lapse of time and the altered local and geo-political circumstances.
 Separatist ideology however continues to have a perennial sway and resonance but for once Hurriyat factions don’t seem to inspire this. In recent years, Kashmir has witnessed the rise of an educated and articulate generation which is verbalizing and vocalizing the political conflict for themselves and outsiders. This generation has been inspired and encouraged by the examples of eminent Kashmiri authors Basharat Peer and Mirza Waheed who have taken Kashmir story to the world. Through their respective books they have tried to humanize a conflict that has become a part of world’s war-on-terror narrative. This is a remarkable change in a place where for the better part of the past two decades,  Agha Shahid Ali stood as the lone literary introduction of Kashmir to the world.
 Situation is different now. Kashmiris are beginning to speak for themselves. We only need to diversify this telling.  Literature, films help people to come to grips with their past and move forward. They offer a more enduring channel of dialogue with our collective selves and thus help in defining, shaping and evolving our conception of ourselves.
 Kashmir’s massive tragedy cries for an informed and in depth voice and it has taken Farooq Sheikh to remind us of this necessity. Any businessman out there to heed him?

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Lastupdate on : Tue, 6 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 6 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 7 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST

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