Cinema is not abuse

Let’s use it as ‘mirror to see ourselves’

Sajad Bazaz
Srinagar, Publish Date: Nov 17 2017 11:13PM | Updated Date: Nov 17 2017 11:13PM
Cinema is not abuseFile Photo

A few weeks back I revisited the flavour of cinema at my home place. Being an ardent fan of watching movies since my childhood, I couldn’t resist myself to be part of the audience to watch some movies. Actually, I am talking about ‘World Kashmir Film Festival’ which was organized a few weeks back here to screen a variety of domestic as well as international films. The event was noteworthy because cinema is considered as an abuse in this part of the world and cinema halls stand shut with the onset of militancy in the Kashmir valley since 1989. 

Without going into the politics of locking cinema halls, let me remind you of an old saying: ‘Well begun is half done’. This means a good beginning almost assures success. This is exactly I found when festival was opened by screening 1964 first Kashmiri film ‘Maenz Raat’.  The film has a beautiful plot like any other Bollywood film. The events driving the story loaded with social background, the Kashmiri culture, decorated with beautiful Kashmiri music, folk songs and the idioms of the language. 

Precisely, it was a delight to watch Kashmiri cinema in ‘Maenz Raat’ at its best that too in its maiden attempt. But at the same time it was saddening to note that we have failed to capitalize on the power of cinema which we could have effectively used to debate at least our core issues- be it political or social confronting this place and at the same time generate decent economic gains. In fact, we have lost a powerful economic sector in cinema, which could have been, as i fervently believe, better than Bollywood. I blame this huge loss to the local people associated with cinema - the filmmakers.

While the festival was underway, I expressed myself on the social network site, Facebook, that cinema as a powerful medium of communication. This was mostly argued as blasphemous in the backdrop of the conflict situation we are enveloped with. Most of the netizens’ construed it as a call to open cinemas in the valley, though I was talking in the context of the power of cinema as a medium of communication to bring social change or any other transformation. Some even called it ‘promoting indecency.’

Frankly speaking, re-opening of cinema halls in Kashmir is an irrelevant issue. It has no scope today. Not because we have lost taste or have no taste of watching movies. But we do watch all kinds of movies at home, in closed office rooms and even on our smart phones. Besides, internet access has powered us to carry cinemas in our pockets. 

As a student of communication, I have always experienced something extraordinary and inspiring in the art of cinema. The moving images in a film not only thrill but they also illuminate something within the audience. The power of cinema is so strong that it acts as a means of understanding and eventually helps in expressing what is precious and fragile around us. 

Meanwhile, when I talk of cinema, it doesn’t mean opening of cinema halls. Here I am talking about film making in line with bollywood standard. Notably, Bollywood is a full-fledged sector giving bread and butter to thousands of people - be it actors, producers, directors, scriptwriters, musicians, singers etc. However, using it properly is our responsibility. If we want to bring positive changes in any society, capitalizing on the power of cinema is not a bad idea.

Unfortunately, it rarely happens. A glance at the performance of Bollywood vis-a-vis destination Kashmir testifies their repeated acts of flirting with the sentiments of Kashmiris. Most of their films glorified the turmoil in Kashmir in bad taste; presented faked patriotic acts of men in khaki and many a times justified sufferings of the Kashmiris. This on-screen faked patriotism which earned fortunes for the filmmakers (including actors) run for over two decades. Not only it dented the reputation of Kashmir as 'Paradise on the earth", but it also breed hatred against Kashmir's majority community across the country. It would not be out of place to mention that the growing religious intolerance in the country has its base in the films which contained anti-Pakistan plot having script revolving around terrorism and only terrorism, bringing disrepute to the brand Kashmir.

Kashmir is full of human interest stories. It’s here local cinema would have been used to promote Kashmir in positive perspective and also counter Bollywood propaganda.  Why not to revive ‘Maenz Raat’ like initiatives?

(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for)