New Delhi, May 20: Stories from Kashmir don't always have to be about terror attacks, conflict and killing. And that's where "The Good News" comes in, say two best friends who joined hands to make a short film about hope and healing in their homeland.
Written and directed by Danish Renzu and co-produced by Sunayna Kachroo, one a Kashmiri Muslim and the other a Kashmiri Pandit, the 10-minute short stemmed from their desire to bring about change in the way people from the Valley are perceived.
"The motive is to look beyond the politics or hate in the Valley," Renzu told PTI from Srinagar about his film that premiered last week at the Tongues on Fire UK Asian Film Festival in London.
Conceptualised and written last year, following the series of attacks on Kashmiri Pandits and other non-Muslim minorities, "The Good News", a true story, centres around two women and their friendship in the backdrop of conflict.
"The attacks last year in September, October were really disturbing. Also for Sunayana, because she's gone through the whole journey of living in Srinagar back in the '90s.
“I grew up in Kashmir where we never saw Pandits, they were forced to leave... When this happened again, being a filmmaker, it's something I really wanted to do and I felt like it was very important to bring this out there," Renzu, said.
The director said he wanted to show the Valley through the lives of ordinary people who have been suffering for long but are still rooting for "change".
"We wanted to focus on the human angle of it, where all Kashmiris have suffered and are still suffering. But it was very important for us to showcase a story of friendship in the community. It is definitely a possibility because my best friend Sunayana is also a Kashmiri Pandit," he said.
"We have different views because our experiences are different and we understand that. There are a lot of common things -- how we see tragedy, loss of language in Kashmir, loss of culture in Kashmir, and, of course, the bloodbath Being uprooted for me is one of the biggest things," Kachroo, who is based in Boston and also wrote the dialogue for The Good News , added in a phone interview. As Renzu sees it, there are many different points of views in Kashmir. All kinds of stories must be told but telling them through a human perspective is also important, he said.
“Whatever has happened in the past, and also the recent film that has been released We haven't seen the film. The whole debate and the politics of it, we are definitely not interested in it. We just want to bring people together," he said in an apparent reference to "The Kashmir Files".
The Vivek Agnihotri film, based on the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley in the 90s, has found box office success but also faced criticism in some quarters for its problematic and divisive portrayal.
According to Renzu, the need of the hour is stories that highlight atrocities and at the same time bring people together.
"A film should definitely showcase what's happening, the sufferings from all sides, but also somehow tie them together."
Renzu and Kachroo, who have been friends and collaborators for over a decade and previously worked on films "Half Widow" and "Illegal", say their equation is proof that people from the region are willing to work together and understand each other's differences.
"In this effort to make everyone the same, we have become resistant and we can't be with people who have different political views, religious views or different views on life... But that's something Danish and I understand,” said Kachroo.
The writer said her experience of being uprooted and seeing her family go through the loss and its aftermath has instilled a "cultural identity crisis" in her. Renzu's understanding of that emotion, she said, makes the process of working with him fruitful.
Which is why she immediately came on board as co-producer and dialogue writer when Renzu proposed the idea of the film.
"As an artist and human being, when we are now going through this pandemic and this is 30 years of conversation, at least in reference to minorities and Pandits, you as a human being feel when will this end, when will there be some resolution? It's very intertwined and complicated,” Kachroo said, asserting that art has a lot of power.
"The Good News" was shot in two days during December last year. Renzu, who shuffles between Los Angeles and Srinagar, shot the film with the local crew in Kashmir.
The experience, he said, made him hopeful that one day the world will have "good news" from Kashmir as people want change.
"I've worked with so many local Kashmiris and they all hope for a better future. No one wants to get stuck in curfew. They all just want to work and bring about a change. So generalising is a problem. Of course, Pandits were targeted, which is totally atrocious, and not justifiable. But the other side is also affected by it."
As someone who considers herself to be an "eternal optimist", Kachroo is aware that people might consider "The Good News" an unrealistic film. But she still clings to hopes for justice and change. "I have decided to be a part of the discourse that seeks justice. Justice, to me, is the first step towards healing." "The Good News", the first part of Renzu's proposed Kashmir trilogy, features actors Salonie Patel and Gauri Batra in lead roles. The short film is produced by Naveen Kumar Arora and co-produced by Renzu, Kachroo and Batra.