From Harud to The Winter Within, Kashmiri filmmaker Aamir Bashir sets the stage alight

Actor-director’s second feature film Maagh makes it to prestigious global premiere
She is fired when her employer learns that her husband was an insurgent.
She is fired when her employer learns that her husband was an insurgent.Special arrangement

Srinagar: As Kashmir witnessed the reopening of cinemas after over three decades, Kashmiri actor-turned-director Aamir Bashir has set the stage alight after returning with his first feature in 12 years - Maagh (The Winter Within) – a taut art house drama - making its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival.

Speaking to Greater Kashmir from South Korea, filmmaker Aamir Bashir said that the film was highly appreciated by the audiences at the world premiere in Bhutan.

“Globally, audiences are highly receptive to subjects from Kashmir. The world premiere of ‘The Winter Within’ happened in Bhutan. The Korean audience is cine-savvy. They catch onto every nuance of the film, every metaphor,” said Bashir. “The questions they asked after screening were highly insightful. I also learned a lot from their in-depth analysis.”

Aamir said that the entry of ‘The Winter Within’ at the world premiere was a great experience for him.

“After the world premiere, the film is going to be screened in many other reputed festivals. We have sales agents in Bangkok, Thailand, and other countries as well and the screening is going to be done systematically,” he said. “We have to see which other festivals we get invited to.”

Narrating the premise, the filmmaker said actress Zoya Hussain, playing domestic helper Nargis, is revealed in a state of inward grief amidst Kashmir’s harsh but majestic winter landscapes.

The Winter Within follows protagonist Nargis’ journey as she searches for her husband, Manzoor, who was detained after joining the insurgency. Unsure whether her partner was dead or alive, Nargis faces many hardships characteristic of the realities of Kashmir — a place where skirmishes big and small erupt regularly due to the long-drawn conflict between India and Pakistan, and the ever-present border dispute with China.

She is fired when her employer learns that her husband was an insurgent. She returns to her hometown, where Yaseen (Shabir Ahmad Lone), who has feelings for her, offers a helping hand. When Manzoor abruptly returns home, the three characters must negotiate subtle emotional shifts amid a perilous political situation.

“Nargis’ face — full of many different emotions — and the landscape of Kashmir in everlasting winter are the story and the theme of this film,” the Busan International Film Festival said in its selection notes.

Aamir Bashir has co-written ‘The Winter Within’ with Shanker Raman, who is also the film’s director of photography. Shanker is an Indian filmmaker and cinematographer widely recognised for directing and co-writing the Neo-noir Thriller, Gurgaon. He co-produced and co-wrote the screenplay for Harud, a film directed by Aamir Bashir that won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Urdu.

An India-France-Qatar co-production, the film is produced by Claire Lajoumard of France’s Acrobates Films. Bangkok-based sales agency Diversion is handling the film’s worldwide sales.

FROM HARUD TO THE WINTER WITHIN

Critics believe Aamir’s directorial style is closer to the Iranian cinema, where we see people struggling with their daily lives and still looking for good virtues embedded in the otherwise cruel world, rather than being similar to Bollywood where Aamir established himself as an actor.

His debut film 'Harud' - Autumn in Kashmiri – however, was starkly different from most Iranian films. 'Harud' acquires a melancholic texture and is heart-wrenching from the beginning.

Born in Kashmir, Aamir Bashir began his film career as an actor. He had a recurring role in Netflix’s first India original series, Sacred Games — before making his directorial debut in 2010 with Autumn, which became a festival favourite, playing at Toronto, Rotterdam, and Fribourg. It later won the best Urdu feature film prize at India’s 60th National Film Awards. The Winter Within’s star Zoya Hussain hails from Delhi, where she is best known for her breakthrough performance in Anurag Kashyap’s acclaimed boxing drama ‘Mukkabaaz.’

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