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The audience came out numb, battered
Srinagar-born actor-director Aamir Bashir's film 'Harud' (autumn) is a rare portrayal of the human cost of the Kashmir conflict. Aamir, who has acted in acclaimed films like 'A Wednesday', spoke to TOI-Crest about Bollywood and popular media's indifference towards Kashmir that pushed him to make the film.
'Harud' is an attempt to put a human face to the Kashmir problem. Why has Bollywood failed to do that till now?
The 'B' in Bollywood means business. Here the business proposal gets primacy over storytelling. Kashmiris themselves naively expected Bollywood to tell their story. But it is an unreal expectation to have from an industry that does not have a clue about its bearings or a sense of geography. The stories are not rooted anywhere and if a story has no connection with the ground, with its setting, how can it be told truthfully. We have accepted that we collectively need Bollywood to show us our aspirations and our dreams since we do not have an imagination of our own. All of them are material dreams. It is one never ending advertisement selling some product or the other;more often than not they claim to sell happiness. That is why sad stories are anathema here.
Are filmmakers conscious of being branded anti-national if they portray Kashmiris humanely and objectively?
If news organisations can toe a nationalist line when it comes to Kashmir, why not Bollywood. I think everyone in Bollywood is vying for recognition from the state because they themselves know that all these film awards have no credibility and are bought. It gives them this illusion that they are an important part of nation building when all they are concerned about is self aggrandisement. I have never quite understood how a star or a filmmaker becomes a representative of a nation. Which international competition do they compete in? They say art has no borders but it is business that has no borders. Our mega stars should become ambassadors of the nation in their capacity as successful businessmen.
How difficult was making this film?
There was no compulsion. That is why it took so long. Nobody put a gun to my head and said you have to make this film. It started off as an exercise because I had nothing worthwhile to do. But somewhere along the way, I felt that there is some personal redemption in this exercise. Ten years in Bombay had turned me into deadwood. This film, this story helped me find my voice. I read a quote by Nietzsche, ironically on Twitter, which said, "We have art in order not to die of the truth. "
People in Kashmir are very conscious of stereotyping. Did you face problems on this front?
To overcome the trust deficit in Kashmir was our biggest obstacle. I spent a lot of time trying to win the trust of the people during the shoot;sometimes to the point of distraction. It took its toll. Conditions were far from ideal even from a logistical point of view. But we managed to come out unscathed. Despite the difficulties most of our crew members said that it was one of the smoothest and happiest shoots they had been on.
You have spoken about a possible sequel to 'Harud' which means autumn. Will spring be
the metaphor for it?
I am writing another film though it is not a sequel in the strictest sense of the word. It is a story set again in Kashmir and tentatively titled 'Winter'. 'Spring' is too far away right now. I hope one day I will be able to make a 'Spring' too.
How have people responded to the film globally and more importantly in Kashmir?
The response has pretty much been the same across the world. Even those who knew nothing or very little about Kashmir come out battered and numb. Somewhat like the characters in the film. That was our intention: to make the audience feel a sensation that the characters are feeling and not to give them what they desire or expect, out of habit, when they come to see a film. That is the essence of the Kashmiri condition at present. What they desire is elusive to them. The handful of Kashmiris who have managed to see the film have identified with the story which is gratifying because not many have been exposed to this narrative style on screen.
Your film is part of a growing trend wherein Kashmiris are telling their story through films and books. What drives this trend?
Most of it comes from the frustration of the Kashmiri narrative going unheard in the din of the two nuclear powers;an ego clash that has ripped apart Kashmir's social fabric. It also comes from the growing realisation that Kashmir was used as a playground for the dirty games that India and Pakistan have been playing. Whether these stories will be heard remains to be seen. Kashmir was one of the few places where the fires of communalism, which were part of the genesis of these two countries, did not reach. But they managed to engulf it eventually.
There have been certification problems for films like 'Inshallah Football'. Why is there so much resistance to stories that challenge the official narrative?
The reaction is a kneejerk one. It comes from a lack of understanding of the place as well as the story being told. The state structure is designed to distort the truth. You see that corruption is endemic in the state. Why would they suddenly behave like Gandhians and seek truth when it comes to Kashmir?
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