For long, Kashmir was portrayed in Bollywood movies a beautiful place on earth where actors were shown eating in its magnificent houseboats, drinking from fresh spring waters and making merry in the Valley’s lush slopes. But away from its conventional habit, post 1989 Hindi movies on Kashmir slowly harped on one theme by showing its audience that this isn’t the case any longer. Together with the politics in the sub continent that pushed for the armed rebellion after 1989 besides India’s roaring ‘integral part’ assertion to counter Pakistan’s ‘jugular vein’ stance over Kashmir, both proved a ready made fodder for directors of Bollywood. Films were soon replacing songs like ‘Kitni Khobsoorat Yeh Tasveer Hai, Yeh Kashmir Hai’ with fervent Sunny Deol slogans ‘Doodh Maangogey Toh Kheer Deengy, Kashmir Mangogey Toh Cheer Dengy’.

The picturisation of most of these films was different but the stance same: Pakistan was always a villain, Kashmiris hated violence and government soldiers were their saviors. Kashmir conflict was soon attracting film-makers as it promised an interesting plot and narrative often fixed with the official discourse of New Delhi. Very few went beyond that.

That’s why when I watched the actor-turned Director Aamir Bashir’s film Harud – a Kashmiri word for autumn — with a friend at my rented Delhi apartment last night, both of us were enthralled to watch how the film has grabbed those tense moments that always circulate in our conscious and sub-conscious mind back in Kashmir.

Harud abruptly brought back memories of those never ending circles of uncertainty and constant impression of the besieged mentality and the symbols of militarisation that have seeped into almost every aspect of human endeavour.

During my schooling, college and university life and then some early years at work, the feeling of being shackled in my unconscious and subconscious mind never faded. It became more and more prominent as I grew. It made me angry. I would fight with myself. I wanted to set myself free. From the conflict. The constant repression. And from the suffering. Just like Harud’s protagonist Rafiq, (Shahnawaz Bhat) who once made an abortive attempt to cross over the LoC but soon ended up handling his disappeared brother Tauqir’s camera. Tauqir, a tourist photographer, is one of the thousands of youth who disappeared since the conflict began.

Harud evokes memories of the early 1990s when soldiers would cordon towns, villages and hamlets together for days in search of militants and their sympathisers. They would line up the pehran-wearing natives and subject them to identification parades — a lengthy but powerful scene in Harud. I remember being in several such queues provoked by either grenade attacks or tip-offs that militants may sneak into the city. The soldier would smell our hands and then slap those who would disobey. Calling them uncle would raise their fury. ‘Sir’ would mellow down even a Lance Naik.

Besides other symbols of life, Harud shows routine Kashmir life that includes gun fights, militant ambushes, tetchy soldiers patrolling streets and manning checkpoints, houses with broken windowpanes overlooking deserted roads, and above all besiegedness of people and their minds.

Harud is set in autumn (the Decay as Aamir Bashir calls it) and begins with gun battles, protest marches and demand for Azadi. The censor board has muted the Azadi word in Urdu, however. But they have let the slogans ‘We want freedom’ (all references to independence) be in English. Rafiq tries to sneak across the LoC (one of the world’s largest militarised borders) to become a militant but fails. Soon he returns to live a depressed life of a daily newspaper boy. His father Yusuf (Reza Naji) is a traffic cop who is undergoing post-traumatic disorder (a condition that has hit over 50 lakh population of the Valley, according to one estimate). And with each passing day his condition worsens. Yusuf has lost his older son Tauqir. Images of young men like Rafiq, exploding cars outside the armed forces bunkers and barracks haunt him every day until he completely loses his mind.

Besides household chores, Rafiq’s mother Fatima (Shamim Basharat) participates in once-a-month sit-ins like hundreds of others to find their missing relatives. While Rafiq’s life takes no direction, a friend of Rafiq is ready to work under the blazing sun of Delhi to escape the kind of hell Kashmir was turning out to be. While the tragedies unfold, mentally ailing Yousuf emerges in front of a troopers’ bunker and then runs away. Soldiers follow him until they find Rafiq in the street. And then a falling Chinar leaf suggests the outcome. Rafiq is lying face down in his pehran. The gushing blood splattered in the street. He was shot dead. The family loses another son.

Harud dares to venture and probe those corners of Kashmiri mind which so far people from outside have failed to look upon, let alone project it in their films. That’s why sometimes it shocks me, surprises me, and forces me to think why Kashmiris were never understood as humans instead of being projected as agitation-prone terrorists, Pakistani sinisters, brain-washed separatists and subsidised rice-eating Indian boot lickers. There was no attempt to search those wounds, those yearnings, those pangs of siege, whichHarud has dared to touch and has successfully, if not fully, portrayed.

Hum Inquilab layengey Aur Society Ko Change Karengey,’ is a normal remark that comes from fresh batches of journalists but in Harud we have Rafiq trying to find solace thorough a camera his brother Tauqir left behind before disappearing. Tauqir would take pictures of incoming tourists. Rafiq, who accidentally finds the camera, looks into the view finder, often to find edgy soldiers consolidating their positions in streets, mountains and lakes.

Harud touches the much talked about subjects like some beneficiaries of the conflict. A scene shows a local journalist talking on phone about how a picture sold to some international outlet will fetch $250 to the agency. To the Delhi-based news channels communicating advent of a mobile service provider ‘BSNL’ in Kashmir is preferred over sit-ins of the mothers. Harud is mostly about how militarisation of the Valley invited siege mentality. It takes a side. And it may not go well among certain quarters.

The film, however, fails to contextualise the Kashmir conflict. It doesn’t say why the conflict began. But then it would have met fierce censor board opposition. Harud is for intellectual cinema goers and it has the ability to enthral the local audience only and not those who may not be completely conscious of the Kashmir situation.

Nevertheless, Harud dares to challenge the official narrative on Kashmir that has for long remained the key theme for most of the Hindi movies on Kashmir.

Author: Baba was born in conflict-ridden Kashmir where he attended school and army’s identification parades, briefly worked at his father’s cloth shop and survived some gun battles to complete masters degree in journalism from the Kashmir University. His career started with The Indian Express in Srinagar where he reported on the South Asia earthquake of 2005. In the following years, he wrote features for Kashmir’s first online news magazine Kashmir Newz and in 2008 he joined Rising Kashmir as a senior reporter where he covered 2008-09-10 civil unrest. He has also contributed to US-based wire, BBC online and Canadian Dispatches International. Baba specializes in producing stories mostly on Kashmir conflict and water disputes in India. Baba joined Tehelka in 2010 and the next year saw him winning ICRC (Geneva)-Press Institute of India (PII) award for his news report on victims of armed conflict in Kashmir. Be it the landmines-rigged mountains of Kashmir or the water conflicts of central India, his work has won him accolades across the Valley and elsewhere

source- tehelka blog


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