Kashmir through the eyes of Bollywood

Most of the Bollywood directors have preferred to stick to the official narrative on Kashmir, ignoring the ground realitis

Gulzar Bhat
Srinagar, Publish Date: Mar 18 2018 11:33PM | Updated Date: Mar 18 2018 11:33PM
Kashmir through the eyes of BollywoodFile Photo

Before 1990, Kashmir was a sought-after location for Bollywood film makers. A plethora of movies had been shot in the valley particularly since 1960 capturing the spell-casting beauty of Kashmir.  While most of these movies showcased the beauty of Kashmir, only a few reflected the rich Kashmiri culture and tradition. 

In 1964 Shakti Samanta’s directed film Kashmir Ki Kali staring Shami Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore depicted the mesmerizing beauty of Kashmir. The song sequences on the banks of Dal Lake and a string of other events filmed on various locations across the valley portrayed merely  the mesmerizing beauty of Kashmir while ignoring the socio-political and cultural aspects of the landscape. In 1965, Suraj Prakash directorial Jab Jab Phool Khile casting Shashi Kapoor and Nanda was also set in Kashmir. Like Kashmir Ki Kali this film too promoted the beauty of Kashmir, barring a few sequences where Prakash has made stabs at highlighting some of the aspects of Kashmiri culture.  By and large, the movie vis- a- vis Kashmir was all about the breathtaking beauty of vale—the exquisite mountains, beautiful house boats, shikars , mighty chinars etc., shown through the camera of ace cinematographer Taru  Dutt. 

Another movie directed by Manmohan Krishna, Noori produced in 1979 featuring Farooq Sheikh and Poonam Dhillion filmed in the valley of Baderwah also captured the snowcapped mountains lush green forests and the pristine springs of the landscape. The movie was no way an exception from the previous Bollywood compositions.

Post 1990 Movies

Militancy broke out in Kashmir in 1990 and since its inception Bollywood shifted its focus from portraying Kashmir as a beautiful landscape to a conflict ridden society. Although Bollywood film makers ceased to shoot movies in Kashmir for quite some time (mostly from 1990-1995), Kashmir conflict continued to remain a dominant theme in Indian cinema.  The movies produced during this period depicted the motivation behind the Kashmiri youth picking up the arms, incidents involving the violence and gore, mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandit community so on and so forth. During this phase a rather biased approach was adopted by most of the writers and directors of Bollywood in showcasing the Kashmir conflict to set the cash registers ringing. However, there were some non-partisan directorial attempts made after  2000 that provided some valuable insights into the Kashmir conflict.

In 1992, Roja, a Maniratnam directorial was the first attempt by any Bollywood director to portray Kashmir conflict. The movie was originally made in Tamil language and was later, given its popularity, dubbed in Hindi.

Roja miserably failed to reflect the cause behind the Kashmiri youth joining the militant ranks en-masse.  Hardly any attempt was made to highlight the aspirations of the people of Kashmir in the backdrop of history, culture, religion and geography. Indian security forces were shown as the survivors of local populace ignoring the violence perpetrated by them. 

In 2000 while the state backed counter insurgency was at its peak in valley, Mission Kashmir, a new Bollywood flick by Vidhu Vinod Chopra representing Kashmir conflict hit the screens across India. 

Known for swimming against the tide in Bollywood, Chopra tried to depict the long-drawn-out Kashmir conflict on silver screen through Mission Kashmir.  The movie has portrayed the vulnerabilities of the people living in a conflict zone and how they are caught—more often than not—unsuspected between two conflicting parties. Mission Kashmir has also revealed the bitter truth about the children of Kashmir suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorders after they lose their family members to bullets. 

Although Chopra zoomed the cameras in on Kashmir conflict, he remained selective in depicting it. Mission Kashmir was made at a time when state backed militant groups had unleashed a reign of terror among the local populace, but no attention was paid towards this stark reality in the entire conflict-dominated story line.   

After Mission Kashmir, in 2005 Bollywood director Shoojit Sircar came up with Yahaan featuring Kashmir conflict. Yahaan could be considered as Sircar’s first stab at unknotting some of the minuscule realities of the Kashmir conflict. The story is recounted through an inter-cast relationship between a Hindu Captain and a Muslim girl caught up in two political ideologies: one representing the idea of India and the other pro-freedom sentiment. 

The movie has successfully brought to light the bad behavior of Indian army in Kashmir and has displayed how one cannot raise voice against such behavior even within the ranks of army.  And one who has the gumption to do so has to pay a heavy price.  Although there is not a grain of doubt that women have borne the brunt of conflict in Kashmir, the way Adda’s( Minissha Lamba’s) character was created is way far from reality.

 Vishal Bardawaj’s magnum opus Haider was another film by a Bollywood director to depict the Kashmir conflict. Haider was the first movie that succeeded in presenting a true picture of valley and went beyond the worn-out stance of earlier Bollywood film makers on Kashmir. Bardhawaj along with his co-writer Basharat Peer truthfully highlighted the pain and agony of people living in the hideous conflict zone of Kashmir.  

 Haider is set in 1995. It was the year when people were picked by army and other security agencies arbitrarily on mere suspicion in Kashmir. Enforced disappearances were a routine affair.

Haider has succeeded in depicting this rather dismal picture of Kashmir. It has drawn attention towards the draconian laws like AFSPA . The director has also walked an extra mile to highlight the machinations of scheming politicians. Haider serves as a grim reminder of pain and agony that people in the valley experienced through nineties.  

Most of the Bollywood directors in their commercial movies have preferred to stick to the official stand of India on Kashmir while ignoring the political and historical facts. They eulogized the prowess of Indian security establishment and bashed the neighboring country for all the mess in valley. Only a few baby steps vis-à-vis depicting Kashmir conflict on silver screen were taken where “a spade was called a spade”. 



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