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Review of the Movie Jashn-e Azadi

by on April 13, 2007
 

Jashn-e-Azadi: How We Celebrate Freedom
Director: Sanjay Kak
Review by Farah Aziz

There are traces of hell in the heaven. “Kashmir is not the story, it is a story”, rectifies Sanjay Kak, his own default statement–”Kashmir is the story of–pains of many bereaved relations.”

Kak, in his documentary ‘Jashn-e-Azadi’– ‘How We Celebrate Freedom’ is as explicit to speak of violence in Kashmir as the violence itself. Jashn-e-Azadi, is not only a rear glance of life with military, it is a smidgen more, in and out, interlacing the cowed survivals and the recurring pangs of death.

A desolate father looks for his son’s grave in a Shaheedi Qabristan (martyr’s graveyard), a teenager girl describes the body of a young man in the neighbourhood, killed during an army operation–”The body is lying in the crossroad amidst the houses, no one is allowed to approach, even the dog did not go near it.” Her stoic, flat voice, communicates a long endurance.

Post trauma centres, flood with disjointed minds, doctors listen to the staccato stories of a woman, and more. In her dreams, shrouded figures appear – and never reveal their faces.

Funerals succeed funerals, funerals precede the same.

Kak’s Kashmir, traverses from the sun lit sheen of the white snow valleys to the blood red streets, from the life as it spells from the tourists getting clicked in colourful Kashmiri attires to the mounting debris of ash and wood remains, from peace to violence, and from violence to more violence only. It traverses true.

Jashn-e-azadi hula hoops round the word azadi (freedom), the feeling that it is, and the irony it sets free in Kashmir. The feeling is deep and resonant with halted lives of 100,000 dead over the last 18 years.

It’s Independence Day. Orphaned, children sing Iqbal’s ‘ sare jahan se achchha, hindostan hamara,’ and mark the glorification of their lives being spared, while their loved ones got killed. A feeling as alien like freedom would not tick these young hearts to sing, slaved within the terror of the past and an uncertain future.

The totter rolls right from 1947, the culmination of the old feudal order, the redistribution of land to the peasants, the unbound feeling of freedom, to 1948–“the creation of two Kashmirs, and 60 years down the line, to the armed struggle, the volatility of agreements, the charges, sanctions, combats, encounters and the false encounters, the Army, the BSF, the RAF, the STF, and more Fs. Bandipora, Kupwara, Ganderbal, Pulwama, Kulgma-and so on so forth.

The way the film captures self defending attempts by the armed forces to manage for itself, an image of credibility is poignant in sense of negation. The images of the army run schools and orphanages, the donation of portable radio sets by them to the victims, the insistence to sing the national anthem, and an added pinch of “operation successful”, as claimed by the forces, give bouts of disillusionment to the boasted claims of peace. Lives put to discord and then mend up with patches of compensations are received as a mockery.

The movie doesn’t escape to obtain martyrdom as it is hugged by Kashmiri youth. Martyrdom in Kashmir is more often a given status than achieved. One encounter and ten martyrs are recognised, another encounter, a score more. Mixed with the enraged slogans of protest and praise to the martyr, funerals ring with refrains of loss.

Theatrical performances demonstrate a five century old colonisation of the valley, and its fate being decided and re-decided by the any one but the people of the land.

However, with all the ugliness, the beauty of symbolism is maintained. The symbol of tourists wearing colourful Kashmiri attires to be clicked in as a remembrance of Kashmir, when the movie opens and the same attires being replaced by a military scarf that a girl chooses to be clicked in as the film closes, leaves a strong impression of the slow generated change. The change of recognition of Kashmir, from beauty to the spectors of death.

Farah Aziz

(see http://kashmirfilm.wordpress.com/)

 
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  • July 30, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    Jashn-e-Azadi-Half truths and Mental Frames
    Vivek has never been to Kashmir, he knows Kashmir as any other Indian would, through biased NDTV programs or through newspapers which don’t present the true picture either. Yet somehow what he asked me surprised me. At the end of the movie he inquired from me as to why the movie did not have even a byte from Mirwaiz(in Vivek’s opinion Mirwaiz is the tallest amongst Kashmiri separatists).I had taken Vivek with me because I thought he would relieve me of some boredom sitting through a rather long monologue cum endorsement session of two hours on Shahadat and Azadi.I half knew the answer for I was seeing it for the second time.The first time I had missed some initial 20 odd minutes because I wasn’t allowed into the auditorium for I might spoil the celebration of freedom(Jashn-e-Azadi).Wonder what censorship this was?I had to produce an e-mail invitation from the respected Director to get into the hall, for his authorities were strict on anyone who chose not to obey them. Anyways that’s past now but the spirit of celebration should continue….shouldn’t it…..
    I left without answering Vivek.I was far too buried in thoughts of Jashn. I took the road back to my house, not my home dear, that’s already burnt, oh, way back in 1990, the Jashn of Azadi was being celebrated by torching my home in Bagat-i-Kanipora, in the night when we were all supposed to be celebrating Janam-Ashtami in the cool climes of our homes. The morning newspaper brought news of this celebration to the refugee camp which has been my existence since. I am sure a lot of people will say Jagmohan asked Pandits to leave, even for arguments sake taking that to be true, did it give a license to Sanjay Kak’s protagonists to burn my house and desecrate my religious places. I wondered, was that the way of celebrating freedom. Maybe the director believed it was. That’s why although he sat somber on the banks of Rembyaar in Shopian (while shooting for the movie), seeing the pathetic condition of a 5th Century shrine (of Kapalmochana which was now a broken Shivling, a desecrated spring and razed Dharamshalas) he did not deem it fit to be a part of the movie.

    A woman whose goat was killed by the fire that engulfed her house and cowshed was shown grieving for her goat. I wondered what would have happened to Mather and Chander, my two cows, did the spirit of celebration (Jashn-e-Azadi) consume them too, wonder whether they were Hindu or Muslim, my father bought them from one Mohd Yusuf in my village.

    My wandering thoughts much like the beard of my dear friend Masood often gives me sleepless nights in exile. This was destined to be one such night. I was instantaneously reminded of the curse of Lakshmi on us, Kashmiris

    “Nilamata Purana 294-96. O lord, then angry Visoka cursed Kas’mira, “O wicked one, as I have been absorbed by you today by means of falsehood and you have informed Sati about my activities, so your people will be mostly liars, possessed of impurities, hired servants and dishonoured in the worlds.”

    What else explains so many gaveyards when we could have a thousand flowers blooming on the same land, I thought. What else explains Kashmiris being slaves for last 800 years? Sanjay Kak does mention our slavery of 800 years in his movie , what he however chooses not to mention is, who were the masters? Who enslaved us..he wouldn’t say? Half truths as they say can be more dangerous than complete lies. Pyare Hatash’s verses have been shown in a manner where an ordinary non Kashmiri viewer is made to believe as if he is also a protagonist of the Azadi. The translation of the couplet from Rajatarangni was wrong and again misappropriated. Calling Kalhana the chronicler of Hindu Kings was a mischief played in a subtle manner Therein lies the game of the movie maker, his adeptness at appropriating the content.

    The magnum opus (sorry for my description, but I am yet to see a longer documentary, probably verbosity is a virtue with Kak) has its own figures for dead and exiled. The movie says two hundred Kashmiri Pandits killed and one lakh sixty thousand exiled. The first images that flashed in front of my eyes when these numbers were shown on the screen were of Brijlal(my father’s best friend) and Choti. Brijlal (a driver in Dept. of Agriculture) and his wife Choti were tied to a jeep in their native village and then dragged till dead. When we received their bodies they were chopped into small pieces as if someone had just brought meat from a butcher. Blood still was fresh in some of their veins as it had reddened the body bag in which we received them. What way to celebrate Azadi??? Kudos to the Robin Hoods who did this, kudos to the director for endorsing their way of celebration, sickness and creativity comes in such mental frames, I never knew. Beware… a lot of modern day Neros are around the corner.

    When I asked Sanjay Kak the source of these figures he said he had obtained these from some Joint Secretary in MHA, New Delhi. The movie director being a respected man, I had no doubts that he had got them from GoI. When I asked him what’s the source of his figures, one hundred thousand killed in Kashmir since 1990, he strangely had no GoI statistics to support his figures. Who believes GoI anyway? I have received a reply to an RTI saying only 16455 civilians have been killed in Kashmir since 1990.Now who would believe that. If GoI would have been sacred as Kak wants us to selectively believe, we wouldn’t have the movie in the first place.

    We have Yasin Malik as a lead character in the movie, someone around whom the movie revolves,(a savior, a Gandhian ,an ex-terrorist in new attire all rolled into one),giving us sermons, telling us how he treads the path of non-violence. There are flashes of Azam Inquilabi and Syed Ali Shah Geelani (as patriarchs) but it conveniently skirts other separatist leaders, leading anyone to speculate whether the self styled Che Guvera’s of today (based in Delhi) are keen to project Yasin Malik alone as a leader of the masses or is there more to it. His presence at the first screening raised a lot of eye-brows and the discussions revolved more around Yasin Malik than the movie itself, with heckled audience putting him in a fix over his past but then as they say ” Every saint has a past, every thief a future”. The lead character says India wants to impose Brahmanical Imperialism in Kashmir. Does our lead character even know the meaning of the term ”Brahman” or was that a borrowed metaphor from Arundhati Roy, which he did not understand but knew how to use.

    One of the flashes in the movie says ”Kashmir is the most militarized region in the valley” Maybe it is. I remember as a kid once we saw a Policeman in our village. We literally walked around him to see what he looks like. For all of us he was an alien who had somehow fallen off his spaceship and landed at our village. It was a quite a sight for all of us and some fun too. What then explains the presence of army and para-military forces in the same village when till 1989 it hadn’t even seen a proper policeman. The movie does not mention why the army had to be placed there after 1989.Isnt it imperative for a film maker to show a complete picture and not half truths.

    While I was almost sobbing at the images of graveyards, I was reminded of Abdul Sattar Ranjoor who was not allowed to be buried in the village graveyard by Sanjay Kak’s Robin Hoods’. The movie once again fails to present a balanced point of view and seems more like a mouth piece or propaganda machinery at work. It simply fails to take into account any divergent view from the agenda that the director (or whoever influences him) had set to. How else does one explain that no other point of view is reflected in the movie. Who can argue against the fact that a large section of the masses want Aazadi but it would be equally foolish to believe that no other point of view exists. Again half truths come to fore with consummate ease.

    This wasn’t a movie on Pandits that’s what Sanjay Kak wrote to me. We can understand that, knowing well what and whom it is about. Wouldn’t it have been better if Pandits were simply not mentioned in the movie than have a falsified and intentionally biased version of Pandits’ pain and sufferings through a minute and a half screen appearance of their abandoned houses.It seemed like intentionally rubbing salt to their wounds. What also comes to fore is the lack of knowledge about the issue on which he has made the movie. His self hatred is clearly visible in the movie, he believes that Pandits have been unfair to Muslims during the Dogra rule. Maybe it is not entirely incorrect, but when I confronted him on his knowledge of Medieval Kashmir (when Hindus were persecuted), the same was found wanting. I cannot imagine writing a column without delving deep into the subject, but then Sanjay Kak is a different person, he can make a movie on Kashmir without even reading basic texts. A good documentary does not take sides, it simply documents and presents facts as they are, the director is never seen to be either endorsing or negating what he shows. When Sanjay Kak explains the meaning and essence of the term Shahadat, the swell of adrenalin is clearly audible in his voice, that’s when he moves from being a film director to an invisible but strong spokesperson of his concept of what constitutes the celebration of Azadi. To prove his point of view he has even borrowed footages which make it look exactly like the sexed up Power Point presentation that USA made to UN as their premise for attacking Iraq.

    History is replete with neo converts going that extra mile to prove which side of their bread is buttered but I believe the Director wants to walk all through the Safar-e-Azadi(similar sounding names….wonder who directs whom)to prove his loyalty to the only leader of Kashmir, Yasin Malik.

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