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Our tryst with Kashmir

Friday, July 16, 2010

THE beautiful and troubled state of Kashmir has had a chequered relationship with Bollywood. The enduring image remains that of Shammi Kapoor rolling down the snow in Junglee, yodelling "Yahoo". Many films like Kashmir Ki Kali had their romantic tracks set in the scenic beauty of the state, and to embellish the visuals of the films, producers took their teams to Kashmir, like today's producers go to a picturesque foreign location.

Then the trouble started in the valley, and when the big producers shifted their locations to Switzerland, everyone else followed, and then the world became too small for the Bollywood producer. Meanwhile, the militancy in Kashmir became too big to be ignored, even by the usually politically-blind mainstream Hindi cinema. Besides, terrorists made for good villains.

Mani Ratnam's Roja (1993) was perhaps the first major film that brought the issue into focus, with his sympathies on the side of the intelligent, rational militant, who is able to articulate his ideology to the man he has kidnapped. Like so many of Ratnam's films, Roja touched upon the issue, but did not even go in depth.

Not that it was easy then -- or now -- to understand the many complexities of the Kashmir situation. Other films like used the backdrop for their action-romance potboilers, till Mission Kashmir again came up with a story of a Muslim boy whose parents are killed in an army raid, and though he is raised by an army man, he runs away and joins a group of terrorists. Then Pukar, Fanaa, Sheen, Jaal-The Trap, and other films tried to show what was happening in Kashmir, but not even touching the surface.

More recently, Tahaan and Sikandar looked at terrorism from a child's point of view. Hardly anyone (except many excellent documentaries) touched upon the plight of the Pandit refugees, the problems the army faces, the thousands of widows and orphans, or how militancy actually affects the common citizen of Kashmir. Now Lamhaa declares itself to be the untold story of Kashmir, but does little to actually give an accurate or balanced picture of what is going on in the state. It flippantly and naively points fingers at a single politician who is ostensibly responsible for everything rotten in the state.

Bollywood cinema invariably manages to trivialise everything, and blunder on into problem areas without an iota of research. Or maybe they think the audience doesn't care… or want to know. Either way, Kashmir suffers from misrepresentation.

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