‘Bollywood Hasn’t Done Much For Kashmir’, Das

27 August 2009
Rising Kashmir

Srinagar: Agreeing with the dominant view in Kashmir that Bollywood had been unfair to the sufferings of people here, filmmaker and social activist, Nandita Das Thursday said Indian film industry hadn’t done much to highlight Kashmir. “Kashmir hasn’t been projected the way it should have been. Indian cinema is going through crisis and it hasn’t been able to produce good films continuously,” she said. Nanidta Das of Fire, 1947 The Earth, Lal Salaam, Aks, Bawander, Hazaar Chaurasiya Ki Maa, Ram Chand Pakistani and Firaq fame was speaking before a huge crowd during an interactive session ‘Role of Cinema in Social Change’ organized by a New Delhi based NGO Anhad Institute of Media Studies (AIMS). She said media highlights events in a massive way when the occurrence places are big cities like Mumbai and New York but little coverage is given to events that happen in small places. “There is a lot of material that goes unheard. We were told about 26-11 and 9-11 events both of which occurred in big cities but in Kashmir I’m sure such things happen daily,” she said. Asserting that money had been the major force which always plays crucial role in Bollywood film, she said ‘Kashmir has been projected negatively as I gauge from the mood here”. Das said: “I always remain away from films which propagate jingoism and stereotyping. Such films are always dangerous.” Das who has performed in over 30 feature films in 10 different languages was facing a hostile audience who were critical of Bollywood’s role in projecting Kashmir conflict. Over the India and Pakistan peace measures, which were stalled after Mumbai attacks, she said: “We can’t lose hope. But I feel Kashmir issue can be solved if both governments show will to solve it. If Berlin Wall can collapse and European Union be formed, why both countries can’t solve their differences.” She said both India and Pakistan were wasting crores of rupees on arms deals when people in both the nations were poor and dying with hunger. “Kashmiris and Indians should learn to live in harmony and peace shall only prevail when we live in coexistence,” she said. Das who arrived here after 25 years said she feels sad to have come very late. “But I promise I’ll come again. May be I make a film, write on it or even talk about it with friends. There is always a danger that your reality is the only reality, but when you talk to strangers you come to know there are other realities as well,” she said. Das said there were films which had triggered debate and “I’ve learnt it from my film Firaaq”. “It has created a deeper freedom of expression in me. It is on Gujarat riots where Muslims were mostly affected. Kashmiris will relate with that film. It was one of the challenging jobs I had ever undertaken,” she said. On the role of film industry, she said the “role of cinema is neither big nor small. But instead of caring about the size, we’re all required to do what we can do to mitigate our problems”. She said: “We don’t have any business to talk about the change if we don’t participate in making that change happen”. Editor of Media Times, a journal of Kashmir University, Muslim Jan asked the actress why she had not done any women activism on Shopian double rape and murder case. In reply, Das said she was still a learner in this field. Senior journalist Muzamil Jaleel asked her if she could help young Kashmiris become alternate film makers and that if Kashmir can witness makings like ‘Battle of Algiers and ‘Wind that shakes the Barley’. Das replied in the affirmative. Others whose queries were answered by the actress included, noted theater and Kashmiri film director, Arshad Mushtaq, former deputy director DDK Srinagar Khursheed Wani, PRO Kashmir University, Showket Shafi, media students, business students and people from all other walks of life. Senior journalist and moderator of the interaction function, Syed Shujaat Bukhari, during his speech acknowledged Das for pursuing the case of women and children across India. “She (Nandita Das) has a unique talent of using art to project a cause,” Bukhari said. On Kashmir’s relationship with India, Bukhari said Kashmir is not a pampered State and “we aren’t pampered people. We’re conscious people. And as far as Kashmir is concerned, it has a plethora of complaints against New Delhi,” he said. On the role of media, he said media has a crucial role to play in Kashmir and “Bollywood can help India and Pakistan come forward and look for a solution.” Speaking on the responsibility of free media, noted documentary, film maker and poet, Gawhar Raza said many things were required to bring normalcy in a society. “In a normal society some people take the responsibility of making the media free. I know Kashmiri students are much brighter than students from different corners of India, yet they lack exposure to various things.” He said the interaction was a small step which would bring change in the society.