Pain of Muslims, KPs is Braided: In Reply to Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Letter

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We would have liked to see both the communities travelling in Shikara. But it’s your Shikara. You choose who to take with you in it and who not.

Dear Vidhu Sir,

Khair Mubarak for the Eid greetings!

Indeed, it’s an honour and a matter of great delight to receive your response on our critique of your movie ‘Shikara.’  We feel a need to offer gratitude for the precious time that you have surfed reading and writing back to us. It is certainly overwhelming and brings an achievement for us to be the recipients of your letter. Your expression of a wish for a propitious dialogue instead of a soliloquy is acknowledgeable. Such open-heartedness is substantial and impelling. We think, this is for the first time that the film Industry has taken a constructive step of engaging us. We have been always here craving for a call from the Indian cinema.

As you have already mentioned that Shikara is something intimate to you and the suggested short video totally justifies your personal linkage with the subject. We keep on saying that the pain and sufferings of both the communities are braided. Thus, we feel that the miseries of the Muslim community should have at least acquired the background of the movie, if not the forefront. By doing that, the tribute could have been more aesthetic and may have sent a message of harmony and amalgamation to both the communities. Shikara had the potential of ending the existent cycle of hatred. Since, we have already mentioned that it lacks the support of its brethren. May be then, these lines from Shikara would have passed on an inclusive message:

“Do lakeeray hain to alag hain

Ye ek lakeer hain to saath hain”

After watching the short video, we could easily predict the mammoth love and care your mother, late Shanti Devi, still carried in her heart for her motherland. As we saw her in the video, she would have never liked the numb treatment given to Kashmiri Muslims in Shikara. She would have rather asked for a tribute equally sensitive to both the communities. A movie which could have taken both the communities together by trying to mend their torn hearts with the glue of love.

After watching the short video, we could easily predict the mammoth love and care your mother, late Shanti Devi, still carried in her heart for her motherland. As we saw her in the video, she would have never liked the numb treatment given to Kashmiri Muslims in Shikara. She would have rather asked for a tribute equally sensitive to both the communities.

We all are aware of the role of some external forces behind the immigration of the Pandit community. One would expect the movie to reveal all the responsible elements to the masses. Benazir Bhutto may well have been one among them. But, what about others? How could the young generation not commit the same fault again when it isn’t properly enlightened about the historical mistakes? That’s why Shikara’s portrayal on the cinema looks somewhat driven by same anti-Kashmiri sentiment. Shikara may not be a by-product of hate and propaganda but we are sorry to inform you that it didn’t appear any different. It may be because of the fact that we both are Kashmiri Muslims, and that could well be the reason we got this impression from your movie.

We all are aware of the role of some external forces behind the immigration of the Pandit community. One would expect the movie to reveal all the responsible elements to the masses. Benazir Bhutto may well have been one among them. But, what about others? How could the young generation not commit the same fault again when it isn’t properly enlightened about the historical mistakes?

Gaw Kadal massacre was mentioned because the movie gives a feeling that Kashmiri Muslims were living comfortably post Pandit immigration. However, that was not the case. We were recipients of further oppression after Pandits left. Shikara portrays Kashmiri Muslims as aphonic, as if they didn’t have a voice of their own and were guided by some external forces. As you wrote in your letter ‘Violence is faceless’, but the emotional scenes around immigration are so powerful and stirring that they would easily develop a sense of animosity against the Muslim community of Kashmir and label them as culprits. The film, especially, in the kind of environment it was released would only add fuel to the already rising levels of Islamophobia. Though you have rationally justified the timing of its release but we think that a lot could  still have been done. Because we expected bit more effort from your side because we all are  connected to this film emotionally.

There was a lot of politics surrounding the incident of Pandit migration in Kashmir. Therefore, the camera is not expected to remain aloof from it. The way you have chosen to tell your side of the story will only build walls, where on one side we are seen as criminals and on the other side you as victims. The movie, thus, falls in the category of other such Bollywood movies culpable of myopic research, hence, misrepresentation of Kashmiri Muslims, which is surely not expected from you because of your roots in Kashmir.

You must have gone through our review multiple times as you have already mentioned. It’s because we had been successful in minimizing our bias with the subject which in reality set our review apart. We admired Shikara as a love story, not as a part of history. Because it shows only the half picture. Yet, we are happy for you that through Shikara you have been able to narrate the pain of our Pandit brethren. However, we would have liked to see both the communities travelling in Shikara. But it’s your Shikara. You choose who to take with you in it and who not. We couldn’t see any space in it for us. You could see even in this letter we have only questions to ask because Bollywood has never responded to us before like this. But you in no way are vulnerable to answer them. We would satisfy ourselves as your main protagonist in the film does, that is, by carving out a fake reply-like for his letters from the President. At least we were lucky enough to get an actual reply from you.

At last, we would again like to thank you for encouraging us by writing back. And, if you have any plans of again shooting in Kashmir, we would be happy hosting you at our respective places. Perhaps, you may agree to our wish of making a film on the Gaw Kadal massacre as a tribute to your Kashmiri Muslim community. We would love to assist you in that film even if you aren’t convinced with the idea of making a film on it. Our love and support would always be  with your films no matter how they represent us. Because, we have been taught to give love regardless of the outcomes.

Truly Yours,

Asif Khan and Arbeena
Srinagar

prolifickhan121@gmail.com
arbeena96@gmail.com

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