Interview: ‘Kashmir Grossly Misrepresented in Bollywood’

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Soni Razdan

By Mrinal Pathak

BOLLYWOOD has once again raised its patriotic pitch after actor Ajay Devgn announced his film on Galwan showdown — that saw 20 soldiers losing their lives in a deadly clash with People’s Liberation Army of China recently.

While the move drew mixed response, a Bollywood actress, who was lately seen throwing her weight behind a film on lost fathers of Kashmir, believes patriotism will always find a place in cinema, even as “Kashmir has been grossly misrepresented and underrepresented by Bollywood”.

Actress Soni Razdan, wife of filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and mother of popular actress Alia Bhatt in an exclusive chat with Kashmir Observer talks about Bollywood’s cinematic treatment with Kashmir.

As someone who has a strong connection with Kashmir, do you feel the valley is rightfully portrayed in Indian cinema?

The thing is, very few people understand Kashmir—or, are fair to it in their storytelling.

But of late, there’ve been some excellent films set in the valley. No Fathers in Kashmir is an example of a film made by a maker who knows Kashmir well and feels for its people.

Hamid is also a beautiful film, so was Haider, which was very well researched.

Many films gloss over the details or the truth, and basically tell stories set in Kashmir, but not true to the people there. Or, they’re full of propaganda.

Like in Haider and Hamid, we saw how acting plays a huge role in depicting the reality of a place. Do you think that Indian actors are doing justice to the roles played as Kashmiris?

See, a lot depends on the project and the director and the research. It’s not only the actor. It’s what is demanded of him too.

Cinema and web series can play a huge role in busting myths about Kashmir but at the same time we see many movies and series revitalizing the stereotypes and stigmas attached to the region.

Yes, I agree it really can. I feel people lack moral courage, or honesty, and also do not wish to see things from the other perspective. They prefer to see what is comfortable and convenient.

Sadly, Kashmir has been grossly underrepresented or misrepresented a lot of the time.

Having said this, are Kashmiris themselves willing to look at the truth in the eye? That too takes a certain amount of moral courage.

So there’re many sides to the truth in Kashmir! I’m not talking about times since 5 August 2019, but before that. Post that, sadly, we’ve no moral ground to stand on.

OTT platforms can prove to be an excellent platform for telling true tales of Kashmir. Which steps can the Indian film industry take to present the stories without changing the realities?

Basically not to censor or to stand up to censorship, we need a free and non-judgemental attitude in all creative arenas. And one that is not intimidated. But it’s bit of a dream scenario.

Recently we saw many people from the Indian film industry lodging their protests against unnecessary cuts. Do you think the current situation is barring Indian film and series makers to come up with genuine storylines on Kashmir?

It could be a deterrent. But I would not lose hope, because these days, people are being more adventurous. Let’s hope so.

We’ve often seen Kashmir being used as a tool in making over-enthusiastically patriotic movies. Do you think this attitude of filmmakers hamper the process of depicting the reality of Kashmir through Art?

Well, every film doesn’t have to be a true to life depiction of reality. And patriotism will always find a place in cinema because it appeals to audiences and brings in the crowds.

Many Kashmiri activists have alleged that their issues have always been underplayed by Indian cinema. The same allegation is made by many Kashmiri Pandits. What are your views on this?

No matter what you do, people will always find something to complain about. They may’ve reason to, but well, that’s the way it goes.

Kashmir is from its people and not land. Do you think the voices of Kashmiris should be taken into full consideration while making films on it?

If they’re not, then you won’t get any authenticity in your film. It’s completely necessary.

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Mrinal Pathak

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