Posts tagged ‘kashmir’

January 8, 2013

15th Bharangam Diary: notes, rants and experiences

DAY 3: 7th Jan 2013


Script: Uday Prakash

Director: Rajinder Nath (Theatre Repertory Company, Shri Ram Centre for Performing Arts, Delhi)

The question of identity is a many layered puzzle that baffles a human soul everywhere on this earth. How does one define oneself? A lower class kabirpanthi? A B.A pass graduate? A son? A husband? Mohandas explores these questions any more in an empathetic manner. The protagonist pleads with the audience to start things off, ‘main Mohandas nahin hun!’ he is sick of being tortured, humiliated and ignored, all because of a name that has been usurped by someone else. That someone else is from a higher caste is ironic, and convenient. The play has a narrator, the writer, who introduces us to the characters, gives political context and urges the audience to jolt out of our shameful, urban nostalgia that such idiosyncrasies do not happen anymore. India is supposed to be shining but still, people like Mohandas (the name sounds familiar doesn’t it?) get pushed about the bureaucratic mill, until they are sick of their own name. He refuses to be called Mohandas any longer.

The design of the play was well suited to the free flowing narrative and the performance of the lead, Sameep Singh, was gritty and ‘aam aadmi’ like. The music interludes were songs of Kabir which aptly summed up the scenes played out before.

The Country without a Post Office

Based on: poem by Agha Shahid Ali

Director: M. Muzamil Hayat Bhawani

The play is as lyrical and political as its source. A free-flowing set of situations derived from the poem, this production is all about the final point of the argument that Kashmir has become – Freedom. The repression of the people and oppression by the state go hand in hand, never wavering in their support for each other. A Kashmiri boy wants a letter (in Hindi) read by an Indian army man. He falters, looking for the right words. The army man pulls him up for not remembering his dialogues, ‘aise karte hain natak?!’ Yes, this is how you do a play which says nothing but the obvious yet demands full attention of all watching. An acquaintance commented after the play that it was all design and no content. Well, my fellow Indian, the content is but a single word, Azaadi.

Please do yourself a favour India, just let go of Kashmir. Millions of letters have gone undelivered and millions more will.

July 25, 2012

Review: Harud, a film by Aamir Bashir

A loud siren penetrates the heavy air at exactly 3.10 in the morning.

My heart skips a beat. Muscles at the back of my leg twitch with fearful surprise. My eyes open, then close like a dreamy interval. I am not in Kashmir. And this is no ID parade line-up call. It is a simple wake up bugle that the community mosque alerts it’s faithfuls with during the month of Ramazan, in Delhi, the capital of the Indian state. But this slight jolt in my deep slumber is effective enough to introduce an after taste of the film I watched last evening, Harud.

And it is not a pretty flavour. I feel ashamed.

Harud is the season that we all know as autumn. It is the season of decay that comes before winter. Leaves shed themselves from their branches, the sun becomes pale and the wind dry. Degeneration is the order of the day. The film too, true to its title, feels like a constant movement towards darkness. The film opens with passionate calls for Azaadi. The story is of a Kashmiri family whose elder son has gone ‘missing’. The mother is trying to keep alive an elusive hope by attending meetings of the Association of Parents of Disappeared People. The father (played by the iconic Iranian actor Reza Naji), a traffic cop, goes about his daily routine of tea with some bread, getting dressed in his uniform only to stand in the middle of a square and see the traffic go by. The younger brother Rafiq is the one that interests the director. The camera travels with him to the border where he, along with two comrades, are about to cross the line of civility into violence. But Rafiq is taken back by his father to their home, somewhere in Kashmir. Rafiq is a young man who is angry but unsure. He delivers newspapers, sleeps, plays football as an inert goalie, has fights, saves a man’s life, suffers the collateral damage of a bomb blast and also eyes a young girl of the neighbourhood, ostensibly to give her some photographs. All these episodes are interwoven through some beautiful and meaningful camera work. Each frame is punctuated with objects of repression, be it barbwires, guns or military check posts. The sound design reminds me of the many Iranian films that have used 360 degree sound as a prominent character of the film rather than letting it remain in the background.

The story unfolds and the film culminates in an impending tragedy. In the midst of all these happenings, Rafiq’s relationship with extremism is kept delightfully ambiguous, if only to ensure that the larger picture remains. And the larger picture is that of a lost hope for a beautiful people who were once free.

Sub scenes and sub plots make Harud politically relevant and artistically rich; almost like a new kind of cinema that demands critical appreciation.

Rafiq’s friends are a charm when they discuss who independent Kashmir’s biggest competition will be in football; it can’t be cricket crazy India, Pakistan is busy fighting and Afghanistan won’t be able to put together a team. China seems the only real threat.

The only real usefulness of Delhi seems to be that it is a centre for talent hunt shows.

The mobile revolution is a necessity to warn families and friends about a bomb blast here or a shoot out there. The journalist, reporting the euphoria of mobile connectivity in the valley, stumbles in her speech just enough to give the entire event the feel of a shenanigan.

I am ashamed of being a citizen of a state that demands obedience in the name of shallow development. We are like ostriches, hiding our faces in the sand, not seeing the obvious, and harping on false beliefs like India shining and world cup victories. A paradise of beautiful people is being torn to shreds daily while the army men adorn their dorms with crass posters of bollywood heroines. It is high time the seasons change, from long and dark winter to hopeful spring and finally to a free summer.

All Indians must see Harud. It is a masterfully made example of cinema that has the capacity to put its point across without being patronizing. It is great that PVR is releasing this throughout the nation but it would be heartening to see it reach the real people through national television. And for cinema’s sake, I hope Aamir Bashir does not stop with just one film.


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