Wednesday 29 January 2020

No Fathers in Kashmir Film Review

Ashvin Kumar's No Fathers in Kashmir elegantly reminds of the power of film as it takes us on a journey through which the dark secrets and hidden realities of life in Indian Occupied Kashmir are explored. A film becomes the voice of an oppressed population at a time when the oppressor has cut them off from the world. The lockdown is happening right now but the suffering began decades ago. 

It is very rare in India for a filmmaker to work on a film that upsets the authorities. At a time when the biggest names of Bollywood line up to produce films unconditionally praising the nation, particularly its military, someone has rebelled against norms. Films in India present army men as noble and ready to sacrifice themselves fighting for just causes - selfless men who can do no wrong.

This is why a film like No Fathers in Kashmir goes against the tides. It's like the one son who grows up to question his father. Governments and armies have over the years justified illegal and unjust actions against innocent civilians by manipulating public opinion. Hitler made people believe that he was the one in the right and he did so through propaganda. Bollywood has for years been showing one side of the story when it comes to Kashmir and it's too obvious why this has been the case. Films that support the agenda have unlimited access to funding whereas a film like No Fathers in Kashmir not only scares investors but attracts legal battles as well as threats.

Ashvin could have given up the thought of making such a film and gone for a much safer option. Investors would shy away from his choice of subject. Industry giants would not want any association with a film that questions the brutality of the Indian forces. However, not only did he make the film - he relentlessly fought legal battles to get it released in India. Having followed his updates on social media, I witnessed Ashvin's abundance of will power and determination in getting his film released.

It's not a conventional Bollywood film. There are no movie stars playing lead roles. The protagonist is a teenage school girl who comes to Kashmir with questions surrounding her father's disappearance. Just like most people, she doesn't know the harsh realities of life in Indian Occupied Kashmir. A selfie obsessed, social media loving, young person discovers the problems faced by ordinary people; making the film perfect for youngsters who must be told the story of Kashmir. This is exactly the kind of awareness the issue needs. Young people are being bombarded with propaganda films and biased media reporting. The hero is normally an Indian soldier and the bad guys are Kashmiris who are presented as enemies of peace loving Indians. The reality is somewhat different - these so called bad guys have no choice but to fight back against oppression. True patriotism as shown by Ashvin is acknowledging and condemning the wrongdoing of authorities rather than denying and concealing.

Ashvin has done a great service to humanity. He has not only heard the screams of the helpless mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters and wives in Kashmir but he has become their voice. Nowadays the vast majority of films are made purely for entertainment and to fill the pockets of investors and producers. Rarely do we find a film taking on such an important role in society.

Indian authorities have locked down the people of Kashmir and without internet access, it is very difficult for those people to share their torment with the rest of the world. Ashvin has reminded the world that those Kashmiris who have suffered over the years should not be forgotten. There are some extremely powerful scenes in the film which expose the brutality of the Indian army and the helplessness of those they oppress in every way possible. One scene also highlights the hypocritical manner in which the Indian media covers Kashmir. It reminds us how and why so many are completely unaware of the truth.

Ashvin deserves more than just awards for No Fathers in Kashmir. He has demonstrated the power of film in highlighting and raising awareness of social injustices. A man has stepped forward out of a population of a billion and spoken the truth. It takes an immense amount of courage to do so. Ashvin has given hope to the people of Kashmir - at least there is someone in India who is willing to discuss their plight. He has set an example for others to follow. Most importantly, he has understood the Kashmir issue and portrayed it through his story and characters. People will now ask questions rather than blindly accepting the Indian Government's explanation. This is the kind of social change that film has the power to initiate.

Sameer Hussain
Dadyal Online 

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