Jashn-e-Azadi had a very good screening in Pune on June 12th, at the beautiful auditorium of the National Film Archives of India: large screen projection, excellent sound, technically a delight. The screening was part of the Film & Television Institute of India’s (FTII) annual Film Appreciation Course, so we had an audience of those attending the FA course, as well as the Punekars who regularly show up for the NFAI screenings. (The FA course at FTII is a unique institution, held every year for almost 35 years, and has without doubt helped hone a generation of serious film buffs in India. Probably in acknowledgement of the growing vitality of documentary film production in India, the FA course has recently begun to screen documentaries, and invite documentary film-makers to share their work at the course. This year there were at least four, perhaps a good sign for the documentary film?)
Predictably, there were more questions about the form of the film than Jashn-e- Azadi has met at previous previews. About the way the sound-track is structured, about the process of “scripting” such a film, and so on. But reassuringly, Kashmir, and the questions that the film raises about what is happening there, dominated the Q&A session that followed. There was, of course, the by-now mandatory query if the film was “anti-national” and why “the unsung heroes” of Kashmir (the Indian Army, it seems) had not been given adequate credit. But increasingly these questions seem to be raised in reflex, and quite weakly, as if they must be placed on the record. For the rest, audiences here too seemed to be able to take on the bigger political questions that Kashmir raises, and are able to think about it with a lack of prejudice that our mass-media in particular seem to have difficulty with.