Jashn-e-Azadi had an accelerated debut in Bangalore last week: six screenings over four days, criss-crossing the city in a range of settings. The spread was made possible by the enthusiastic collaboration of that exciting engine of documentary screening culture in the city: Pedestrian Pictures and Films for Freedom (FfF), Bangalore, with Alternative Legal Forum (ALF) and a host of academic institutions that hosted the screenings.
The public preview organised at the Centre for Film & Drama (CFD), Millers Road, was for the regular members of the FfF screenings, who watched the film in the compact (and elegant) space of the CFD, and then stayed on to participate in a substantial Q&A. Jashn-e-Azadi opened 3 days of FfF screenings under the rubric of “notions of the nation”, and was to be followed by AFSPA 1958, a harrowing film from Manipur about the impact of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, a draconian legislation which not coincidentally also applies in J&K. (In addition to the even more draconian Public Safety Act). On the last day there was to be a screening of A Season Outside, a meditation on nations, borders, and violence. The remarkable thing about the FfF screenings is that members actually pay a reasonable fee, and do turn up for the monthly screenings. Something to learn from.
The other public preview was set up by Pedestrian Pictures and ALF in the hall of the Institute of Agricultural Technologies, Queens Road: an open screening for a mixed group of academics, lawyers, civil liberties activists, journalists, and others. Despite the length of the film, and perhaps because of it, there was a lot to talk about after the screening, and both days the screenings took on the full range of political, historical, social (and even moral) issues that any discussion on Kashmir inevitably throws up. In a city that has become a global icon for the “new” India, the fact that Pedestrian (and FfF and ALF too) are actively involved in a range of progressive political activities made them ideal collaborators for a film that deals with what most Indians consider “contentious”: Kashmir. (And few of us would know that even as glass-and-chrome Bangalore blazes across the world as a symbol of Indian modernity, Karnataka is being engulfed with a new and virulent strand of right-wing Hindu communalism).
There were also well-attended college screenings at Carmel College (for undergraduate students of Mass Communication & Media); at Christ College (for students of Sociology); for post-graduate students at Convergence Institute of Media Management & IT Studies (Commits); and at the Institute of Social & Economic Change for a small audience of research scholars. In each of these different contexts there was animated discussion, and sometimes very simple and sometimes very complex questions. But the purpose of these screenings, which was to furrow the hard-baked surface of public opinion on Kashmir, was certainly well begun. (How hard baked we know, since one screening had to be called off at the eleventh hour because “such” screenings were seen to be fanning “anti-national” sentiment, and even without seeing the film it’s critics had decided it would hurt their sentiments. This in a post-graduate research institute of “national importance”!!)
Predictably for IT-haven Bangalore, and perhaps sparked off by the press coverage the events received (including these reports in the Deccan Herald and The Hindu) this blog has seen a huge spike of interest, and hits have grown exponentially during this weeks screenings. Although there are no comments as yet, we think people will come into this space soon …
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