Jashn-e-Azadi, Zakhm-e-Azadi

Jashn-e-Azadi, Zakhm-e-Azadi (Celebrating freedom, Wounded by freedom) is the title of a review of the film by Priyadarshan, the poet, writer and journalist. It was first carried by the Hindi newspaper Aaj Samaj, New Delhi 15 March 2008, and for those who can read Hindi, it’s also available on Priyadarshans’ lively blog bharosa.blogspot.com

We are making available here an (unauthorised!) translation of the review:

Jashn-e-Azadi, Zakhm-e-Azadi (Celebrating freedom, Wounded by freedom)

Looking at the young faces present in that little room in the Arts faculty of Delhi University, I was more anxious than pleased. Brought up on the glamour of Bombay cinema, of films like Chak de India and Taare zameen par, would these boys and girls be kept interested by Sanjay Kaks’ two and a quarter hour long documentary? A documentary that does not have a clear story line, no actors, and a complicated conclusion which fuses History and Geography in ways that seem always ready to slip out of one’s hands and mind?

But Jashn-e-Azadi began, and all my doubts were dispelled. On that mottled white wall, as images and sounds emerged, the wall itself disappeared, the room vanished, and despite the ambient light in that room, so did the faces of those who had gathered to see the film. What emerged slowly was the truth about the valley called Kashmir, where freedom is an illusionary word.

This is that tattered Kashmir, where amidst falling snow a father looks for his sons’ grave – once a commander with HM, the Hizbul Mujahideen, now dead. The father has come on Eid day so that he can read a benediction in his sons’ memory. In this Kashmir people count their dead as if they are remembering things lost. In this Kashmir a young girl is terrified by her own recounting of an event. In this Kashmir, family members look for a lost child, a photograph in their hands. In this Kashmir young girls carry the marks of terror in their hearts, and even in their dreams they see their dying fathers… In the midst of this, a sadhu mendicant who has come for the pilgrimage of the Amarnath Yatra warns anyone who even lifts an eye towards Kashmir, that he will gouge their eyes out.

No, this is not a film that plays with your emotions. Sanjay Kak has probably intentionally kept away from that easy path. All these images you have to search for – to try and figure out that what it is in this apparently calm film that leaves you so troubled. For it does not give us the luxury of being emotional just for an instant, and then be allowed to forget about it. In this search, when you look beyond a deserted Lal Chowk, where soldiers raise the Indian tricolor and sing the national anthem, or when you see a huge crowd raise slogans of azadi, freedom, its then that you see these faces. That’s when you can see that behind the silence–or clamour–of Kashmir is sadness, we see that tragedy where there are burnt homes, the marks of what looks like dried out blood, and futile attempts to wash out the fresh blood.

Sanjay Kak does not show us too much or tell us too much. Incidents and characters are allowed to speak. On a beautiful lake in Kashmir floats the voice of a poet–binding lost times and places with its lament and its pain. And around this pain there is also the boorish tourist gaze, for whom Kashmir is just some snow upon which they may slide, or a beautiful garden: the excited screams of these tourists inform us that this Kashmir is better than Switzerland. Other than the tourists, there are the Soldiers– running schools for orphans at one place, distributing portable radios at another, and promising that more nice things will follow, and for everyone…

At every step of the film this maze of contradictions seems to hold us back, and often we feel that this film should now get over. But the film is not done even after it is over. While it is clearly a political film, its lessons are still not those of an easy politics. All that one can see is that with 700,000 soldiers, Independence day still has to be celebrated in silence, and events with school children too need to happen behind impregnable security barriers. On the other hand, when the Army kills someone in a so-called “encounter”, the funeral procession for the dead boy turns into a rally for the azadi of Kashmir. It’s quite clear that anger against India’s hegemonic politics and militarised policies has survived all the oppression.

The film raises several important questions about history and the present. Sanjay Kak sees the struggle of the Kashmiris as linked to 500 years of servitude. This leads to a kind of unmediated simplification in which its not easy to understand the dilemmas that have arisen after 1947, as Kashmir has swung between India and Pakistan, both in its society and its politics. Secondly this film does not attempt to articulate the kashmiriyat that is spoken of so frequently. If it did, it would perhaps make it even clearer that identities do not have just one definition, they have many layers, and kashmiriyat too is constructed out of just such layers.

In any event, Sanjay Kak does not seem to be in a hurry to raise the questions or provide the answers. Nor is he trying to weave some sort of story out of all this. Instead, between the scrambled dates and places, he shows us a Kashmir where in twenty years 70,000 people have lost their lives, he takes us to those graveyards where people are recognized not by their names or faces, but by numbers. In the entire film, no Kashmiri Pandits are visible, and this is also represented by Sanjay as a sort of emptiness, towards which peoples’ attention must be drawn. Like a blank space in a painting, which still adds meaning to that picture. Perhaps it’s due to this distant neutrality that the film doesn’t have a specific beginning or end. It seems to go on– and even after it is over.

By the time the film ended in that room in Delhi University, the numbers of those gathered seem to have grown suddenly, and Sanjay was faced with a pile of questions. Questions that tried to understand the extremely complex reality of Kashmir, questions related to the politics and neutrality of the film. Amidst these questions it was clear that Jashn-e-Azadi was successful in its aims–it touches you from a distance, and without your knowing it, goes deep inside of you. That is its major achievement.

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Jashn-e-Azadi is available through various online outlets like amazon

You can now buy a DVD of the film, or Download it and watch
More than two years in the making, Jashn-e-azadi [How We Celebrate Freedom], is a feature length documentary by film-maker Sanjay Kak which explores the implications of the struggle for Azadi, for freedom, in the Kashmir valley.

Click here to watch the Trailer

As India celebrates the 60th anniversary of it's Independence, this provocative and quietly disturbing new film raises questions about freedom in Kashmir, and about the degrees of freedom in India.

And here is a short Interview with the film-maker.

This Jashn-e-Azadi blog is an open forum for conversations about the film, about Kashmir, and about Azadi itself.

For more information about screenings, sales and broadcast write to
jashneazadifilmATgmail.com

links

For dispatches from the present

Voices of protest can be found here or call you from here

Stone in my hand

In the season of solutions, the late Eqbal Ahmad's wise words have to be remembered

Kashmir blog has the best one line blog take on Kashmir - they call it paradise, I call it home.

Zarafshan is a Kashmiri blogger whose blog (and blogrolls) are "just ways of dispersing news, views and feelings!"

For a considered discussion on the vexed issue of Pandits in Kashmir see Kasheer. And for more on this Ephemeral Existence

And a discovery called Paradise Lost

RSS Kashmir via Greater Kashmir

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previews

Festival screenings

Thiruvananthapuram
May 26, 2008 / International Video Festival of Kerala
Munich
Apr 28, 2008 / Dok.Fest
Amsterdam
Feb 10, 2008 / Himalaya Film Festival
Amsterdam
Nov 28, 2007 / International Documentary Festival
Kathmandu
Oct 12, 2007 / Film South Asia
Delhi
July 22, 2007 / Osian’s Cinefan film festival

Previous Previews

London
7 Dec 2007 / School of Oriental & African Studies & Sacred Media Cow
Leeds
6 Dec 2007 / Workshop Theatre, School of English, University of Leeds
Egham, Surrey
3 Dec 2007 / Royal Holloway, University of London
New Delhi
26 Nov 2007 / Russian Centre of Science & Culture & Magic Lantern Foundation

New Jersey
Oct 5, 2007 / College of New Jersey
New York City
Oct 4, 2007 / Columbia School of Journalism
Austin
Oct 2, 2007 / University of Texas
Philadelphia
Sep 28, 2007 / Temple University
Philadelphia
Sep 27, 2007 / University of Pennsylvania
New York State
Sep 26, 2007 / Vassar College
New York City
Sep 25, 2007 / New School for Social Research
Boston
Sep 23, 2007 @ MIT
Toronto
Sep 22, 2007 / SALDA
Toronto
Sep 21, 2007 / University of Toronto
New Haven
Sep 20, 2007 / Yale University
Minneapolis
Sep 18, 2007 / University of Minnesota

Hyderabad
Aug 10, 2007 / Pure Docs, Prasad Preview, Banjara Hills

interrupted previews!! [[ MUMBAI ...
July 27, 2007 (Fri)
Vikalp: Films for Freedom @ Bhupesh Gupta Bhawan, 85 Sayani Road, Prabhadevi
July 30, 2007 (Mon)
Vikalp: Films for Freedom @ Prithvi House, Juhu...]]

Bangalore
July 14, 2007 / Institute of Agrl. Technologies, Queens Road
Bangalore
July 13, 2007 / Centre for Film & Drama, Millers Road
Nashik
June 13, 2007, Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar Hall
Pune
June 12, 2007, National Film Archive of India Auditorium
Guwahati
May 29, 2007, Blue Moon Hotel
Shillong
May 26, 2007, Assam Club, Laban
Patna
May 12, 2007, Hindi Bhavan Hall
Srinagar
March 31, 2007, Tagore Hall
New Delhi
March 23, 2007, Sarai-CSDS
New Delhi
March 13, 2007, India Habitat Center

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