Archive for the 'message' Category

Screening news: London-Bangalore

Almost missed posting these two valuable accounts of end of the year screenings of Jashn-e-Azadi. They are particularly important because of the different ways they suggest for ‘using’ documentary films to spark off a conversation.

London – SOAS/ASAR: November 9, 2010
We took about a month to organize the screening of Jashn-e-Azadi at SOAS, University of London. Sanjay could not be in London, and being a student group, we did not have enough money to fly him in, so skype was chosen (something that should be tried more often with massive funding cuts in the U.K. nowadays). The screening + discussion with Sanjay was to be held at the Khalili Lecture Theatre from 2 to 6pm on the 9th of November. We were all part of the group ASAR which is Academics and Students against Repression. It was launched last year by a group of like-minded students and teachers who were keeping a close eye on the events unfolding in India – particularly moments of conflict where the Indian state was culpable of being hands-in-glove with big corporations or of securing its ‘territorial integrity’ at enormous human costs – and were trying to work out what are the best possible interventions we could make from here in London. The group was made up of both more itinerant students but also academics who are more or less permanently based in London. We partnered with CISD (Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy) at SOAS for organizing the screening.

Seeing what had happened over the last four months in Kashmir was a cause of massive concern for all of us. What was extremely frustrating was the narrowing of the very debate which the several outlets in the Indian national media were conducting on their television channels and print publications, a debate caught between the extremes of the nationalist ‘Kashmir is an integral part of India’ approach, on the one hand, and a very simple understanding of the demand for ‘azadi’ (‘freedom’) from Kashmiris, on the other. Sanjay’s film was refreshing because, it becomes clear as it unspools, it had different terms of debate altogether, and what we thought was the most important part of the work, its ability to listen to those whom this whole ‘conflict’ affects the most and is about – the ordinary people in Kashmir.

The fact that it was the Reading Week in the University of London the week of the screening, and that the London weather predictably played up its game with heavy pours, meant that the audience number was not what we expected. At its peak, there were about 40 people who came for the screening. The dvd offered some of its own difficulties and got stuck twice. But the SOAS tech staff was quite helpful and people got to see the whole film despite the hiccups. What was the strongest part of the event though was the discussion itself, uninterrupted by technical hassles and with Sanjay, being telecast probably from his private study, answering at length the questions that the audience asked. The discussion lasted a good solid hour and involved several entry points into ‘the Kashmir question’. There were questions about the craft of the film and its use of the ‘sentiment’ and poetry as something that propels the whole film and how that relates to hard ‘politics’ and to what effect. There were questions about the meaning of ‘azadi’ in Kashmir in the light of recent events, including the stone-protests, and the relation, if any, of this idea of ‘azadi’ to overtly religious feeling. Sanjay recounted the two meetings, in Delhi and in Srinagar, that discussed these many meanings and were a cause of the ‘sedition’ controversy that the national media churned out, implicating writers and thinkers. Questions were asked by both bachelors students and veteran civil rights activists based in London. One of the outcomes of the debate was that it became amply clear that Kashmiris and those with them, now more than ever, have to continue having strong internal debates about ‘azadi’ and have to constantly stage this complex argument of ‘azadi’, taking into consideration their own minorities, and their ‘fight’ is to be fought on the basis of what is there to offer as a post-independence vision as well as a means to redress the present and long-standing military excesses of the Indian state.

(reported by Akhil Katyal)

Bangalore – IISc: November 29, 2010
An impressive crowd of around 90 people gathered in a physics lecture hall on the campus of the Indian Institute of Science to attend a screenin of Jashn-e-Azadi. The audience, coming both from communities in and off the campus, sat attentively through the first disc of the movie, and opted through a democratic audience decision (via a show of hands) to watch the second disc of the movie rather than just discuss the first half of the movie. By the time the movie ended, it was around 9 pm – yet a thick group gathered in the center of the hall to discuss the issues of Kashmiri azadi and self determination. This discussion involved the usual individual asking questions which the 10 or so Kashmiris present answered, about the state of life in Kashmir, the omnipresence of armed forces, the routine yet serious harrassment that all Kashmiris undergo, and the views of people in and around the Kashmir valley. The narratives of the Kashmiris present in the room were very powerful and this moved most of the audience that had stayed for the discussion. The discussion was informal, it was emotional, and it was very productive. Around 35 people signed up to participate in a campaign to support Kashmiri self determination.

(reported by Kaveri Rajaraman)


blogchoice: stone in my hand & other new media stuff

blogmistri loves stone in my hand song by everlast and various kashmiri diy video versions of it. blogmistri also recommends  this song by a kashmiri rapper called (whatelse) McKash –  I Protest (A Remembrence)

another one

the iranian version of the stone

and finally the original

also look at this wikipedia entry

and this website calls you

and collage of images used as profile picture of many facebookers, twitterati from kashmir

[blog update – audio 1]

Now you can listen to some of the audio from the film.
slogans of azadi   If you want to read a translation of these slogans (and hear some more) click here.
You can also sample some of the poetry with Zarif Ahmed ‘Zarif’ and Piarey ‘Hatash’ reading their poems

[ blog flash 7 – guwahati surreal ]


if the surreal is the criterion, guwahati would be memorable. Bar of Hotel Blue Moon converted into screening chamber. The screen which was showing music videos had Kashmir replace them. But that was it- a surreal location with not much publicity resulting in a small crowd and tepid discussion. It was sad because, guwahati has a very astute political culture and a whole conflict resolution industry in overdrive with peace talks between United Liberation Front of Axom and India going through the usual process of – non talk, army punctuation, mysterious bomb blasts. Sad, real sad this non screening. Guwahati, we will be back.

[ blog flash 6 – shillong ]

blogmistri will be biased- he is from shillong.

the mysterious screening journey of the film continues. technically, the first preview of the film should have been at Gorakhpur, but hindu right intervened in the city with their favourite festival- riot and to our unhappiness-delhiwallahs got the first official taste of the film not the gorakhpuris. then the film travelled to Srinagar’s truly inspirational screening followed by an exciting and very political screening at Patna– and then Shillong on saturday, 26th May 2007, 3pm.

Shillong- capital of Meghalaya-56 kms north of Cherrapunjee (wettest place on earth) is known more for its hill station charm than its cultural/political life. as in all places cursed with the discourse of tourism – Shillongites struggle between the cunning despair of tourist guide and the banal excitements of everyday life. alt-space of the freedom project which hosted the film, is one of those groups which in a very small town way has been trying to create critical/dissenting spaces through films, music, conversations, politics, etc. They were thrown out of the small place they had been functioning from, and thus had hired the 108 year old Assam Club, opposite the old Presbyterian Church in Laban,with wooden floors and colonial charm for the screening.


Apart from the fact that we had a full house (around 130 people), thanks to Julius Basaiawmoit – an SRFTII graduate- great sound too. For the first time outside the studio setting, we could enjoy the elaborate sound design of Madhu Apsara.

Although Shillong screening was blogmistri/editor’s way of telling his town folk his reason for his regular vanishing acts to Delhi, people chose to read deep political significance in the choice of location. Their reading was to do with the usual discomfort which the societies of ‘North east’ India feel with the idea/geography of India. Historically most of the states/communities which reside here, have one time or the other challenged the territorial integrity of India. It was not that we were not aware of this connection, but we wanted to go beyond the facile similarity into the specificities of various different nationality movements. The profile of the audience was mixed- students, activists, relatives, academics… the usual. Questions- pandits, violence, islamicism, form, etc. One thing which is becoming quite exciting for us is the reaction of the ‘progressive/secular/liberal’ crowd to the religious tonality of the Azadi Movement in Kashmir. From an initial discomfort- the conversation moves on to the false dichotomies between religion/secular which the liberal discourse draws out.

Some of the reactions which we would classify as NGO/Conflict resolution industry type which blights any place where movements challenging the idea of India exists, is best exemplified by this piece which appeared in the North East Telegraph two days after the Shillong screening . Reactions of this type try to dehistoricise and reduce any struggle to a ‘conflict’ and attempts to manage and control the ‘conflict’ on behalf of the state. So the usual questions about the Peace Process, Human cost of the conflict etc.

But then an engagement which made the screening come alive for us was this short poem by Robin S Ngangom, sent to us via sms few hours after the screening.

[ blog redesign 1 ]

  • blogmistri’s long pending re-working of the site has begun. he has been consolidating the newspaper reviews on the site itself, as many links have gone cold and even the google cache has failed to retrieve those lost words… so bear with us, all the reviews are now linked on this page and interviews on this page. obviously, you can go directly to the review page from the menubar on top, or the sidebar on the right.
  • and those curious souls who wanted to sample all the comments, debates, acrimony, vitriol etc. have patience with this shillong based blogmistri, who has a bad internet connection, and cooking for the family to take care of…

[ blog flash 4 – blogosphere ]

blog mistri <> writes

After being without a net connection for a few days–unseasonal rain and storm in Shillong–I am trawling the net, and encounter a curious controversy.

Mr. Inam Ul Rehman, who reviewed the film for Greater Kashmir, also posted the review on ‘Meri’ News, a news portal purportedly providing a platform for unfiltered citizen’s journalism. The censors at the portal managed to not only mangle the review but also preface it with an introduction which turned the meaning of Mr. Rehman’s review upside down! Mr. Rehman, one of ‘Meri’ News’s top Citizen Journalists of 2006, is naturally angry, but his anger remains unacknowledged by the portal and his review continues to be defaced.

So you would be comforted to know that our blog is not the only one attracting slanderous, threatening, $#%^* comments. It seems to me that anyone who tries to swim against the Indian nationalist consensus on Kashmir cannot escape $#%^*.

An instructive episode that allows us a peep into the Indian media’s Kashmir strategy:
compare the original review in Greater Kashmir below, with the Meri News version which follows. Especially instructive is the introduction which the site editors tagged to the review, and adjectives like “jehadis” which they interpolated into Inam ul Rehman’s writing.

Jashn-e-Azadi: We the slaves | Inam ul Rehman | Greater Kashmir | April 5, 2007

On 15th August Indian army unfurls the tricolour at historic Lal-chowk to celebrate their Independence Day and on this occasion only two things are visible on the streets of Srinagar: Indian army and stray dogs, this is the most telling scene of Jashne-e-Azadi directed by Sanjay Kak. Jashne-e-Azadi made by the son of the soil Sanjay Kak left me numb. Here is film which mocks at the India’s sham democracy in Kashmir without sermonise or patronising anyone. There is no linear narration. And he has defined Azadi not by himself but by the concerned people. It can range from metaphysical fight to revenge. He has brilliantly assembled collage of scenes and let people speak themselves. And in between-you blink and you miss the scene: has first time ever highlighted that the death toll of Kashmir Pandits killed is 200 only. Then, the symbolism, metaphors and similes used by the director are very telling. The documentary moves to and fro again and again. And in the prevailing confusion one thing that is unanimous throughout the film despite chaos and confusion people lounge for Azadi.

It may jar the pristine filmmakers but this is not made for them. One can find thousand faults with the film and it may be criticised for not ‘balancing’ but does TRUTH need to be balanced. Yes there is no mention of Kunanposh Pora gang-rapes by the army. Yes he is silent of Gawkadal and Bijbehra massacres and other such details. But let us give him a benefit of doubt. Because Sanjay talks of those actions where media (read Hindu media) was involved yet nothing came to limelight. He deserves more than bouquets and patting on the back.

He has also shown that intellectualism is not only about writing articles, delivering lectures, attending world conferences but visual intellectualism can be most telling—without sermonising, without boring and without catering to few intelligentsia classes; visual intellectualism is today the most potent weapon to defeat the forces of evil.

I am the one who is guilty of relishing Indian movies, enjoying songs, loving its actors when the same country has sent my one hundred thousand brethrens in graves. Jashne-e-Azadi reminds of Paul Valery who in ‘History and Politics’ writes: history is the most dangerous product evolved from the chemistry of the intellect. Its properties are well known. It causes dreams; it intoxicates whole people; gives false memories; quickens their reflexes; keeps their old wounds open; torments them in their repose; leads them into delusions, either of grandeur or persecution; and makes nations bitter, arrogant, insufferable and vain.

We have the knack of dismissing brilliant works; “we already know it”! There is nothing which we haven’t seen, nothing which we haven’t gone through, nothing which we haven’t experienced but there is everything which we have forgotten. It’s a film which must be watched by every Kashmiri. I cannot express the gratitude, but to say, I salute you Sanjay Kak for deifying odds. Your film reminded me slavery, the sacrifices, the sufferings of mothers and sisters! Prune it a little and sent it to every nook and corner of the Kashmir so that we can once again reinvigorate our sapping spirits. And yes it must be talked and circulated to other parts of India as well.

Placed below is its mangled version, with the interpolations marked in bold, as it appeared on ‘Meri’ News

Jashne-e-Azadi: The untold tragedy | Inam Ul Rehman | 07 April 2007, Saturday

Sanjay Kak’s Jashne-e-Azadi visually captures the fright and terror that reigns the bloodstained Valley. It’s a tragic collage that conveys how Azadi-driven jehadis have ruined the paradise.

ON MARCH 31, Sanjay Kak screened the much-awaited film, Jashne-e-Azadi, in Tagore Hall, Srinagar. The film, despite obvious flaws, is a treat in visual intellectualism and poignantly brings out the Kashmiri pain and pathos. It’s a film that will leave you numb. The deserted streets, dotted only by troops and stray dogs on the most revered national day, August 15, metaphorically drives home how much devastation has the Pak-imported concept of Azadi wreaked in the paradise. In Kak’s realism comes out the neighbour’s nefariousness and the title, Jashne-e-Azadi, acquires a different, ironical ring. It’s anything but jashne (celebration), anything but azadi (freedom) in defiled Kashmir.

The strong point of the movie is that it says it all without explicitly sermonizing or wailing over the wrongs in Kashmir. There is no linear narration. The film itself doesn’t attempt to give Azadi any sense but instead allows the grim situations to bring out the sham sense of Azadi among the Kashmiris.

The film’s raw energy flows the ground situations that range from metaphysical fight to venedetta to jehadi terror to revenge. He has brilliantly assembled collage of scenes that capture people’s torment. The director uses symbolism, metaphors and similes to elucidate the Kashmir tragedy.

The documentary moves to and fro in time again and again. But it keeps coming back from reels of chaos and confusion to the central theme or the fountainhead of the people problems — Azadi. It may jar the pristine filmmakers, but this is not made for them. One can find a thousand faults with the film and it may be criticized for not balancing the theme, but does reality need to be balanced. It only depicts reality. The interpretation is left to the audience.

Kak has also shown that intellectualism is not only about writing articles, delivering lectures or attending world conferences. Visual intellectualism can be most telling — without sermonizing, without boring and without catering to few intelligentsia classes. How potent can visual intellectualism be this film stands out as an example.

Jashne-e-Azadi reminds me of Paul Valery who in History and Politics writes: “History is the most dangerous product evolved from the chemistry of the intellect. Its properties are well known. It causes dreams; it intoxicates whole people; gives false memories; quickens their reflexes; keeps their old wounds open; torments them in their repose; leads them into delusions, either of grandeur or persecution; and makes nations bitter, arrogant, insufferable and vain.”

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


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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Festival screenings

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

Previous Previews

7 Dec 2007 / School of Oriental & African Studies & Sacred Media Cow
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
Oct 2, 2007 / University of Texas
Sep 28, 2007 / Temple University
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
Sep 23, 2007 @ MIT
Sep 22, 2007 / SALDA
Sep 21, 2007 / University of Toronto
New Haven
Sep 20, 2007 / Yale University
Sep 18, 2007 / University of Minnesota

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...]]

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



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