Muhammad Junaid | blue kashmir | Thursday, March 15, 2007

At one point, while responding to a question after the film, Sanjay Kak had the courage to say that ‘Kashmir is an ambiguous place’. The film makes this one point: Let’s atleast be certain about one fact, and that is: things are uncertain. The film is not a crusade; there is no agenda. It is not attempting to impose meaning on what does not lend itself to such imposition.

The film is about unsettling the received wisdom. Multi-layered, polyphonic, criss-crossing narratives are woven eclectically, and pulled together by the theme “Azadi”. And Azadi can mean anything. It can mean a woman seeking revenge of her husband’s murder; a child’s innocent slogan which finds a rapturous response from the crowd; the last failing words of a dying college-going boy brutalised by soldiers; a veteran’s prayer to “Ishwar, Allah, Baghwan” asking metaphysical powers in his sigh so that it can take on any powerful military. It can also mean a disappointed poet’s dream of a glorious return to his home; or another poet’s desire to end the frenzy that has blurred his vision. It can mean Independence.

Frames merge; so do the different aspirations and dreams. Azadi comes alive in the tearful eyes of a mother seeking blessings at a Sufi shrine; the playful Baands bringing a rare smile to long-stricken faces; or a commuter asked to stop for identity check, who throws his Identity papers down casually; thousands of people shouting in unison: “We want? Freedom”. A freedom staring down the barrel of the enemy’s gun.

We discover a uniformed criminality which, in common parlance passes of as the security forces. Convoys of army vehicles, loaded to the brim with always-restless always-on-the-move alien soldiers fighting a war against no one. A war with no end; therefore, a war to the end.

The stifled vision of Kashmiris. Behind barbed wires we get glimpses of the distraught faces of children, who do not quite understand if all Army wanted to give them was a vocational training why were they orphaned. We see young boys forced to strip and then slapped across their faces. Stories of rapine and arson narrated by sufferers with a limited vocabulary that do not quite represent the horridness of the actual experiences.

An irony. Jashn-e-Azadi. How We Celebrate Freedom. A place where the last traces of freedom have been crushed underfoot by an arrogant occupier, how do people celebrate freedom? Jashn-e-Azadi! How We Celebrate Freedom? Muted Kashmiris handed radios by a bearded soldier. (Apparently, a Muslim.) ‘Listen to what is happening in the world’. Speak not. Treacherous occupier. A glib psychologist counsels an elite audience out of the ‘Resistance to the Occupation Syndrome’. Yet, another psychologist helps poor people rebuild their lives; lives eaten away by the Post-Trauma Stress Disorder. The Baands, too, bless their oppressive rulers in the end. What frenzy is this!

The film-maker has people blaming him in Delhi for not talking about the plight of Pandits in detail. In Srinagar, he will have people accusing him for not depicting the miseries of Kashmiri Muslims enough. But the film, unlike the old man, in Kupwara, whose fate it is to keep counting the dead in the war, is not about numbers. It is about alternative, if broken, stories; stories of people on the street and in the fields. It is about a resistance, lived. It is about uncomfortable memories that come in the way of the occupier’s history.

Jashn-e-Azadi is not the conclusive account, but it opens a thousand and one different ways of looking at Kashmir. Cheers!


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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