Monday, July 23, 2007

How We Celebrate Freedom

I watched the compelling documentary Jashn-e-Azadi [How We Celebrate Freedom] at the Osian Cine festival in New Delhi. The film is a powerful narrative about the last 18 years of Kashmir’s low intensity conflict – a glade of earth where the Indian elite once used to honeymoon en masse. With his intrepid style, Sanjay Kak seems to have stepped onto an uncomfortable territory. I think the film's chutzpah sets it apart. It subtly dissects the desolation and travails of a struggle, which is construed as sacred and star-crossed at the same time.

On a much personal level I could almost immediately identify with poignancy of the effort. Being a Kashmiri, it felt like an emotive roller coaster. The images came rushing back to me as I saw horrors -- known and unknown -- unfold on the screen, sitting alongside an elite audience at Delhi’s Siri Fort. It is kinda tough but there has been an emotional bitterness about this war era – which a non-Kashmiri may find hard to fathom. I don’t know what went wrong and where but that is precisely what the film is trying to convey. Sanjay has stitched related narratives and crocheted them together by the theme -- Azadi or Freedom.

The elusive Azadi! I have been in Kashmir during those difficult militancy years. I vividly recount the dreary nights. The gunshots. The screams. It was a pain with no end. Of watching parents with hapless eyes. Their children being dragged out of homes and killed in cold blood. The persecution. The wickedness of it all. And the quitetude. Jashn-e-Azadi rips open these closeted taboos. It attempts to zoom in on tears that routinely get consigned to dust of the dell. It follows the steps of a father, who visits the Martyr’s graveyard in Srinagar – only to forget his son’s grave.

Kak’s oeuvre is varicolored. His ritornelle leaves you touched. He is effortless in his coalescing of numerous fragments of the war in Kashmir – psychological scars, bruised souls, a poet's lament, the clowns’ hamming, dissident's spiel and the army's truculence. Sanjay talks to the miscellaneous Kashmiri. It must be hard being a sister and losing a brother in the bloody conflict and telling a film crew about how he died after all those years. In her limited vocabulary. Trying to seek a shy solace after years of anguish.

The film gives you no breather. The motif flickers swiftly. An old man tallying those killed in his village explains the sombre truth of Emperor Jehangir's Firdaus. A tourist’s cheer in the meadows of Gulmarg only adds to the idiom. As the poet Zarif croons in one of the film’s many frames:

I’ve lost the city of love I’d found,
What frenzy is this
My gaze has been silenced
What frenzy is this?

Jashn-e-Azadi is coming of age of independent documentary film making in India. Sanjay Kak is so much more real than the jingoistic crap that India's free media passes for. He showcases the innocence that incidentally got stolen in a little paradise, once wintry night in 1989.

And is still missing!

July 2007, New Delhi


Amit Zutshi said...

I was at Osain but I missed out on Sanjay Kak's movie. Going by your reveiws the movie sounds great. I've heard positive views about it.

Nice write up, sameer

Amit, 32

Dr AK Jha said...

I hope the film is screened in Ranchi. Are the DVDs of this docu available.

I enjoyed reading your take on the film.


Dr AK Jha

Shreya said...

hey sameer,

I hav watched the movie at its IHC screening earlier this year. Although I cant write a powerful review like you have here, I must admit that the film appealed to me at many levels.

It is indeed a commendable effort on Sanjay's part. However it is unfortunate that many Kashmiri Pandit's have taken offence at one of their own willing to stand up for truth.


anjali said...


you are urself part of the FREE JINGIOSTIC INDIAN MEDIA. you know how it works. Who we write for/target and how TRPs decide what we say.


Suresh K Raina said...


I have read about the documentary by Sanjay Kak. I'm looking forward to its Mumbai screening. Being a displaced KP (Kashmiri Pandit) I feel cheated that he has completely bypassed the plight of hindus who had to migrate from Kashmir in the early 90's. While I appreciate his efforts and your exceedingly well written review I think we have all (since all of us are Kashmiris) lost out on the Kashmiriyat, we could once boast of.

Warm Regards
Suresh K Raina
MD, Navi Mumbai

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog. Great post

PL Tikoo, Delhi said...

May I begin with disagreeing with you on two points:

a)in his documentary Mr Kak does not talk to a single pro-Indian leader while he talks to atleast two top anti-India leaders.
b)he leaves out the mental trauma faced by KPs in camps while he highlights the same as far as KM's (kashmiri muslims) are concerned.

PL Tikoo

Samir Bhat said...

Blogger speak:

I think it is a very fair question: Leaving out the KPs.

Sanjay made it clear in a discussion after the movie, when a female member of the audience asked a similar question. The director explained that the very fact that KPs are not part of the docu (tho there are scenes of their abandoned homes, temples and also a poem by a KP poet)
is the reality of present day Kashmir. There are NO pandits. The valley is deviod of its minority. It is like a gaping hole in the fabric of Kashmir and Kashmiriyat. The hollowness hangs in the air. The docu realistically features that.

Ergo, the first questions: Why are the KPs left out.


Qazi Sajad said...


We didn't get a chance to watch the film but going by your write-up and some search on google it appears that finally someone has cared to speak the truth.

Great post

Qazi Sajad,

arvind said...

Thats a very interesting debate, i think and very pertinent too.


Juane, Nasik said...

hey Jashne azadi has generated a lot of buzz. I havnt seen the film but am itching to.

nice post btw

Juane, Nasik

Firdous Ganaie said...

Hey Sami
your well articulated review of the documentary has changed my suturday evening schedule. i will try to share it after watching it.

keep smiling Buddy

Firdous Ganaie

Tale Harate said...

Wow, I am simply stunned by your response to the question as to why Kashmir Pandits were left out, without a voice in this movie.
Mahatma Gandhi was killed after the Indian Independence, but, he is remembered to this day as the architect of Indian Independence. Just because the Kashmir Pandits were terrorized into leaving their homeland and live a life of squalor and desperation in refugee camps, you can actually make a movie about the ROOT CAUSE of this terrorism, without showing WHY the problem started? Amazing thuggery, and amazing self deception. Amazing hypocrisy, and I must really appreciate your way with the words, so glib and so ...hypocritic.