“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Afshana pleads for some common sense. Public may or may not get it, but civil society surely needs to loosen up

(Ms. Syeda Afshana, 35, was born in Srinagar. She attended the Vishwa Bharti High School in Rainawari, Srinagar, and the Government Women’s College in Srinagar where she received a B.Sc. degree. She completed her Master’s degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 1999 and was the Gold Medallist (first position holder) in her graduating class. She is currently a Lecturer in the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the Kashmir University and pursuing her doctorate on the role of internet after 9/11.)

Bollywood, here and now

From Roja to Tahaan, Bollywood since last two decades has pictured Kashmir in strangely fuzzy colours. Though the movies about Kashmir purport to be conveying some ideas, the level of distortion is however enormous. That Bollywood is confused and irrational regarding Kashmir is more likely to be the cause of projecting the real and reel situation with varying arbitrariness. What might pass for an attempt at shaping the theme of Kashmir, especially its ‘romantic’ essence in spite of gory turbulence, comes over as nothing but neurotic obsession. Like any other media, the Indian cinema too has fallen into rhetorical and vaguely symbolic style of portraying Kashmir.

As a potent tool of propaganda, Bollywood has been overly dramatic and sensationalist. It has unleashed a kind of “Screen Terror” by showing grisly scenes, being too aggressive and often picturising imaginary as actual in Kashmir. The bloated sense of patriotism has beguiled even the best of Bollywood film-makers.

This is not the case with Bollywood alone. From Nazi propaganda director Leni Riefenstahl to American Michael Moore, cinema has subtly passed sham under the garb of art. Virtually, the famous Hollywood has always taken up where Pentagon failed. Through scores of movies, it institutionalized the banal binary of ‘us’ and ‘them’, making it difficult for the Americans to break away from the comfort zone of the circle of ‘reason’, particularly after 9/11. As constructed by Hollywood, this mindset framed the discourses of narcissist nationalism in America.

Bollywood is just meandering the way to establish and propagate the position of State. It is rapidly turning into a political minefield. As such, there are no gigantic and scandalous surprises in store from Bollywood. However, what was really astonishing was the manner in which certain quarters in Kashmir reacted to arrival of Lamhaa crew to shoot an objectionable story.

One fails to understand if the locale of valley is made inaccessible, can’t Lamhaa still go in making somewhere else. No big deal. As far as the logic of spreading depravity by shooting it here is concerned, Lamhaa will surely someday arrive in our drawing rooms, and we will watch it keenly. No second thought about it. For that matter, every recent box office hit of Bollywood sneaks in Kashmir like any other place. Wonder what then is the chasing of Lamhaa crew for?!

Without getting polemical, we should see the things as they are, sans perceptual or ideological blinkers, and try not to shy away from calling spade a spade. Of course, the moral state of affairs in Kashmir is not as favourable as it was some years ago. Things have changed, and so have the values. Monkey business is in vogue. There are multiple influences as well as forces working indiscernibly to rip off the moral fabric of society over here. Instead of chasing crews off or shutting our eyes down, there is a dire need to identify them, and prepare our minds to reject things which are unacceptable.

Where moral institutions are dead, mere sermons don’t work. Where homes are heartless, mere harnessing doesn’t suffice. Where parents are valueless, mere schooling won’t do. Where preachers are puzzled, mere congregations don’t rescue. When deeds and dealings are never ethical and principled, and religion is just a symbolic ritual, moral doom is inevitable.

Coercion has never worked. It may scare people. It may push them away, also. The impact is transient. What an idiot box transports to our homes is far dangerous than any drinking, dining and dancing film crew travelling to Kashmir. What a mischief miniature mobile brings is far fatal than Bollywood sleaze art.

We are referring to wrong people. We are addressing wrong symptoms. We are taking up non-issues. We must speak to ourselves; our own people; our own failings. Bollywood is here, it is to stay. We have welcomed this occupier. Its hideout is our home. It’s our old guest. Let’s accept this gracefully.

Rationality demands that we should shun getting reactionary every now and then, and keep away from adopting extreme viewpoints about issues or situations that are diametrically otherwise if looked at honestly. Moreover, the religion we claim to follow, too needs not be maligned by our fanatical sermonizing and posturing. If we cannot do any good for it, we have no right to bring bad name to it.

Kashmir cannot afford to be prickly, on every damn thing. We cannot afford controlling things which are uncontainable in the given scheme, and more importantly, which are quite trivial and frivolous in comparison to many critical crises confronting us. Moral panics have yet to strike us truthfully. We are yet to rise from deep slumber and pay attention to moral infernos engulfing us every sec.