Review of “Inshallah Kashmir: Living in Terror” – a 2012 documentary film by Ashvin Kumar

 

When I think about Kashmir I cannot but help think of this imagery of a child who is being pulled in all directions wanting to be claimed after a bitter divorce, and my heart goes out to this child which is Kashmir and ‘living in terror’.  What does this child want is not an easy answer and Ashvin Kumar has tried to delve into the heart of Kashmir to explore this question.

“On 21st August 2011 the Indian state made a historic announcement. The State Human Rights Commission admitted to 2156 unidentified bodies from 38 unmarked graves in Kashmir” this statement made in the beginning of the film by Ashvin Kumar who has written, directed and edited the film is one of the key concerns that the film revolves around, which questions the two decades of Militancy, living terror, and the irony of living in terror under the watch of a secular, democratic republic, India. An integral part of the film is about the atrocities of the law enforcers on the common man and the probe into the militant identity.

The film leads us into its narrative and the land of Kashmir with a point of view shot from the edge of a boat in the Dal lake along with the soundtrack of the Director and how he discovered this film. The shot is powerful and poetic and symbolizes the troubled waters of this beautiful land that we are about to enter. The film is largely interview based and it is the human stories that take the narrative forward including Ex Militants, a Kashmiri Pandit and the other voices of the common man in Kashmir, interspersed with views and comments by Omar Abdullah and government of India officials and experts. “Inshallah Kashmir” is culled from three hundred hours of rare footage shot in the conflict-zone of Kashmir while shooting “Inshallah, football”. This film reveals the scars of two decades of conflict through testimonies of over forty people whose families have been devastated by the conflict. In order to avoid censorship after his earlier films were banned/restrained from circulation Ashvin decided to bypass the Indian censor board and release “Inshallah Kashmir” online and free-of-charge on 26th of January 2012, India’s Republic Day.

The film as a whole develops a dialogue between the visual and the sound and the drama of real life is combined with poetic moments of pause and reflection. One such instance is the beginning of the chapter of ‘The Kashmiri Militant’. The meeting ground for the director’s first interview with a militant is a poetic imagery of dried burning leaves being swept in a football field in a village in Kashmir and the soundtrack draws us into the reflections of the director as he speaks on the militant identity “..the Kashmiri militant is not part of a single homogenized group. Differing motivations and ideologies are at play, at times working against each other…”

The film does try and make a sincere attempt at presenting a picture with varied shades and voices and has distinct chapters like ‘The Kashmiri Militant’ ‘The Kashmiri Pandit, the Hindus of Kashmir’, ‘Missing or Disappeared’, , Kids in Conflict’ etc.  Is the film the whole truth? But can one film ever attempt to be? I feel its value lies in the pertinent questions that it raises; it asks you to probe and involves you in the midst of the human turmoil that Kashmir is suffering.

An independent voice not controlled by the establishment is extremely precious and the least we can do as an audience is engage ourselves meaningfully in its narrative and begin our search for truth.

For those who are yet to watch the film and for those who would like to revisit the same here’s the complete film for you all-

12 thoughts on “Review of “Inshallah Kashmir: Living in Terror” – a 2012 documentary film by Ashvin Kumar

  1. I still have to watch the documentary, but got a glimpse of it from your article. Indeed we seldom give any thought about what the people of Kashmir actually want. We rather focus on the Kashmir issue with respect to the rivalry between India and Pakistan. Reading about this film reminded me of Joe Sacco’s graphic novel ‘Palestine’, where he spends a considerable time with the Palestinians both common people and militants and portrays their condition truthfully. Thank you for a nice and interest-evoking article once again 🙂

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    • Riddhiman, Thankyou so much for your ever supportive feedback and do see the film. Films and works of art help us open our eyes to the world at large, away from our limited personal four walls we live in. And thanks for your sharing your interesting observation about the graphic novel ‘Palestine’

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  2. Would have never got to know that such a docu was made…thanks for writing about it, one of the to-dos for the weekend.

    Read something about Kashmir on similar lines recently and realised I and maybe most of us who have little connect or stakes think of it more as an object and tend to miss that it is inhabited by people like us with far lesser control on their lives just because all of us want to settle its history and geograpghy..

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    • Venkat,Thanks for your feedback and so happy that I was instrumental in reaching out to you about an important issue in today’s times

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  3. Well… I just discovered this site and I must say that the content is quite enlightening… especially for a cineaste. I have bookmarked the site so that I can keep in touch with the latest on this site.

    Please do take some time to explore my film blogsite, A Potpourri of Vestiges:

    http://www.apotpourriofvestiges.com/

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    • Thanks a lot for the appreciation Murtuza. Do keep visiting often and do spread the word if you can.
      I had read some of your posts on your blog and they sure are well written and detailed, though I wasn’t as active as you in putting my feedback on the site.

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    • Great that you discovered the site Murtaza. Its the people who run the site that make it great, and the list will not be complete if I start naming individuals but Sethu, Ajay, Aditya, Rasik are the few who I personally know and are doing a great job. Will go through your blog soon. Thanks for reading my review.

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  4. Hey!Oorvazi Ashvin Kumar certainly is a sensible enough filmmaker & has shown a lot of courage in coming out strongly with back to back films on an important subject (Inshallah Football&Inshallah Kashmir).I remember watching Inshallah Kashmir with rapt attention when the film was first premiered online for just 24 hours. Your post surely makes me want to watch it again…..

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    • Sethu
      Yes Ashvin is a talented, courageous and I must add a young filmmaker who I am sure has much more to share in the coming years. It feels good to know my Review made a difference and it interested you to want to watch the film again. Thanks for your feedback.

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    • On Saturday 27th I saw the play ‘Lal Ded’ at Nehru Centre about the 14th cen mystic woman poet of Kashmir performed by Meeta Vasisht. A splendid experience with a master actor and some fantastic symbolic lighting to add to the drama of the soulful piece. I did not like the documentary after that though, it did not match the caliber of the play.

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  5. Pingback: Review of “Inshallah Kashmir: Living in Terror” a documentary by Ashvin Kumar | Film Education

  6. Many of us wake up in the morning, enjoy the morning sun with a cup of tea and start our day, clueless and ignorant about the other things happening in the world. Most of the times we take our peaceful and safe like for granted, sometimes even criticizing it, without realising there are people out there who would die for just one day of our life. Watching this documentary made me realize how lucky and blessed I am to be living a life, protected and away from life’s real terror. Growing up in a home that has always provided my needs, stood by me when I was down, protected me from all kinds of danger, I now realise how ignorant I was to think that everything is the same for everyone around. My view about Kashmir was that of a country with beautiful lakes and sunsets, majestic mountains, and wonderful people. Anyway that is how it is portrayed many times. We fail to see the real Kashmir…with its insurgency, conflicts, horror, and loss of human life. One day of problems in our life makes us go crazy, just imagine how life will be like for them who are constantly living in the palms of conflict. We fail to see the horrors inflicted on human by humans. Even if we did, many of us decide to ignore it since it’s “someone else’s life” and how often we forget we too are “someone” for somebody. Their voices are drowned by bullets, a child’s innocence and childhood are robbed, lives lost. The people who are meant to protect are the perpetrators. If this happens, who will take charge to protect? Whom do we trust? Isn’t this why militants are born? Every human has the right to live life the way they want, but end up with chains holding them back. How do we fight them? How do we make peace? If only people had the sense to think of ways to bring peace instead of competing with one other to see who’s better or try living together in harmony instead of trying to kill each other, how peaceful and wonderful life would be.

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