For this month we watched a documentary film ‘Soz: A ballad of maladies’ directed by Tushar Madhav and Sarvanik Kaur. The screening was hosted at Bougainvillea art gallery. Around 20 guests came for the screening.
All those present were aware of the grim situation of Kashmir. The issues were well put by Jatin and other members. But we are often at a loss to sort the truth from lies, reality from propaganda, life and culture from politics. Lines become further blurred when looked through the lens of nationalism, patriotism, and loyalties. This is the theme that the film touches upon. It analyses recorded history against the lived history of Kashmiris, questions the conflict of the dominant culture of the ruler with the dominated culture of the masses. There are narratives of a poet-historian, a hip-hop artist, a rock band, a journalist, a cartoonist among others all of whose approach to activism and resistance is radically different from what is generally portrayed, but they are all united for social justice.
The key here is to read between the lines. In hip-hop content, for instance, Beethoven’s uplifting sonata is the background for the deeply disturbing reality of Kashmiri youth left with few choices other than militancy. Another detail that tends to get missed out or subconsciously glossed over is how the director gives space to the introspective voice that says let us not romanticise Kashmiriyat to the extent of fundamentalism and status quoism.
The seemingly dead-end debate of violence against Kashmiri pandits used as a pretext for revenge anywhere and everywhere – for this too the record is set right. Here, cultural loyalty is above personages, irrespective of religion. Hindus could be comrades, while Muslims could be traitors to the cause of ethnicity, called Kashimiriyat. Narrative constantly, in all forms, holds up the nonviolent dialogue as the only way ahead, as well as problematising it.
In all, the venue- art gallery was an apt venue for the spectacular film, where subject melted into the landscape. All of us went back with lots to think about and revisit our ideas about what popular media serves us.
Interestingly, Udaipur on the same evening hosted an international level music festival with artists from all over the world. The event was funded by mining conglomerates like Vedanta. UFS managing to pull even 20 odd people to watch a documentary film on the same date, that caters to masses and not to classes, raises consciousness rather than numbing them down is a positive sign for UFS to march on!
A word about the discussion on WhatsApp group of UFS deserves mention. I raised the concern that maybe we don’t need to do collective screenings because so much interesting stuff that challenges status quo is available to everybody at just a finger sweep. Evidently, watching something together, where responses snowball, consent or dissent gets manufactured much more strongly, all this and secondly, an expert view and suggestions (in this case, CoR) make a huge difference too.
A date for a screening of next month is tentative – second Sunday of March. A suggestion was made by Shubham, a member of our Udaipur team, for the next screening – Ship of Theasus. The final decision will be made after discussion.
Thanks are due to Megha and Rinku, UFS convenors who coordinated the screening, may they continue to do so! To Saurabh for suggesting the film, Nitesh, and Dharmu and others for provoking us, and Shailendra for being there! I can thank myself for thanking others!