Kashmiri actor-turned-director, Aamir Bashir was born and raised in Kashmir. He says Kahsmiris have been let down by bollywood. A graduate from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, his father was Chief Justice of Jammu High Court. Harud (autumn in Kashmiri), set in Kashmir, is his debut film as director and the film itself speaks volumes about Kashmir and his talent of filmmaking. He has dedicated the film to his maternal uncle Shamim Ahmed Shamim, who was a Member of Parliament. In this interview to The Kashmir Walla Editor, Fahad Shah, he says his next project is Winter, which is again set in Kashmir.
How did the idea of Harud come?
The idea came about in 2003 during the introduction of mobile telephony in Jammu and Kashmir. Initially, I found the enthusiasm for these toy/gadgets a bit crass. But it became clear that the desperation to own the device arose from a deep sense of insecurity. To be able to get in touch with one’s family and loved ones if one got caught in an incident on the streets was essential for the peace of mind. But then the film became more about this state of mind rather than the introduction of mobiles.
Harud is a first of its kind film on Kashmir. What were you aiming at in the film?
Our aim was to tell a genuine Kashmiri story and because it was a fiction feature, we wanted a narrative style that was far removed from mainstream Indian cinema. In that sense it was an act of cinematic resistance. The fact that we were able to make the film we wanted to make remains our biggest achievement.
How was the shooting phase? Was it difficult, looking at the situation of Kashmir?
Kashmir is a difficult place to live in, so obviously it was going to be difficult to shoot there. The fact that not many people knew that I myself am from Kashmir was a mixed blessing. On the one hand we could keep a low profile but then the people also looked at us suspiciously, as outsiders who were trying to tell their story. And because they have been let down by Bollywood filmmakers, they were right in being suspicious. But then who hasn’t been let down by Bollywood.
There are a few documentaries on Kashmir, a few by young Kashmiris. Harud is a fiction film. Does fiction cover larger audience?
Fiction does cover a wider audience simply because we don’t have theatrical release for docs or even on television in this part of the world. Plus because documentaries deal with facts directly makes them more problematic for the establishment/authorities.
Do you see Kashmir as a subject of film only or being a Kashmiri, it was your way of expressing yourself as a Kashmiri?
I see it as a subject for my films because it is the story I know and in my opinion carries far more weight and substance than the regular masala stuff. Strangely I feel privileged that I have far more meaningful stories to tell. It’s ironical.
How do you see the ongoing situation of Kashmir?
The discontent, disillusionment and alienation prevalent in Kashmir is evident to us natives. In my opinion it has reached a point of no return. It’s an uphill task to take the Kashmiri narrative to the outside world which gets drowned out by the clamour in India and Pakistan.
How has been the response so far as it has been screened at different places?
The response across the world has been the same. The audience comes out battered, even those who know very little about Kashmir. That’s what we intended. We were not trying to entertain or educate them but to make them feel what an average Kashmiri has been through in the last two decades.
Is there any screening in Kashmir or you plan to do?
Unfortunately there isn’t any film projection possible in Kashmir at present. But we do hope to bring out a DVD soon. I would like to add that all those who are waiting to download the film from the internet for free in Kashmir should be sensitive about the fact that this film has cost us a lot of effort and money. Most of us have dedicated 3-4 years of our lives to this project. We are getting a limited theatrical release and the box-office returns will not be enough to break even. So I would request the people in Kashmir and Kashmiris worldwide to buy the DVD to support us, so that we can continue making films.
What after Harud now? Any other script you are working on?
I am working on my next script Winter which is again set in Kashmir. But at the moment we have no idea where the finances are going to come from.