This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Abhishek Jha. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Filmmakers Explain Why Art In Kashmir Is Inseparable From Resistance

More from Abhishek Jha

By Abhishek Jha:

Editor’s Note:
As part of our coverage of PSBT’s Open Frame Film Festival And Forum 2016 that is going on in Delhi (13th – 20th September), Youth Ki Awaaz will be featuring reviews of films and interviews with directors. This year’s theme is “Reflections and Ruminations”.

Soz, Rekhta.org explains, can qualify a noun as ‘inflaming’ or ‘exciting’. It is also a noun. ‘Passion’, ‘vexation’, ‘a dirge’, ‘one who chants a dirge’, ‘chanting a dirge’- all go by soz. It is also the name of Tushar Madhav and Sarvnik Kaur’s new documentary on Kashmiri artists subtitled ‘A Ballad of Maladies’. In  exploring the work of these artists and the nuances their respective art-forms share with their past, the film narrates how a counter-history of the people of the valley has been crafted along the history of those who ruled it over time.

“I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t mesmerized by the sheer mystique one commonly associates with Kashmir,” Madhav confesses in an e-mail interview, answering what his inspiration for making the documentary was. While Kaur shares that she “won’t be able to expound upon the inspiration behind making this film”, Madhav was motivated by Kashmiri music and poetry. For both the filmmakers, however, the process of making the documentary turned out to be a process of unlearning.

Kaur says she grew up in a family where the men in uniform “were to be revered and not feared”. But in Kashmir she felt an “omnipotent ‘gaze'” that followed them everywhere. “As a woman in a heavily militarized zone, I could feel the close connection between modern forms of male domination over women and modern war,” she says. They were even then not subjected to the kind of harassment he has heard their Kashmiri friends face, Madhav says, “except for some regular checks and a small line of questioning at a time we were capturing a military garrison in the main city”.

The documentary, ostensibly on the artists of Kashmir, is also a narration of the history of the conflict in the valley. “I haven’t made a song on anything normal, you know. Everything is conflict, conflict, conflict. And it’s true that I cannot think of anything else,” Roushan Illahi, who is more popularly known by his stage-name MC Kash, says in the film. In documenting these voices, Kaur says, they have attempted a departure from “the deliberate and a very constructed image of Kashmir in popular media”.

[vimeo 183127897 w=800 h=450]

“And with a cultural, religious and geopolitical history as rich as Kashmir’s, it is also very difficult to ignore its relationship with the various art forms that one finds in the valley,” Madhav explains. Central Asian influences are evident in Kashmiri motifs, patterns and poetry, he says, and devotional Sufiyana Mosuqi is sung in Persian even today in the shrines of Kashmir. Roushan Illahi once told him that he considers himself an Angrezi Ladishah. In bringing together over half a dozen artists (Zareef Ahmad Zareef, the septuagenarian poet and satirist; Rashid Bhat- taxi driver, tour guide, poet; Showkat Kathju, performance artist and lecturer; Gulzar Bhat, Ladishaah and Bhaand artist; Khalid Ahamed and Kashif Iqbal, vocalist and guitarist respectively from the rock band Parvaaz; and Mir Suhail, cartoonist), the film then also ends up introducing one to the religious, cultural, and political history of the valley through the voice of these artists.

Kaur also notes that art, which is “emerging as a forceful form of non-violent protest all over the world”, has been wielded as a weapon in Kashmir for centuries. Music, theatre, and poetry has been used “to disseminate news, construct public opinions and also as a form of protest”.

What do the two filmmakers then think is wrong with the role Indian media plays in Kashmir and what role should it play? Kaur says that the “valley is either ‘under’ or ‘wrongly’ represented in the Indian mainstream media”. As an instance she cites the coverage of the floods in 2014 there, where, she says, the reporting on the rescue efforts by the armed forces was “grossly over-rated”. Madhav also says that the “problem is not merely with the ‘exoticization’ of Kashmir in Bollywood movies” but also “the pre-conditioning of Indian media while reporting from Kashmir”. “The Kashmiris have become vary of the Indian media and for a good reason too,” Kaur says.

Both filmmakers therefore urge the Indian media to take to honest story-telling, one which acknowledges the human rights abuses and stifling of individual liberty and “steers away from the rhetoric of pointing out religious polarities”.

Catch Tushar Madhav and Sarvnik Kaur’s film “Soz- A Ballad of Maladies” at 07:00 pm on September 20 at India International Centre. To see the full Open Frames Festival programme, click here.

Featured image: Screenshot from video shared by Flying Ice on Vimeo.

You must be to comment.

More from Abhishek Jha

Similar Posts

By Mister August

By Pawan Dixit

By Tapesh Upadhyay

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below