Shabana Azmi has just returned from Kashmir after bidding late actor Shammi Kapoor a final farewell. The actor-activist would have returned to Srinagar with writer-husband Javed Akhtar on September 24 for the first major literary festival in the Valley. Around 20 authors from the state and 20 from other parts of the country would have participated in the three-day Harud literary festival, with sessions planned on The Silenced Voice: Creativity and Dissent, Jail Diaries, Gulistan: The Forgotten Environment and Chronicles of Exile. But following protest calls from local writers like Basharat Peer and Mirza Waheed and fears of violence, the event was cancelled.
“The news was a major blow to apolitical Kashmiris hungry for cultural interaction that will help them rebuild bridges and feel ‘included’ with the rest of India,” points out Shabana, who met with former chief ministers Karan Singh and Farooque Abdullah, who are keen that film units return to Kashmir for shoots. She points out that while Rahul Dholakia’s Lamha and Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar were shot there recently and the fraternity is keen to re-visit the location, even with the promise of increased security, filming there is a high-risk venture. “We got a warm welcome there, but even when we went to the market, we had security cover. Maybe before a film, we could have an icebreaker like a film festival or a play to re-establish the connect,” she reasons.
Shabana is currently in talks to stage two of her popular plays, Tumhari Amrita and Kaifi And I, in Kashmir. “It’s too early to fix on dates, but I’m hoping we can do it soon. Abba (Kaifi Azmi) used to go there for ‘mushairas’ and the locals, including university students, remember him with warmth. Many of my films, including Fakira, were also shot there. The bond is unbreakable.”