Wearing black and white kaffiyeh (Palestinian scarf), 22-year-old film-maker Azhar Qadri represents the new crop of the Valley’s cinema enthusiasts. His short documentary film about the enigma of death and life’s reality War Within has won him Anhad’s Kashmir Young Film Maker’s award. But war within Qadri is the irony he lives with everyday: Qadri has never been to a cinema hall all his life.
Qadri, whose film was applauded at the first South Asian Documentary Festival being held at Kashmir University (KU), like most of his fellow filmmakers and students have never watched anything on the 70 mm screen.
“It must be a huge dark room with a screen. What else. Am I wrong? Please correct me,” Qadri told the *Hindustan Times* when asked how he imagines the interiors of a cinema hall. “There is so much of pain and despair around, I need not to watch cinema to understand different realities of life. It unfolds before me everyday.”
The fact and perception Qadri lives with stands true for the generation brought up after the 1989, when militancy broke in Kashmir. The violence and militant diktats forced cinema owners to roll down the shutter of 16 cinema hall in the Valley. Only one, Neelam cinema, functions now next to security installations.
But the first international film festival --- where 23 documentaries made by Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Nepali directors were being screened---has rekindled the desire to socialise at the space called cinema. The event is organized by the Anhad Institute of Media Studies and KU’s Educational Multi-media Research Centre.
Banners and posters in front of the Ibni Khuldoon auditorium located on the picturesque campus of Kashmir University give it a look of a typical cinema hall. It has paid. The three-day festival is going house full, even aisles are packed to sides with movie buffs.
Jawaad Ahmad and Mohsin Ahmad, pursing their MBBS course at Government Medical College Srinagar, were waiting for hours together on Tuesday to get a glimpse of the big screen.
“We are waiting because we want to know where to pay for the tickets,” said Jawad, a resident of Shopian. “I too want to see cinema once in my life. I have never been to one.”
On being told it’s a free entry, Mohsin said: “One must have such spaces to take off from long hours of studies.”
Least bothered which movie will be screened; the duo went into the dark to see the light of cinema.