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Sunday confessions: Censorship has ensured that people of the rest of India view Kashmir in simplistic binaries, says director Ashvin Kumar

After six screenings, seven hearings and eight months of wait, the Oscar-nominated director’s new film, No Fathers in Kashmir, finally made it to the screens, and this was neither his first film on Kashmir nor his brush with censorship

brunch Updated: Apr 28, 2019 14:29 IST
Ashvin Kumar
Ashvin Kumar
Hindustan Times
Censor,Inshallah Football,Kashmir
A still from Ashvin Kumar’s latest film No Fathers in Kashmir

I still recall the somewhat comic ritual that saw Inshallah, Football, my first film on Kashmir, being banned by the Censor board. After protest in the media and being given an ‘A’ certificate, it went on to win a National Award (2011). My next film, Inshallah, Kashmir in the following year, was also banned, and this film too won a National Award (2012). Note: both these movies are documentary films and the censor board felt that the descriptions of torture and rape would be too much for a young adult audience to hear and watch.

“For the lack of a coherent Kashmir policy, our government uses censorship as a blunt tool ”

We live in an age where the massacre in Christchurch was live-streamed on social media…. So what does censorship of films even mean? I can upload the same film on YouTube without censorship and millions can watch it on their mobile phones. Obviously, the problem is the stranglehold the state wants to keep on information coming out of the Valley.

People of the land

What we are seeing in Kashmir today is what I call a ‘crisis of compassion,’ which is the direct result of the past 30 years of censorship and suppression of information from the beginning of armed insurgency, going through my earlier films and No Fathers in Kashmir.

Award-winning director Ashvin Kumar’s latest outing is centered around two teenagers experiencing their first love and heartbreak.

Censorship has ensured that people of the rest of India view Kashmir in simplistic binaries. We have been kept so ignorant and so desensitised that a piece of land has become more important than the humans who populate it. Once you reduce people of your own country to the status of aliens or ‘the other’, you go to war with yourself.

How do you expect ordinary Indians who have been force fed for their entire lives propaganda, misinformation and downright lies about who Kashmiris are and what they really want, to suddenly develop a conscience and exercise restraint?

Hidden truths

For the lack of a coherent Kashmir policy, our government uses censorship as a blunt tool when, in fact, the solution of Kashmir depends largely upon the compassion among the ordinary citizens of the rest of India towards their fellow citizens there. The Kashmir issue will be solved by telling the truth. For truth leads to compassion.

Central Board Of Film Certification’s (CBFC) verdict on my new film follows the Kafkaesque tradition CBFC set for itself two movies ago and so, for the third time, my film was banned. The board said they’d give it an ‘A’ certificate if we made some cuts – so we were not offered an ‘A’ certificate as has been incorrectly portrayed in the media.

We submitted the original application in mid-July, 2018. We are very fortunate to have a fair and judicious system that overruled the erroneous decision of the censors, but not before six screenings, seven hearings and eight months of wait.

Young and hopeful

No Fathers in Kashmir is a coming-of-age story about two 16-year-olds experiencing first love and heartbreak while finding out about the disappearance of their fathers. But in the world-view of the board, 16-year-old Indians are not allowed to watch it. The film has no sex, violence, vulgarity, nudity or drug abuse. It’s the last part of a loose trilogy set in Kashmir, and is about innocence and the exuberance of being young and hopeful.

From Little Terrorist, Dazed in Doon and Inshallah, Football to now No Fathers in Kashmir, I have had the opportunity to work with kids and teens of all ages over the past 10 years. The youth of India, I believe, can find the solution to the Kashmir conflict as they are sufficiently distanced from traumas of Partition and national prejudices of religion. I’ve made this film for them. This is the film that the censors would have preferred they do not see.

Ashvin Kumar is India’s youngest Oscar nominated and two-time National Award-winning filmmaker. His movies Inshallah, Kashmir and Inshallah, Football have garnered appreciation and acclaim.

- As told to Lubna Salim

Follow @lubnasalim1234 on Twitter

From HT Brunch, April 28, 2019

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First Published: Apr 27, 2019 21:32 IST