Directing a film on Kashmir gave actors Aamir Bashir and Mita Vashisht an opportunity to get a perspective about the locals. While for Kashmiri-born Bashir, it was a homecoming, for Vashisht, it helped her understand how the love for a 14th century poet Lal Ded binded Hindus and Muslims.
The duo’s movies, Harud and She, Of The Four Names, will be screened at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) as part of the Kashmiri Special Fresh Pix series. Harud revolves around a family’s efforts to come to terms with the loss of a son, while She, Of The Four Names takes an interesting view of Lal Ded’s influence in present day Kashmir.
Bashir admits that shooting his debut film was challenging. “Kashmir is a difficult place to live in due to its unpredictability. As we were shooting on the streets, we didn’t have control on the crowd. We had to negotiate with them as they are very suspicious of people with cameras.”
However, he confesses that returning to the valley after 20 years gave him a unique perspective. “It was an odd position to be in because I had my roots there but was also an outsider. In a way, this duality helped me understand things better.” He got the idea for the film after he saw the euphoria among the locals following the launch of mobile phones. “I found it odd that people who dealt with violence on a daily basis were excited about a phone. But given the psychological trauma they face, connecting with their family gives them mental security.”
Vashisht got the idea for her docu-feature since she had been studying the work of women poets in India since 12 years. “I started reading their works as I wanted to see if there is an alternate feminism, different from that of the West. I was drawn to Lal Ded, as her vaaks (verses) are powerful and invigorating. She is still alive in the minds of people.”
The veteran actor drove to Kashmir from Mumbai in her Qualis as she wanted to interact with people and find out what kind of relationship they shared with Lal Ded. “I found that Lal Ded remains with them, despite the chaos and despair. They are passionate and possessive about her. Her poetry is part of every child’s growing years,” Vashisht signs off.