A humane portrait of Kashmir

Oct 27, 2014, 08:03 IST | Kanika Sharma

Watch National Award-winning director Rajesh Jala's films, Floating Lamp of the Shadow Valley and 23 Winters, at Alliance Francaise in association with The Root Reel initiative

If Haider has caught your attention with the scenic landscapes of Kashmir and the complex reality of the state, watch National Award winner Rajesh Jala’s two power-packed films — Floating Lamp of the Shadow Valley and 23 Winters. Jala, who has been a filmmaker since about two decades now, was originally a displaced Kashmiri Pundit. Uprooted in 1990 and living in a refugee camp in Delhi, Jala, who doesn’t like to bracket himself to any one genre of filmmaking, found some intriguing stories.

Floating Lamp of the Shadow Valley
Floating Lamp of the Shadow Valley traces the life of a nine-year-old boy who has to fend for himself, his mother and four siblings

A child’s perspective
“Kashmir is in my heart and my soul. I find excuses to go to Kashmir. In 2005, Floating Lamp of the Shadow Valley happened when I was roaming around the backyards of Dal Lake. It was a strange coincidence. There was a seven or eight-year-old boy who was taking out water from his boat. The boat was in bad shape. He mistook me for a tourist and asked if I would like to take a ride. Yet when we started talking in Kashmiri, I realised what an interesting character he is,” says the 44-year-old.

Film poster of 23 Winters
Film poster of 23 Winters

Floating Lamp of the Shadow Valley is premised on a nine-year-old who shoulders the responsibility of taking care of his mother and four siblings by rowing a boat on Dal Lake. Jala’s camera follows impending threats the boy might have to face, be it the freezing winter, military crossfire or an earthquake. By tracing the journey of the child, Jala emphasises that he tries to bring the human element of the land to the fore.

Poster of the film, Floating Lamp of the Shadow Valley
Poster of the film, Floating Lamp of the Shadow Valley

The looming mania
Jala’s empathic approach emerges when another serendipitous moment leads him to the subject of his film called 23 Winters. “This film is about a friend who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. His nickname is Bota, and he was in the refugee camp along with me. He also lost his parents then. He stayed in my office for six years and one day asked me, ‘You’ve been making films on the world but not me. Why not?’” recounted the director.

This question led Jala to pursue his friend in a most unusual format — part fiction, part documentary. “In the middle of the shoot, Bota vanished from my home one day. In 2012, we found him at his Kashmiri village as he had been wanting to go home,” recalls Jala, who decided to convert the feature film into a documentary at that juncture.

Filmmaker Rajesh Jala
Filmmaker Rajesh Jala

When discovered in Kashmir, he is filmed as himself in his environs, capturing a poignant portrait of a Kashmiri refugee. Jala admits that in Kashmir the political reality is a conspicuous truth.

Jala’s future plans include Chingari, a feature film that is based in Varanasi, and is being produced by ASAP Films — the ones who also produced The Lunchbox

On: October 28, 6.30 pm
At: Alliance Francaise, 40, New Marine Lines.
Call: 42640330

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