The picturesque valley of Kashmir has been a reservoir of creative inspiration for many artistes over the years. For independent filmmaker duo Vaishali Sinha and Madhuri Mohindar,the Valley represented the idea of a place,which,though filled with beauty has been simmering with tension. “Kashmir is celebrated for its beauty and culture. Yet,there is an entire generation that has grown up seeing and experiencing conflict. We wanted to explore the changes in Kashmir through their eyes,” says Mohindar,34,who has co-directed the documentary My Kashmir.The 31-minute documentary was shot in Kashmir and Delhi over the course of five years (2008-2012). Based on the stories of Javed and Iqbal,who lived through the militancy of the early ’90s,the film tracks their journey as they leave the Valley in search of better career opportunities. They reach Delhi to pursue research at Jawaharlal Nehru University. “For me,returning to the Valley was not about making a sensational film about violence. It was about wanting to learn and engage with my peers and young people there because the news felt one-sided,” says New York based co-director Sinha,who grew up in the Valley until 1989,when tensions brewed. Sinha co-directed the award-winning film Made in India (2010),which looked at outsourcing surrogate mothers to India. The film premiered at the Hot Docs Film Festival,Canada in 2010 and received several jury awards across festivals. It is currently airing on the Public Broadcasting Service in the US. My Kashmir will premiere at the Mumbai Women’s International Film Festival in October followed by a screening at the Utopia Film Festival in Washington DC.
“We were in the Valley in 2007,a year before the student protests broke out. This was an interesting space to be in because we gauged the mood of the youth before that,” says Mohindar. Javed and Iqbal speak of the trauma,being victims of house searches,crackdowns,and the nightmare of seeing killings on the street. The 23-year-olds interview the victims of violence and eventually publish the dissertations based on their research in an attempt to reach out to the wider community.
The film was partly made by compiling archival footage from news bulletins and piecing together the historical context of the dispute in Jammu and Kashmir. It was made on a grant of a few US $ 1,000 dollars (approximately Rs 62,675) from the Manhattan Community Arts Fund and crowd funding. “Through our research we found that the young people of Kashmir are beginning to understand the idea of freedom and the impact of conflict on them. This is important as we believe that films are about creating a dialogue,” says Mohindar.