AS the International Film Festival of India, Goa, gets ready to celebrate its 50th year, the short film it selects to open its non-feature section under Indian Panorama is a grim reminder of the reality of Jammu & Kashmir. Directed by Ashish Pandey, Nooreh is about its titular eight-year-old protagonist who lives in a Kashmiri village on the India-Pakistan border. One night, Nooreh discovers that the frequent gunbattles that rage near her home start when she falls asleep and stop once she’s awake. “The primary reason why I thought of the movie was that I was a bit concerned about the future we are creating for the next generation. There is so much violence across the world. The sight of an armyman holding a gun might not seem peculiar to a child in Mumbai, but this is very normal in Jammu & Kashmir,” says Pandey, adding that he was “pleasantly surprised” when the announcement was made.
Pandey, a Mumbai-based independent filmmaker, says if one goes to any nook and corner of Jammu & Kashmir, one would come across army men on duty. “The deployment of army personnel is higher in border villages. However, their relationship with local people is not as strained as in those areas compared to other parts of Kashmir. A child going to school crosses checkposts and chats with security personnel. This is very disturbing yet interesting. Though in the classroom these children might recite a poem about a heavenly place full of love, the reality is a stark contrast to that,” says Pandey, whose 22-minute short film touches upon this aspect.
Pandey says he felt the need to show this “irony” through Nooreh, his third short film. “My endeavour was to show what future the child wishes vis-a-vis what the reality is. I try to do that through the story of Nooreh,” he adds.
The film was shot in Chuntiwari and Izmarg villages, which are more like clusters of houses, in the Gurez valley. In the film, the characters speak in the local Shina language, apart from Kashmiri and Urdu. During its making, the crew got a lot of support from the local volunteers. That made its filming much easier. Every time the crew requested them for help, the locals would say, “Ho jayega. Aur bataayie (It will be done. Tell us what else you need).”
Last July, Pandey screened Nooreh at a local school. “The children loved the film. It was very interesting for them to see their world on the screen,” he recalled. The army personnel also took a copy of the movie from him. They wanted to show it during the sadbhavana (goodwill) meets they have with the villagers.
“Sadly, a day after the screening, these border villages witnessed heavy shelling, after a gap of nearly two decades. We had to leave the area at 9 pm and reached Srinagar at 1.30 am,” says Pandey, recalling his last visit to the area, adding, “It’s as if the film became their reality.”
The 50th edition of IFFI, to be held from November 20 to November 28, will showcase over 200 films from 76 countries. There are 26 feature films and 15 non-feature films selected for the Indian Panorama section. Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar announced in New Delhi that feature film Hellaro (Gujarati), directed by Abhishek Shah, will open Feature Film of Indian Panorama 2019.
Hellaro, which talks about self-expression of women, will release in theatres on November 8, and has also bagged the National Award for Best Film. The features section will screen Gully Boy, Uri, Badhaai Ho, Jallikattu, Anandi Gopal and Uyare, among others.