While the political theatre of Jammu & Kashmir is being transformed, Bollywood cinema is rediscovering its age-old infatuation with Kashmir. Flocks of denizens of the entertainment industry have been visiting recently to scout the landscapes of the valley. They have also been calling upon their mates to join them in this movement of exploring and capturing Kashmir on camera.
The Indian audience has always been prone to buying opinions from the big screen without really bothering to dwell deep into the subject. Thus, Bollywood to a great extent becomes responsible for feeding Indian minds and constructing views about different issues.
Bollywood filmmakers portray Kashmir as an avatar of Aphrodite, seductively pleading, for love as well as recue. Its sufferings are attributed to its sympathies for militancy, and these sympathies attributed to the religion practised in the valley. In this way Indian cinema becomes a vehicle for the spread of Islamophobia.
In a nation where media literacy is negligible, what is supposed to be entertainment becomes a propaganda machine. If cinema is a reflection of society, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Islamophobia is prevalent in Indian society.
The underlying philosophy of Indian cinema must be identified and debated because such propaganda is only going to threaten Kashmiris, who are often harassed and beaten outside by mobs because of the perception created by Indian cinema.
Kashmir and its people, especially women, have been represented voyeuristically in Indian cinema. If today Indian politicians are openly calling for taking away Kashmiri women, Bollywood is guilty of what Fred called ‘scopophilia’ in its representation of Kashmir. To show it as a place of sexual awakening is a testimonial to the coloniser’s gaze that is persistent in films set in Kashmir.
But, more fascinating is the masochistic nature of Kashmiris who continue to strive for making it into Bollywood. These people keep acting in movies that are contrary to the reality of their suffering. They must realize that their representation carries a different weight altogether. After subjecting them through decades of tyranny, the Indian entertainment industry and the honey-mouthed Bollywood fraternity preaches to Kashmiris the lessons of hospitality and love.
Even those Kashmiris who bounce off the walls of Bollywood films on feminism must realize that Indian cinema sells empowerment that is deeply rooted in foul-mouthed abuse, alcohol, sex, and smoking. It defines liberation as the destruction of one’s identity, religion, and culture. Hence, Kashmiris shouldn’t move forward with blind acceptance to relate their sufferings with those shown on the big screen.
No matter how the pain of Kashmir’s inhabitants is depicted, Bollywood can’t justify an iota of it. They usually don’t portray the suffering because they don’t believe that the people are suffering. It’s against their collective consciousness to commit their cameras to their pain. They will sow the seeds of confusion instead because what they cannot afford to do is to acknowledge the people’s sorrow.
They will choose people who will sell their conscience. They will lionise such people who are collaborators and agents of ostensible change. Some filmmakers deceive by saying that they stand with them, while others come promoting culture, feminism, and other such concepts to fuel anarchy in society.
Recently, Shehnaz Gil’s video on the internet is doing rounds where she is seen flaunting herself on a song, ‘Bumbro Bumbro’ in a traditional Kashmiri attire which she captioned as ‘the Kashmiri way’. It was never the Kashmiri way. Indian celebrities while stepping into the so-called ‘Paradise on Earth’ never utter a word against Bollywood’s misrepresentation of Kashmir and its people. Hardly anyone possesses the courage to speak the truth. They only seem to be hallucinated and blanketed by the beauty of Kashmir and carry out their agitprop task honestly.
As many big Bollywood production banners are exploring locations in Kashmir, all they are doing is repeating the cliches, praising the beauty of Kashmir and the native people for their hospitality and love, as in the past. The Panglossian Kashmiri people must expect the same treatment on the big screen this time as well.
The writers are students of Mass Communication & Journalism at University of Kashmir.