Fenil and Bollywood

Zero Bridge-the first Kashmiri film in 39 years!

Posted on: November 15, 2009

VALLEY OF HOPE: A still from Zero Bridge, in which Tariq Tapa cast ordinary Kashmiris
Does Zero Bridge, the first Kashmiri film to be made in 39 years, hold out hope for a revival of the arts in the troubled valley?

Bharati Dubey | TNN (THE TIMES OF INDIA; November 15, 2009)

Kashmir, the breathtaking beauty of which has served as a backdrop for innumerable Bollywood romances, never really spawned a thriving film industry of its own: the last Kashmiri film, made in 1969, was Mehanzraat, starring Kashmiri actor Omar Ama. But now, after the long silence, comes Zero Bridge, a film by a Kashmiri NRI from New York, Tariq Tapa.

Twenty-four-year-old Tariq, born to a Kashmiri father and Jewish mother, landed in Srinagar with zero finance and a shooting kit packed into just one suitcase. “I decided to make a film in Kashmir because I found that no outside voice accurately captured the daily life of the average Kashmiri,’’ he says when asked what compelled him to come so far away
to make a film. “I thought a movie introducing the lives of a few Kashmiri citizens and their daily hopes and fears would reveal them more intimately than the usual western documentaries on the Kashmir situation or Bollywood films which only use it as an exotic backdrop. I want my film to make a statement and hope it starts a debate on Kashmir.’’

Tariq was a one-man unit and had to use a news channel’s permission to shoot his film in Srinagar. He mobilised ordinary Kashmiris to be part of Zero Bridge, including collegians who came for the audition. “There is so much talent here,’’ he says. “People want to be part of cinema but there is simply no encouragement from the state. Most of the cinema halls in Kashmir are now army bunkers.’’

Indeed, most aspiring artistes from Kashmir have had to leave their home state to fulfil their creative urges elsewhere, and despair of the arts ever flourishing in their home state. Dr Amit Wanchoo, a Kashmiri Pandit, faced a lot of resistance when he started his rock band, Immersion, in 1999. “From the kind of crowd our shows pull in, it’s obvious that Kashmir is an entertainment-hungry state, but there is certainly no political will to promote art, cinema and music in the state,’’ he says. “They don’t even provide security for shows. One has to perform at one’s own risk.’’

Film-maker Ashok Pandit, who made a Hindi film on Kashmir, points out that given the complete lack of infrastructure, it is impossible for Kashmiri cinema to grow. “There is no cinema, television is banned and no funds are made available to those interested in film-making,’’ he says. Pandit has been trying very hard to push the state government to encourage at least television serials but finds it extremely reluctant.

The climate of fear is also a factor a factor to reckon with. A source from Jammu & Kashmir tourism reveals that of the eight cinema halls in Srinagar, four have been converted into army bunkers. The remaining ones are perpetually guarded by the army but audiences are nervous about walking into them because of the constant attacks by militant groups who are anti-cinema to boot. “Given this fear and the general deprivation, the locals are more concerned about making ends meet rather than expressing their creative instincts,’’ says Pandit.

Bollywood has been filling up the state’s exchequer in the past, but more and more separatist groups are against Hindi film-makers shooting in Kashmir. Last year, Rahul Dholakia commenced his film Lamha, allegedly based on the lives of Muslim separatist leaders, Syed Ali Shah Geelani of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Shahidul Islam, a former insurgent commander, and Dukhtaran-e-Millat leader Asiya Andrabi, the Kashmiri women’s morality brigade so committed to Kashmiri separatism that her sons are already pledged as martyrs to the cause. The shooting in the Valley ran into rough weather when Andrabi took offence to Bipasha Basu playing her character and Geelani, Islam and others became wary.

Says Anil Raina, a Kashmiri journalist who introduced Dholakia to the separatists, “They conveyed to Dholakia that they were against the film. They were afraid that his realistic style of film-making would portray them negatively and it would go against their efforts. I had to intervene and convince them otherwise. At my behest, Dholakia changed many characters in the film. As I played a central part in getting the film on track, I didn’t want anything to go against us. After all, I have to live here with my mother and don’t wish to be slaughtered at the hands of the separatists.’’
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2 Responses to "Zero Bridge-the first Kashmiri film in 39 years!"

Ms Dubey,

You have even lifted the intro from another story done by a international news agency on ‘Akh Daleel…’ .

Before doing a story you should have done a little research.

Shame, Shame, Shame

T B

I respkt u mr Tariq Tapa ,,,dat u wana do smthng fr kmriz bt u dnt hve cct info abt alll… U live otside ,,u hve a jewsh mother ,, wstrn culture etc …. peopl like u want only fun of evrythng ,,,, .if u want to do den do fr xpandng Islam n dawa …… Already we r victimz of modrn globlization n westrnzation …..see our sisterz n mothrz …hw dey bhave , wear …..do sm research.
I thnk u wl nt misss new york . Bcoz here grlz wear more transprnt n fancy clothz like in new yrk ……

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