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Other films on Kashmir a letdown: 'Sheen' director

Saturday, May 8, 2004 • Hindi Comments
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A Kashmiri Hindu exiled from his home and roots, Ashok Pandit waited for years to make his first feature film "Sheen”. The movie, which opens this month, addresses itself to an issue close to his heart. It shows a Kashmiri Pandit family's journey from its idyllic home to a refugee camp.

"I've put my hundred percent into 'Sheen'. The film encapsulates everything that I've undergone in the last 15 years, as a Kashmiri who was thrown out of his home and as a filmmaker in exile trying to make himself heard," Pandit told IANS."For 10 years, I did television. I suppose everything happens in its destined time. So we're coming May 7. We're coming along with Tigmanshu Dhulia's 'Charas'. He's such a fine filmmaker. I hope we both get an audience for our serious films." He feels "Sheen" is the only secular film on the subject of militancy. "It's entirely from the victim's point of view. And I feel victims are free of political and religious bias. "The only difference between the Kashmiri Pandit and the Muslim riot victim in Gujarat is his religion."

Ashok Pandit feels betrayed by other films on the subject of militancy.

"Except for Mani Ratnam's 'Roja', I feel whatever film has been made on Kashmiri militancy has been terribly formulistic. As for Vidhu Vinod Chopra's 'Mission Kashmir', it was a huge façade. It was a big setback to the entire movement towards giving Kashmiri Pandits their home back.

"The film addressed itself only to militants! It said it was about two brave men who battle each other. I don't think militants can be brave people. I wonder why Chopra called it 'Mission Kashmir'. It could've been set in Rajasthan or Bihar." Pandit feels cheated by what he calls the glorification of militancy in the media. "Whenever a film has been attempted on militancy, I've felt cheated and hurt. Why are the negative forces always glorified? "My family and I have been a victim of violence. I've been thrown out of my home in Kashmir. But the media writes only about the militants! Why? Because a victim cannot be a hero? Why do we glamorize Chhota Shakeel, Osama bin Laden and other outcasts? "For 15 years I waited for the chance to have my say. 'Sheen' proves that victims are the most heroic people on earth."

The earnest filmmaker showed the film at the Geneva office of the UN.

"I just wanted my voice to be heard, and I've succeeded. I wanted the issue of Kashmiri Pandits to be far bigger than my film. One of the Hurriyat representatives at the conference said my perception on the plight of Kashmiri Pandits was totally fictional. I turned around and asked the chairperson for 15 extra minutes. I screened my documentary 'And The World Remained Silent', which I had filmed all over Kashmir. "I've shot the violence in the Kashmir Valley live with a camera hidden under my sarong. We Kashmiri Pandits have lived on hope for years. "I want to thank my producer Subrato Roy of Sahara on behalf of the entire Kashmiri Pandit community for being the saviour of my subject. After hearing my story he immediately took a decision.

"Kashmir isn't an issue for me alone. It should be an issue for every right-thinking citizen of the world."

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