Perhaps it’s an indicator of the image trap that Onir is caught in that his latest film I Am has made news all these months for its homosexual elements. I Am is, in fact, a collection of four celluloid short stories: the first about a single woman who wants a baby through artificial insemination, the second about a Kashmiri Pandit who returns to Srinagar to sell her house, the next about a victim of child sexual abuse, the fourth about the victimisation of a gay man.
Yes, you heard right. Tucked away in there, between issues of a woman’s reproductive choices, sexual violence and alternate sexualities is a story that gives a voice to one of India’s most voiceless communities. Most Indian films on terror have chosen to delve into the psyche of the terrorist or examine the impact of violence on innocents, while avoiding trickier, stickier political matters; most have also been set outside Kashmir. Among the recent ones that earned acclaim for its sensitivity is actor-director Nandita Das’ Firaaq, a courageous look at the Gujarat riots of 2002. Firaaq’s multi-star cast included Naseeruddin Shah who had earlier played The Common Man in the boxoffice hit A Wednesday which addressed the concerns of India’s masses frustrated by the state’s inept handling of terror. Mani Ratnam’s Roja (Tamil) and Yash Raj Films’ Fanaa (Hindi) are among the rare biggies set in Kashmir.
But I Am is unique in its disturbingly real portrayal of a largely ignored community— Kashmiri Pandits—and strained Hindu-Muslim relations in Kashmir. In focus here are Megha (Juhi Chawla) and Rubina (Manisha Koirala), childhood friends in Srinagar till Megha’s family is compelled to leave. The hostility between them lifts its veil in one brief conversation.
Listening to Rubina’s lament about her stagnating existence, Megha snaps: “Kis baat ki problem hai tumhe? Is the army treating you unfairly? Is India taking away your rights? Or is it because of the constant reminders that your brother is a trained mujahideen?”
It’s a potent question that gets an equally telling response from Rubina: “I realise you are angry with us, but just imagine what it might have been if you had stayed back and I had managed to leave?”
The film raises uncomfortable questions about the situation in Kashmir. But why has Indian cinema largely steered clear of inter-community ties in this former Paradise state? Actor Anupam Kher, a Kashmiri Pandit himself, believes this question trivialises the issue at hand: “Roja and A Wednesday didn’t change the life of the common man. What will happen if films are made on Kashmiri Pandits? A film can only create awareness but my point as an aggrieved party is that it’s a larger issue, and the solution is with the people and the government.”
Perhaps the most suitable response to that comes from actor Sanjay Suri, who lost his own father to terrorist bullets in Kashmir: “Filmmakers don’t provide solutions, they tell stories. Those stories could lead to a dialogue or a discourse.
You’re also kind of documenting a history that will be forgotten very soon.” As a co-producer of I Am, Suri is making sure that this is one story that does get told.
Source: Express Buzz