New Delhi, 07 Apr 2022 16:55 IST
A tale of distress and terror, Prabhash Chandra’s film is a searing critique of state-induced terror and violence in the troubled valley.
Kashmir is a metaphor for both beauty and terror. To capture the essence of Kashmir is to attempt to capture the intricately woven fine lines of distress as well as peace that adorns the valley. Prabhash Chandra’s Be Ches Ne Veth, also known as I Am Not The River Jhelum, is a tale of distress and terror and how it affects each individual. This movie reminds us of Bertolt Brecht's words: In the dark times, will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing. About the dark times.
Set against the backdrop of the revocation of Article 370 of the Constitution, which conferred special status on the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir, this movie presents Afeefa (Amba Suhasini) as the protagonist. When loved ones disappear one by one from one’s life, those who live have only their memories to keep them company. In documenting Afeefa’s realms both inside and outside, the film becomes a searing critique of state-sponsored terror and violence in the valley.
The movie portrays how art, education, friendships and every other regular thing in a normal society is tinged with the colour of fear and instability in Kashmir. Afeefa is sent far from home to Delhi where, again, conflict and confusion arise on account of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
This scenario raises a pertinent question: is it really possible for a Muslim to live in peace in a country where religion is foregrounded above everything else?
Interspersed with poetry and views of the Jhelum river, the visuals in themselves become a metaphor for the volatile situation of Kashmir now and the peace it once enjoyed.
The cinematography is excellently handled by Pratiik Bhalawala and Anuj Chopra. The visuals effectively communicate the chill of an unending winter in grey hue. The trauma faced by the characters and the violence perpetuated in the geography that is often, paradoxically, dubbed 'paradise on earth' is captured very well.
The film has been written by the director himself, and the placing of poetry as an alternative mode of narration heightens the mood and increases the depth of the experience. Starting with Agha Shahid Ali, the film ends with Rabindranath Tagore’s 'Where The Mind Is Without Fear'. When the line 'into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake' is uttered, it instantly becomes a prayer for Kashmir.
The relevance of the movie rises exponentially in the current scenario where a film like The Kashmir Files (2022) is subtly yet consciously infused into the public discourse. I'm Not The River Jhelum is a must-watch movie that captures the bleak realities of not just Kashmir and its people, but the dark times India is being engulfed by. The fact that the movie bagged the FFSI KR Mohanan award for Best Debut Director from India at the 26th International Film Festival of Kerala just makes it more special.
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