Srinagar: The documentary “In the Shade of Fallen Chinar” ends with a note, ‘the peaceful ending of this film might appear to be a misrepresentation given the ongoing unrest. With the quotation the filmmakers try to cement the fact that Kashmir is unpredictable and never believe the silence that looks like peace, a fact often overlooked with deadly repercussions.
Shot over a period of time just before the 2016 Kashmir uprising, the documentary by Fazil N C and Shawn Sebastian of Kerala focuses on using art by Kashmiri youth as a way to protest against the injustice and denial of rights.
The 16-minute documentary, available on Youtube, has been getting positive reviews for its unique treatment of the subject. It received a Special Jury Award at Signs 2016 Documentary and Short Film Festival held at Kochi “for highlighting the voices and concerns of contemporary Kashmiri youth through their music and art.”
The documentary follows bunch of singers and painters around Naseem Bagh in Kashmir University and talks about their art which has become a resistance. Their reference is often the famed fallen Chinar that off late became water hole for budding artists in the Kashmir University. The film features Ali Saifudin, Syed Shahriyar, Saba Nazki, Ovais Ahmad, Mu’Azzam Bhat, Ali Saiffudin, Khytul Abyad and Tabiah Qari. Ali also has composed music for the film.
It is the powerful statements from these artists that makes the film a must to watch. “Whenever I screen the film before an audience they are amazed over the fact that such an art scene thrives in Kashmir,” said Fazil N C. “And that has been my achievement of this film.”
The film which Fazil says was made without any planning, has provided a new narrative to the age old Kashmir discourse. Resistance with slogans, stone pelting, shutdown is old but the documentary shows the same in a refreshing way. “Nowhere in the documentary you will see anybody saying any offensive word and yet they make the point. The interviews are precise and to the point,” said Fazil.
In the film, rock-n-roll artist Ali says that art for art’s sake is one thing and art for personal healing is another and that this music is not only about conflict but for art too. His lyrics laced with anger portray protest in a blunt language:
“Nobody believed in me,
Nobody to trust me
It feels like every single cop is
Here to bust me
What were you Thinking?
I’d Say Come Here and Arrest Me?!”
Ali is not alone in giving vent to his frustration. Other artists too voice their opinion on state politics and curbs on freedom of expression. With art like painting and music, these artists try to circumvent any kind of state censorship in a creative way. As all of the artists featured in the documentary have been born in 90s the audience through their views gets a feel about what it is like to be brought up in a warzone.
Till date the documentary has been screened more than a dozen times in various colleges, schools and film festivals in South India. “Ali also managed to screen it at Westminster UK. And after every screening the documentary starts a lively discussion,” beams Fazil who had come to Srinagar as a volunteer with a relief organization. It was during his interaction with students of fine arts who had once visited Kerala that he ended up making the documentary.
The film has been shot in Naseem Bagh, Dal Lake and high meadows that act as a beautiful background in contrast to its ugly political situation. The songs are not only in English but in Urdu and Kashmiri too.
At a time when the resistance leadership is looking for new ways to protest, the film acts as reminder that the younger generation has already been exploring the arena with success.