Tales from bylanes of the lost paradise

Fozia Yasin | The Asian Age | 16 Apr 2013

asian-ageEach household in Kashmir is suffering from the ongoing conflict. And filmmaker Pankaj Butalia’s attempt to capture the pain of the ordinary Kashmiris takes the shape of Texture of Loss. The film was screened at Delhi’s India Habitat Centre recently.

Zooming in on families and individuals, the film tells us how men, women and children in Kashmir deal with, and react to the loss of the loved ones. And how their way of life is altered thereafter.

We are introduced to a family that has no male members. They lost all the men to the conflict. In another village, an exasperated woman has been pushing her teenage son to take up work and contribute to the family right after he lost his father. Then the mother of the 13-year-old Wamik Farooq, who was killed in the 2010, leading to a mass uprising, gives us an account of the day she lost her son. There has been no day when the family doesn’t talk of Wamik, she says. For the filmmaker, this film is a part of the series on the various conflicts in India. “I set out to do this in 2004. I wanted to focus on three areas — Manipur, Kashmir and Assam, and wanted to look at different dimensions of each area. I also wanted to approach each film differently so as not to repeat a way of looking. I finished the Manipur films a few years ago. I have shot a lot for Assam and have finally finished the film on Kashmir,” he says.

“In case of Kashmir, I felt the need to focus on the impact of violence on the psyche of those who live in an ambiance of violence and on those who have lost family members to violence,” says Pankaj. He observes that the average Kashmiri was not prepared for the suddenness with which this violence has hit him. “There is a tremendous sense of loss, of anger I saw all around while working on the film,” he points out.

So, the biggest challenge while interviewing was to win the people’s confidence and make them tell their story with a sense of openness. “It was one of uncovering what was going on inside people’s heads and we had to convey the feeling to the audience cinematically,” he says. “I don’t want to make big claims for my work, but one always hopes that a film will be able to break that horrible sense of antagonism with which people approach conflict. Because to me, conflict has at least two sides and a refusal to look at both only aggravates matters,” he adds.

“I don’t see a very bright future at the moment. But I hope that at some stage a serious attempt would be made to resolve the issue politically and not militarily. Hard positions lead nowhere. Nationalism is a terrible beast. It makes humans extremely irrational,” he suggests.

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