This year on Eid-ul-Fitr, Pakistan’s film industry released its first ever film on the issue of Kashmir. Realizing the seriousness of the topic made me want to go to the cinema and watch the film to see what Pakistan had come up with about a conflict which has been part of biased Bollywood flicks for a long time.
The story of Azaadi goes like this: A girl named Zara who’s born to a Kashmiri father has been brought up in London and is a journalist. She is in love with a Hindu guy and both intend to get married. One day while trying to look for some old pictures of her parents’ wedding she gets access to a box where she finds a nikahnama (marriage certificate) proving that she’s already married to her cousin Azaad who lives in Indian-occupied Kashmir. Her father had died already so she inquires her mother (who is a white lady) about the marriage, but she denies knowing anything about it. She tells Zara that it might have happened during one of her trips to Kashmir during her childhood when she used to visit Kashmir along with her father only. The mom had never gone to Kashmir.
Zara decides to settle the matter before she marries her beloved and therefore, she travels to Indian-occupied Kashmir only to find out that her husband Azaad had become a freedom fighter and for that matter had left his home as well. Realizing that Azaad being a freedom fighter won’t be able to lead a happy married life, his father without knowing Zara’s intention to visit Kashmir, advises Zara to free herself of her bond with Azaad. Coincidently, during her stay in Kashmir, the media organization she works for in London assigns her the task to interview the most-wanted Kashmiri fighter, Azaad, to which she agrees. That’s when she gets to know about the Indian atrocities in Kashmir that had been compelling the youth to pick up arms to fight for freedom from India.
Although the movie might have done some business due to the fact that it was released on Eid holidays, but in no way has it been any close to a blockbuster. Beside the not-so-impressive story-telling, the reason could have been the fact that the lead role (i.e. of Azaad) was given to Moammar Rana who is not very famous among today’s cinema-goers due to his obsolete aggressive style of acting. Apart from that, there were few other things that a viewer would find quite bizarre. The fact that Azaad off and on fantasized himself romancing his wife in songs was so uncalled for. Also, to picturize the same songs in some foreign location and not in Kashmir looked absurd to say the least, although the rest of the film was shot in Azad Kashmir and it looked perfect.
Showing Zara in western attire throughout didn’t really go well with the flow of the film. In fact, when Zara goes to a far-away camp where Azaad lived along with his fellow fighters, she is given a shawl to wear but even then in the very next scene she is shown in western clothes. And she lives that way throughout her stay with the freedom fighters.
There are few things in the film that are noteworthy though. Since it is a Pakistani film, so definitely Azaad has been shown to hold pro-Pak stance towards freedom. Also, the film shows how Indian agencies exploit Kashmiri youth to become ISIS representatives in the valley and are given black flags as a strategy to ‘confuse’ the nation and to counter the pro-Pak sentiments. When Azaad is arrested and interrogated in the jail, he’s asked if it’s Pakistan that arms him:
“Kya tumhe asleha Pakistan deta hai?”
[Does Pakistan supply weapons to you?]
To which he responds:
“Pakistan humeiN asleha nahi, hosla deta hai.”
[Pakistan gives us courage, not weapons.]
The film shows that harassing and raping women is part of Indian army’s strategy to oppress Kashmiris. It shows how Indian army exercises the right to enter any home whenever it feels the need to. Also, the film gives an impression that the international media has not been fair enough in highlighting the plight of Kashmiris the way it should have. At one point Zara corrects her senior colleague when he uses the term ‘terrorist’ for Azaad, saying:
“Wo terrorist nahi hai, freedom fighter hai.”
[He is not a terrorist, but a freedom fighter.]
What deserves appreciation is the fact that finally the Pakistani film industry has at least felt the need to highlight the Kashmir issue to counter the bias shown in Bollywood films about the conflict.
In future, however, the focus should be on portraying more reality-based scenario to leave a lasting impact on the audiences. Azaadi is a mediocre attempt but it does help mainstream the struggle for freedom in Kashmir and brings the issue to the attention of the Pakistani masses, specially the youth that is generally not very much aware of Kashmir’s struggle for freedom.
This article was originally published by the online portal Oracle Opinions