‘Raqs-E-Inquilab’ review: Eloquent of despair and hope

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Despite insurmountable challenges and an all-pervasive ennui, distress can’t prevent the people from expressing their emotions through art forms, spark off collective action and further the spirit of resistance.

The Kashmir conundrum is like a constant beam of sunlight from the window during summer. Because it’s that time of the year when, while trying to withstand extreme heat, you are also wishing for pleasant days to be back. The wish for normalcy and peace to return in this region remains unfulfilled. The last few decades have seen Kashmir, also said to be the paradise on Earth, reeling under the climate of fear and tension. From the state of painfully suppressed rage to the expression of dissent in any form, Raqs-E-Inquilab (Art in a time of conflict), a short documentary film, paints the truth, the agony, the inner thoughts, and the how-it-used-to-be of the Kashmiris.

On one hand, the words ‘Incredible India’ can be read on a corner of a torn banner. On the other hand, we read anti-India messages on the walls. The mixed emotions transcend the persons interviewed in the film. Their pain and nostalgia are felt by us.

The conflict between locals and the military is seen through real footage (a throng of protestors throwing stones at the military) or the photographs (a little girl, apparently scared, is looking at an army person in a black and white photo). But it’s not hard-hitting as there is no strong emphasis on the depiction of violent protests. The focus of the documentary, directed by Mukti Krishan and Niyantha Shekar, is more on how profound the impact of the conflict is. A mere visualisation of the horrid experience of children growing up in the time of distress, the college students trying hard to focus on studies or the middle-aged persons recounting the sheer tranquillity and happiness that once engulfed the region and no longer can be witnessed deeply affects us.

mubi raqs-e-inquilab madras cinephile

Those wanting to live peacefully are just not finding it easy to ignore the violence and bloodshed around them. And, how can they? It will come out in some form or the other (if not in the form of violence). They just can’t stray a hair’s breadth from the truth. Here, the forced disappearances of family members, rape or just the fear that has seized the region with the presence of thousands and thousands of troops in the streets are portrayed through different art forms. It’s not just the unpleasant memories that the paintings, the photographs or the poetry evoke but also a feeling of hope. The beauty of Kashmir that lies in its rivers, in its mountains, in its greenery and in its peace-loving people is clearly represented through these art forms (Striking visuals from Anirudh Ganapathy, cinematographer, does help capture the feeling of anguish and the want for stability and harmony.)

The documentary signs off with a touching poem. Its title, Raqs-E-Inquilab, which is also the title of the film, means ‘dance of revolution’. This poem clearly states that the revolt is on. Despite insurmountable challenges and an all-pervasive ennui, distress can’t prevent the people from expressing their emotions through art forms, spark off collective action and further the spirit of resistance.

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