Kashmir film kicked off goalpost
Inshallah Football, a film on how the sport becomes a catalyst for youth in the Valley and suggests a solution to the Kashmir problem, has a limited reach due to its ‘adults only’ tag. Is Indian politics at work here?
Towards the beginning of Ashvin Kumar’s remarkable documentary Inshallah Football, the film’s protagonist Basharat states his case and that becomes the basis of the film.
Basharat is an 18-year-old high school student in Srinagar, a star footballer who has a chance to go to Brazil to play in the minor leagues. But unfortunately, his passport application has been delayed for one obvious reason his father is a former Kashmiri militant, who travelled to Pakistan for training and was later arrested and tortured by the Indian security forces.
Basharat was only two years old when his father joined the militancy and he rightly feels that he is being unfairly punished for something he had no control over.
|The passport application of the protagonist, an 18-year-old star footballer, is delayed as his father is a former militant|
His father has since renounced the militancy and now runs a legitimate business in Srinagar. The film follows Basharat’s struggle to get a passport. He eventually succeeds with the assistance of the state’s Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
Inshallah Football is a rare film that provides an alternative solution to the crisis in Kashmir, at a time when nobody seems to have a definite plan on how to resolve the situation in the region. It is an important film that ought to be seen by many, especially the youth of India.
In Kumar’s film, a South American couple an Argentinean football coach and his Brazilian wife who have been living in Srinagar since 2007 provide training to young high school teenagers, including Basharat, instilling a sense of confidence and motivation in them.
The game of football takes the teenagers’ focus away from the easy way out in Kashmir that of joining the militancy opposed to the Indian control of the region.
The coach Juan Marcos Troia and his wife Priscila become mentors to the teenagers. Their home, where they also raise two young daughters, is like an oasis for the teenagers who otherwise have to face the daily harsh realities of a region controlled by Indian armed forces.
At one point in the film, Troia mentions the name of the former Argentinean star footballer Diego Maradona.
Troia explains that his goal in Kashmir is to “make (many) Maradonas… and you will have the full generation, they will want to have this dream.”
But despite all its good intentions, Inshallah Football is stuck in the hands of the Censor Board of Film Certification in India.
It appears that after a few reviews the censor board, under its previous chief Sharmila Tagore, decided to give the film a ‘for adults only’ certificate. Possible reason for that at one point in the film Basharat’s father discusses in graphic detail the various torture methods that were inflicted on him, including electric shocks to his penis.
In general, there is no theatrical distribution for documentary films in India, and with ‘adults only’ certificate no television channel will broadcast the film. So Kumar believes his film has been virtually banned in India.
“The film tries to build bridges so shouldn’t it be in the national interest to show it to the public?” Kumar asked, as we recently spoke on Skype. “If there was anything inflammatory in the film, I would have gladly accepted the ‘adults only’ certificate. But I have made a film about a young man who is trying to play his game and struggling to get ahead in life.
Perhaps there are political forces who do not want the film to be shown since it does seriously criticise the Indian government. But the film is a platform for a dialogue on Kashmir that is sadly lacking.”
Inshallah Football has travelled to film festivals abroad. It played at the Pusan festival last fall and later received a special jury mention at the Dubai film event. It has a potential for playing in Europe and in the US, especially on television.
There have been occasional press reports in India and the film has been screened at private events, often organised by university students in Kolkata, Delhi, Bangalore and just recently at the Alliance Française in Mumbai. But Indian politics continues to prevent the film from being shown to the audience for whom it was originally intended.
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