by Rana Ghose on Monday, March 11, 2013
- Performing Arts and Music
- Session type
- Technical level
To illustrate a reality rarely seen by those outside Kashmir - a personal journey in understanding the scale of the Indian occupation of Kashmir - and through a distinct lens - hiphop.
I first heard Roushan's music in October 2011 at a friends place in Delhi, where I am generally based. While I initially was nonplussed with the production - I am admittedly somewhat of a hip-hop snob - it was when I began to listen to what Roushan was rapping about that my curiosity was peaked. I'd come across rappers in India before, bur for the most part, I was not particularly impressed or moved by what they were narrating; a focus on an false emulation of a "thug" life, an attempt to represent certain struggles but lacking authenticity given a profound distance between narrator and subject, or more commonly, music that was firmly within the realm of (banal) party music. Roushan, however, was doing something quite different. My initial reaction was one of hearing someone who had presented a certain legitimacy in using rap as a medium to voice his concerns, his observations, and his frustrations, given his being firmly embedded in Srinagar. But I knew nothing of Roushan himself. He had an online presence, but apart from a BBC interview, I could not get any indication of who he was. But his music was unique, engaging, and I wanted to know more.
Within a day or two, I did find a number for his "manager", Shayan, on the MC Kash Facebook fan page. I called the number, introduced myself to Shayan, proposed that I wanted to come to Srinagar to meet MC Kash, and he agreed. Within a week I was there.
For the next two weeks, we spent most of our time together. Perhaps there was a mutual love of hip hop that bonded us, or perhaps the fact that I wanted to spend more time with him than a journalist would, or perhaps we just liked each other, but for whatever reason, he gave me a lot of access for those two weeks. Initially, I didn't even pull out my camera as I didn't want to come across as mercenary, and anyway, I also just wanted to get to know him a bit before I shot anything. On the third day however, I proposed what I wished to do. Rather than our interactions being based on a formal interview structure, I wanted him to interview others, and in particular, the characters that are at the core of the lyrics he writes and raps.
He initially was afraid of this. While his stories are based on personal experiences, he had actually never personally met mothers of the disappeared, ex-militants, gravediggers - all people that over the course of our time together he interviewed. He was unsure of how he would react to meeting them, whether they would take him seriously, whether he could conduct himself professionally (as he took it and his work in general quite seriously), and whether he was truly prepared to hear first hand about the brutality of the Indian occupation as told by people who had directly felt the brunt of it. But at the same time, in order to validate that which he narrates, meeting these people was an important step for him; It was often uneasy, with many of the interviews he conducted becoming rather emotional given the context of loss, death, or suffering, but as he did more, he was emboldened by an assumed responsibility to focus on the role he now took as an interviewer. Through this all, I and another cameraperson - his good friend Tamim - rolled camera.
Roushan interviewed different people, but one woman in particular made an impact on Roushan - Parveena Ahangar. Her story of her son disappearing in 1990 and her subsequent organizing of other mothers with similar stories inspired Roushan to write a song about her. The title of my documentary - Take It In Blood - takes its name from the song title.
The film runs 47 minutes, and depicts these interactions. The central characters are two - Roushan and Parveena. My aim was to both present the context - the Indian occupation of Kashmir - that has spurred Roushan to make this music, as well as the contours of Roushan's motivations and perspective; but through his eyes.
Curiosity and perhaps tissues if you are prone to being upset by sad films.
Rana Ghose is a filmmaker, economist, and curator based in New Delhi. This film lies at the confluence of two experiential streams: video production and academic research. The methodology of the film employs a research methodology employed over the course of his years of training others how to shoot and edit video - a transfer of the authorial role - where Roushan is not the interviewee, but the interviewer. Similarly, the production side of his work comes out here, though not in the more formal contexts he has engaged with in the past - corporate video to sustain full time doctoral research - but rather as his first feature length documentary; one which he directed, shot, and edited.