Live from Kashmir: This web series seeks to redefine the conflict in the Valley with its format

Manik Sharma

Jan,21 2017 10:14:12 IST

In the 'age of new media', the treatment of the age-old art of covering conflict is rapidly morphing.

Media houses experiment not only with the technicalities, but also the format, the language — and the platform from which the audience will eventually consume (the content). The issue of Kashmir is one that has been captured, reported and dissected in multiple ways, from literature, to documentary films to protest art. Is there then, scope, to add to the discourse surrounding the conflict zone?

The answer is yes, depending on how you approach the question. And one such commendable approach is that of Live from Kashmir, a web-series now in its fourth episode.

Behind Live from Kashmir is the Mumbai-based Video Daddy team — a group of people brought together by their similar vision: that of nuance. The team includes former fashion photographers like Akshay Vaidya and Leo Vuppuluri, Mass Media graduates like Tanmay Kulkarni, and writer-editors in the form of Garima Sharma, Sreejith Karnaver, Sumit Verma and Paramand Kumar. What does such a diverse bunch arrive at? That is open to perception.

Live from Kashmir at first sounds like dispatches from Kashmir, a real-time thing — which it isn’t. “In the initial days of the curfew we seemed to be the only people walking around shooting stuff. We have an inside joke about it where we refer to ourselves as still being ‘Live’ in Kashmir,” the group says about how the name came to be.

Live in Kashmir is a sort of mash-up of real hard reporting, historic footage, commentary, clever fill-ins, borrowed animations and a panache for voice and sound editing. The genre hence, is debatable. It has a Zeitgeist-like approach, but isn’t as argumentative, not even close. It of course has actual on-ground reporting to showcase, which authenticates whatever happens at the editing stage. “The unpredictability and incongruity of just getting up and going to Kashmir appealed to us. It did work itself out thematically almost on it own. The thing about the form of the show is that it developed organically depending on the world we came upon here. What genre it is, is probably the last thing we had in mind while doing this,” the group says.

Still from episode 4 of 'Live From Kashmir' by Video Daddy

Still from episode 4 of 'Live From Kashmir' by Video Daddy

The group says they are trying to do things differently from propagandist, boxed-in films like Zeitgeist. “We believe in the legitimacy of process and intent over the convenience and clarity of propaganda. Especially under the terse circumstances of the situation in Kashmir, to sustain without being compromised is a tightrope walk,” they say. And the hard-hitting, grounded yet simmering with emotion conversations with Kashmiris that makes up the series accounts for the process.

It is also interesting how the series has progressed so far. While the first two episodes introduce people to the conflict, and put them 'on the ground', by the third episode (titled Media), the series moves on to comment on the populist narrative of the media, which so evidently reared its head post-Uri attacks. “We unwittingly landed up in the middle of a very uneven perception war between the massive army of the Indian media and the whimpers of a very frustrated Kashmiri people. We were like rabbits caught in the headlights for the first month. We realised that we would be unable to make sense of it right away,” the Video Daddy team says.

The Media episode especially doffs its hat to the language of filming itself. So much is said, so smartly, simply by juxtaposing elements, timelines and contrasting channels of information and argument. The articulation is important, and here the makers are firmly in control, even though they leave enough space for your own perspective to fill. A mention has to be made of the sound editing — most importantly how music and voice are used in the series. Most of the tracks used in the series are not popular ones, and the majority have been produced by musicians from Kashmir itself. Of the music scene in Kashmir, the team says, "There is a great amount of musical talent in Kashmir. We have a separate category called ‘Live from Kashmir Sessions’ where we do live jams with local musicians like Ali Saffudin. This music scene is in its nascent stage. By March we are aiming to have 4-5 artists introduced through these sessions.”

The aesthetics and production value of the series aside, the human element is central to the conflict of Kashmir, implying the need for a certain sensibility and treatment of the subject. Holding a camera to a face is one thing, making it want to talk and share is another. There are then, in such circumstances, events or people who become etched in memory, not so much of the viewer but of the filmmaker. “One incident that had deep impact on all of us was meeting the CRPF guy who has been posted behind the Juma Masjid for the last 10 years. He is more Kashmiri than Indian. That man told us of his dreams, of relaxing by his wheat fields in Jajjhar. The effect of this melancholy is deepened by that fact that he was saying this as he looked over the gully that is now more home to him to him than his own home,” the team says, as they themselves try to make sense of a conflict that sees no end, but might at least see a definition.

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Updated Date: Jan 21, 2017 10:14 AM