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Multiple Resonances

Manisha Sobhrajani

Edited by Ananya Jahanara Kabir
Permanent Black, Delhi, 2009, pp. 263, Rs. 695.00

Edited by Madanjeet Singh
South Asia Foundation, 2009, pp. 144, Rs. 195.00


Territory of Desire is about Indian desire for the Valley of Kashmir, and Kashmiri responses to that desire’: thus begins, aptly, Ananya Jahanara Kabir’s book. It is an unusual book on Kashmir, and one that fills a gap long existing. The author has critically analysed photographs, art installations, paintings, films, documentaries, writings, poems and more on the geographical territory of Kashmir, and academically linked it to the Indian state’s desire to own the physical territories of the land called Kashmir. Divided into two parts and six chapters, the first chapter of the book looks at some of the films in Indian cinema over the years which have attempted to express love in Kashmir, especially yesteryear films like Kashmir ki Kali and Junglee, and taking it on to the nation state’s love for Kashmir with films like Mission Kashmir, Roja and Yahaan. The author makes a point that ‘Between 1961 and 1965, the dysfunction between the cinematic and the ‘real’ Kashmir became increasingly glaring. While these films of the early 1960s used the Valley as a space where the individuated, modern, Indian subject emerged while grappling with the ideological demands of the nation-state, this was the very moment that Jammu & Kashmir was undergoing a most traumatic encounter with those same demands.’ While mentioning Roja, the author talks about the dangers of filming in Kashmir in the 1990s. Mani Ratnam has used the Himalayan foothills as replacement for Kashmiri hills and mountains, but the lack of the portrayal of the shikara and the Dal Lake are in bad taste. Kabir has quoted Agha Shahid Ali extensively, in almost all chapters. She has skilfully interwoven the ethos of the poet’s lines into the narrative of that which she analyses in the various segments of the book. Talking about the documentary Waiting, filmed on families of disappeared persons, she says: ‘The disappeared Kashmiri speaks both for political uncertainty and the erasure of Kashmiris from popular cinematic representations of the Valley.’ Talking about Kashmir’s first photographers—John Burke and Samuel Bourne—Kabir goes on to explore several other photographers and images from Kashmir. Predictably, whilst the earlier years were dedicated to the sunrise on the hills, the waters, and the beauty of the landscape, post-1990 the scene was dominated by battered images of trauma, disaster and conflict. She uses Kaja Silverman’s apt phrase: ‘these photographs are the “threshold of the visible ...

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