Interview with the cast of Identity Card
Billed as a story of the common man in Kashmir, `Identity Card -Ek Lifeline’ is a Rahat Kazmi directorial film that ensue the story of a Delhi-based journalist Naazia Siddiqui (played by multi-talented actor and singer Tia Bajpai of 1920 Evil Returns fame) who arrives in Kashmir looking to make a documentary and revive her flagging career gets trapped into the turmoil of Kashmir.
The film highlights the issue that has plagued both India and Pakistan since partition by capturing the ideological differences of people in the valley and the importance of an ‘Identity Card’ in a warlike situation of Kashmir.
Rahat Kazmi Q&A
JOSEPHINE: “Identity Card is based on “The Truth of Kashmir”, what led you to bring awareness to the issues viewed in the film? Why do you feel it was important to make a film about these truths?
RAHAT: Just as a book is reflection of thoughts of an author, similarly a film is reflection of a filmmaker’s experiences. Being a Kashmiri, I always wanted to make a film in Kashmir and portray the life of a common man in one of the most beautiful but a conflict zone. It all started some three years ago, when one of my close friends Sanjay Amar and I decided to bring the story of a common man in Kashmir through a film. Our idea was to show an authentic film on Kashmir. Thus ‘Identity Card – Ek Lifeline’ was born. The film has a hard hitting storyline which highlights the turmoil in the valley with touch of humour and irony. It is based on the importance of Identity card during turmoil in Kashmir and identity and dignity of people of valley. The film throws light on the common man who is always seen with an eye of suspicion and harassed to prove his identity by the men in uniform. But we are also showing the other side of the story that those who stop them to check their identity also have their own pressures.
JOSEPHINE: The film is a bit of a controversial matter, what difficulties did you face while shooting the film? Were there at any times you felt that you should not make “Identity Card?”
RAHAT: Kashmir is my home. I hail from the foothills of the remote and far-flung Pir Panjal range in Surankote belt of border district of Poonch in Jammu & Kashmir in India. This is the place where I was born and have experienced the turmoil and hardships of life as a common man in Kashmir. Being a resident of Kashmir, I am quite familiar with the city. I was quite confident with the nuances of the region. Still we made sure that we visit places and sites to replicate the film sets. We went to see the original STF cells to create one on our set. During shoots, our local Kashmiri light men and other crew members used to share incidents with us. Yes, we did get numerous local supports from our friends Shokat Hussain, Ashraf Shawl, a local producer who helped us know more about Kashmir, Tariq Khan who is the co-producer of the film hails from the Poonch area in Kashmir and Sanjay Amar my writer friend is from Jammu.
JOSEPHINE: How much of the truth of Kashmir is put into the film? Where did you feel you had to draw the line?
RAHAT: Identity Card is a document of security. At times this document of security becomes a threat. The threat that can jeopardize the very human identity. It is a film about a beautiful land and its beautiful people who unfortunately are living in a state of confusion and suspicion. It is disheartening to see how, on one hand, the dream of Azad Kashmir is creating the slavery of terrorism and on the other hand the brute force to keep the peace is creating more casualties. But in these terrifying situations, the most amazing species, called the humans, are still surviving. They are surviving with tears and laughter, despair and dreams, reality and fantasy all at the same time. That gives them ‘Hope’.
JOSEPHINE: Identity Card talks about the history of Kashmir, ideological differences of people, myths & religions, and the identity of a common person in a war like situation… are you scared of how the public will view the topics covered?
RAHAT: Identity card is an independent Hindi film made cooperatively by the actors, technicians and many others. This Film is from the Director, who has closely experienced the life in Kashmir. And this film, in a way, is a reflection of my experiences. So, I would like the film viewers to watch our film, which is not just a film but a life story.
JOSEPHINE: Do you feel that the film industry plays an important role in bringing the public views and concerns to those who have the power to bring change? Do you feel film is an effective tool to help bring awareness to things that usually gets overlooked by the media?
RAHAT: Film is the most popular and audience friendly medium and if you send a message through film it reaches to millions and millions of people, secondly when one goes to a theatre to watch a film then he/she leaves everything behind and gives that time to cinema, so if you have substance in your film, people would take that with them when they go back home. Impact is great so I think surely we should entertain people but we are not meant to just make people watch some sleazy material or just laugh and go back home, its not circus its cinema…
JOSEPHINE: How can the film industry come together and help teach/tell the story of Kashmir to others who may have a distorted outlook towards the country?
RAHAT: It’s not just about Kashmir, where ever there is a conflict there are stories, I wish that in India we have so much of problems and so much of stories exist everywhere, I think people in bollywood should really start giving importance to original scripts and not to just copy films to make money.
JOSEPHINE: How can we being from different parts of the world help the citizens of Kashmir?
RAHAT: Kashmir is slowly getting better; we need peace that’s it. The biggest thing which people from all parts of the world can give is respect and dignity to people of Kashmir and stop seeing Kashmiris with difference and stop doubting Kashmiri Muslims.
JOSEPHINE: So what’s next? Are you in the works of another script? What can you tell us of your future projects that you are/may be working on?
RAHAT: Next is “EK SARKARI JOOTA”. It’s a satire on society. We will reveal more on the film very soon. I also look forward to do more films in Kashmir and I hope that people would appreciate and relate with these films. Also, I have collaborated with people to promote films in Jammu & Kashmir. We are organizing a Film Festival in the region sometime soon which will bring movies from world over.
JOSEPHINE: What genres of film would you like to explore as a director?
RAHAT: Realistic films with a strong conflict and message but blended in humour and satire.
Saurabh Shukla Q&A
JOSEPHINE: Being a writer and director yourself, what about the script made you feel that “Yes, this is a movie that should be made, and I’d love to be a part of”?
SAURABH: The idea was very interesting to me. Rahat, the director of this film who is from Kashmir was aware of the nuances of Kashmir. A person who belongs to Kashmir can present a realistic picture of the place and events.
JOSEPHINE: You play the role of an officer in “Identity Card”, what more can you tell us about your character?
SAURABH: My character in the film is that of a police officer and a Muslim. He does not understand who he should stand for either Pakistan or India. It’s a very human and day to day conflict which everybody is going through. These things really interested me and I became a part of the film.
JOSEPHINE: When filming in Kashmir, did you come across any moments where you felt unsafe?
SAURABH: I would narrate one of the incidents that took place while shooting for this film. It was post dinner when Brijendra Kala who was my room partner and I heard some noise from outside. We informed Bipin also in the next room. We realized it was a gun shot. We could not gaze from exactly the noise was coming as in the valley noise echoes and the continuous gun shots made us even more scared. We decided to sleep on the floor even though it was cold. I had never felt that kind of fear in my life. Next day on the shoot, things were normal, nobody knew about the gunshots until we broke the news. Later, we got to know that it’s a wedding season and gun firing was a ritual. In a nutshell, Kashmir is not exactly the way everybody presumes it.
JOSEPHINE: Did you find that despite of what Kashmir is going through, how are the civilians dealing with what’s happening in their country? Are they more scared, or reserved by new people who visit?
SAURABH: Kashmir as the rest of the country sees is under threat and a curfew is not totally correct. It’s a beautiful place with beautiful people. It’s a great mixture of mountains and meadows. Houses have lovely structure. They bear European structure- slant roofs and wooden house. It’s a heaven on earth. At the same time, there are certain rules and laws for its people. That is the story on which the film ‘Identity Card- Ek Lifeline’ is based upon.
JOSEPHINE: Is an Identity Card an essential piece of identification for the people of Kashmir? How important is it for them? Must they have it with them at all times?
SAURABH: ‘Identity Card – Ek Lifeline’ is based on the significance of ‘identity’ and ‘dignity’ of people of Kashmir. It showcases the importance of Identity Card as a document of very existence of the natives of Kashmir. As a matter of fact, an Identity Card is required everywhere; whether you go to a bank, to avail loan, and even if you visit your friend’s residence, the security asks for an Identity Card to know who you are. So in a high security region like Kashmir, it is the utmost essential possession that one can have. At the same time, Identity Card is not a dark film but it has its humour and satire too.
JOSEPHINE: How has your personal view of Kashmir changed?
SAURABH: This was the first time in my life that I visited Kashmir as I could not visit it earlier owing to the turmoil in the region. That was the time when people were scared to go there. But I had always wanted to visit it since my childhood. And this film came as a wonderful opportunity to explore the city famed as ‘paradise on earth’. Now that I have visited Kashmir, I must admit it that it is indeed the paradise on earth.
JOSEPHINE: How important is your Identity Card to you?
SAURABH: I believe an Identity Card has become one of the most important documents of our existence today. As a matter of fact, the Identity Card is required everywhere; whether you go to a bank, to avail loan, and even if you visit your friend’s residence, the security asks for the Identity Card. In a high security region like Kashmir, it is the utmost essential possession that one can have.
JOSEPHINE: Is there any memory of your time spent in Kashmir that you’ll cherish for a lifetime?
SAURABH: I use to roam in the city and meet people to learn more about their behaviour, culture as part of research on my character. I will always cherish my meetings with the local Kashmiris. They are very warm and charming people and I must highlight that very beautiful too both outside and inside too.
Tia Bajpai Q&A
JOSEPHINE: “Identity Card” touches on some sensitive subjects, what attracted you to the script?
TIA: The concept and the storyline are very intriguing. Movies generally are very male dominated and I do not want to be seen as a prop. It has to have something for me too. This movie has everything that I was looking forward to and so I decided to be a part of it.
JOSEPHINE: Did you find your transition from horror films to a film like Identity Card-Ek Lifeline based on Kashmir easy?
TIA: As an actor, I have to give my 100 per cent to each and every character. Horror is a genre which is different from the other films as it involves the creation of out of the world concept; never-seen-never-heard situations, imaginative characters, scenes and dialogues. To be honest, maximum amount of hard work goes into a horror movie- From makeup, to aesthetics, special effects, to hunting a location and shooting at nights. ‘Identity Card’ on the other hand is based on the hard-hitting storyline of Kashmir where I am playing the role of a journalist. In this movie again I am working with popular and veteran actors like Saurabh Shukla, Raghuveer Yadav, Vipin Sharma, Brijendra Kala, Prashaant Kumar and Shoib Kazmi. All the more, I am humbled to work with Furqan Merchant who is debuting with this movie. It’s always challenging and meeting different expectations.
JOSEPHINE: Were there any stereotypes about Kashmir you’ve heard that after filming and spending a lot of time there you can now say “No that’s not true, it’s actually….”
TIA: Oh yes, I remember how my mom use to call and say “You are in Kashmir so please stay indoors”. But I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Kashmir. I use to unwind after shoots by having a nice cup of coffee at a café admiring the scenic valley region. It was truly a mesmerizing experience. Thank you to the team.
JOSEPHINE: What was most difficult playing a role of a journalist caught by the police who’s put in such a situation?
TIA: I am playing a journalist in the movie. While portraying a character of a journalist one has to also make sure to get into the skin of the character. Now to do that the nitty-gritties have to be considered. A journalist as we know is always on the run, capturing surrounding news and even war. But in this film I am playing the role of a lazy person who is good for nothing types. The opening scene is where my boss is about to fire me because I took an interview of a superstar but forget to roll the camera. Then I go to Kashmir with an idea to capture the beauty of Kashmir and make a documentary on it. I go there and land into problems. So I have to present what the character demands, totally get into the skin.
See more on Identity Card – Ikk Lifeline