Oscar nominated and controversial film director, screenwriter, and human rights activist Ashvin Kumar visited the UK to find the 16 year old actress to star in his new film Noor, which will be shot in both the UK and Kashmir later this year. Based on true events, a feature length narrative film, Noor is about the human impact of the crisis in Kashmir. It's the story of three generations of women who are trapped in one of the world's forgotten conflicts, which has left over 100,000 people dead.
Speaking about the film, Kumar said: “I want to make this film to show people the human side of what's going on in Kashmir; to change the narrative so that they can understand - there is still hope. I've made two documentaries about Kashmir over the last five years, Inshallah, Football and Inshallah, Kashmir; but my heart has always been in drama, and so I've spent the last two years distilling the many tales I've heard on my travels into one film: Noor.”
Kumar who just left UK on Monday after a successful trip, travelled from city to city, trying to raise money or sponsorship for his upcoming film Noor through crowdfunding. He screened his older documentaries for the Kashmiri community settled in the UK, followed by a Q+A session, in the hope that people will be motivated enough to contribute to his next film. Speaking to Asian Voice exclusively, Ashvin said, “This is also a tax efficient way of investing- trying to reach out to the community through SIES (Seed Investor Enterprise Scheme) and spreading awareness about this upcoming film in a way.”
Ashvin's mother, the famous designer Ritu Kumar one of India's top fashion designers and is also the costume designer for the film Noor. Ashvin grew up in Kolkata, studying at La Martiniere for boys before being moved to the famous Doon school in Dehradun. While Kolkata may feature in his forthcoming films, his style of filmaking, Ashvin believes is quite influenced by his formative years. “It possibly goes back to being in an Etonian style all boys boarding school, and the hazing that went on there created this sense of standing up to the misuse of power.
“My memories of Kashmir were coloured by family holidays, golfing and pony rides. My grandfather was Kashmiri, as a consequence my mother’s side of the family have strong roots in the valley. After the violence broke out in 1989, what was an annual family ritual - visiting Kashmir in the summer - was discontinued. The last time I went to Kashmir was 1987.
“When I returned in the summer of 2009, it was a wholly different place. The barbed wires, bunkers, boots on the ground, guns and ruins of centuries old capital, Srinagar - winded me. I wasn’t a particularly political person when I went to Kashmir — I realise this now. The gap between the stuff one read in the papers and the lives that we led, as well to do upwardly mobile urban Indians closed considerably. Kashmir pulled me into politics - I’ve aways been interested in the human story behind the headlines, and a combination of the dastardly state of affairs and my own guiding instincts led me to this point.”