Tribune News Service
Kasauli, October 12
Reflecting on the 60 years of Filmistan, Bollywood actress Sharmila Tagore lent a captivating start to the second day of Khushwant Singh Literary Festival amid a jam-packed audience at the Kasauli Club today. Her poise and grace swept the audience, as she gave an insight into her journey in the tinsel town.
Her debut, at 13, had come at a cost, as she had to forgo schooling, given the conservative mindset where women working in films were looked down upon in those times.
In a conversation with Shantanu Roy Chaudhari, the actress left the audience awestruck as the latter was eager to grasp more of her romance on the silver screen.
She was a bundle of energy as she unravelled how women’s position had undergone a sea change. “The hitherto male gaze prevailing in the cinema was no longer evident and films depicting women as the main protagonist were finding acceptance.”
Sharmila was candid to admit that black money had made its way to Bollywood. She regretted that films gave visibility to Kashmir but not to Kashmiris, which was sad. “Filmistan has come of age with the use of ‘Hinglish’ becoming the latest fad, ultra-nationalist cinema emerging and women’s role as the main protagonist gaining acceptance.” Recalling their pursuit of the enemy in the Kargil war, a session on “Kargil 20 Years On” witnessed talks by decorated soldiers such as Col Wangchuk Sonam and Col SC Tyagi. The session, moderated by television anchor Vishnu Som, was reminiscent of the brave deeds of the valiant soldiers. What evoked an emotional response from the audience was a brave mother of a martyr reading his last letter, where he had a premonition that he won’t come back.
“A soldier doesn’t die when he is martyred, but he dies when his nation forgets him,” averred Col SC Tyagi while reflecting on his book. In a much-appreciated gesture, the festival saw a heart-rendering tribute to the bravehearts of Himachal, including Captain Vikram Batra, Captain Saurabh Kalia and Subedar Sanjay Kumar, while also unveiling their portraits. Captain Batra’s parents — Girdhari Lal and Kamal Kanta — were also felicitated on the occasion.
Listening with rapt attention, the audience of this 139-year-old club drawn from Delhi, Punjab, Chandigarh and as far as Malaysia, were engrossed in various sessions, where speakers regaled the literary buffs with their experiences on the battlefield.
Nayantara Sahgal and Sagarika Ghose reflected on the contemporary moment in India: Diversity or Carbon Copies, which did invite some eager comments from the engaging audience.
The session on “A Kashmir backgrounder culminating in the article on everyone’s lips 370” saw a lively discussion by Lt Gen Ata Hasnain, where authors Radha Kumar and Tuhin A Sinha and noted journalist Tavleen Singh lent vigour to the session while aptly synergising their vast military experience and strategic outlook.
Radha Kumar was vocal in terming the August 5 move as one which had pitted one Kashmiri against the other and called for rolling up of the move to bring back normalcy, which she averred had shattered the normal ways of life. Tuhin A Sinha, however, expressed the hope that it would finally bring a solution to the long standing Kashmir problem. The day had more in store as a riveting articulation on the “Godmen: Of Cults, Sinners and Saints” drawing a contrast between the self-styled godmen — Asaram Bapu, Gurmeet Ram Rahim — and others like Baba Ramdev, who were deliberated upon by Swati Chopra, Ushinor Majumdar and Anurag Tripathi and Priyanka Pathat Narain. “Pakistan-the Balochistan Conundrum” was another thought-provoking session where Tilak Devasher, member, National Security Advisory Board, and Vivek Katju traced the history of the sensitive issue (when the economic exploitation was at its peak). He threw light on the plight of the common Baloch, whose identity was being eroded with Pakistani excesses. They fear they may become a minority in the present circumstances.
The engrossing tale of Purnima, a militant, and her transformation into a faith healer is an illustration of many such women, who adopted the strike-torn path under compulsion. Drawn from various cross-sections of society and states of India, these women have various reasons to take to gun with intriguing revelations of logistic support having been pooled in by other countries captured in this book. Uday Bhaskar narrated sordid tales of several such women.
The festival saw a heart-rendering tribute to the bravehearts of Himachal, including captain Vikram Batra, Captain Saurabh Kalia and Subedar Sanjay Kumar, while also unveiling their portraits. Captain Batra’s parents — Girdhari Lal and Kamal Kanta — were also felicitated on the occasion. A soul-stirring narrative on the lives of women drawn into the dark world of militancy and insurgency by Vivek Katju, a former diplomat, was brought alive in “She goes to War: Women Militants in India”.
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