‘Azar’ captures perpetrators of hatred, war and death in Kashmir

Local production in English evokes empathy without the controversy

“Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it”: Yasmin advises Azar as Lady Macbeth did to her husband
(A turning point in ‘Azar’)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, April 11, 2022

Close on the heels of the release of ‘The Kashmir Files,’ which has shed the spotlight again on the murder of thousands of Hindus of the Kashmir Valley (known as the Kashmir Pandits) in 1989-1990 was the screening of ‘Azar,’ a film produced locally with local talent.

Although ‘Azar’ is a ‘far less’ film in terms of violence, controversy and production values, its narration is no less significant. It relates to the ‘Kargil War’ fought by the Ikwanis or ex-militants who changed loyalties as India went to war with Pakistan, with the latter breaching the Line of Control (LOC).

About Azar and Cast

Azar is a Euphoria Entertainment production, a creative offering of Swastika Ganguly and her husband Anirban Dutta with a cast of local actors and crew. The film displays the fury of the players in the Kashmir Valley with a splash of romance, jealousy and murder that are peculiar to Indian film. Woven into this military conflict is the story of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which involves a couple’s rise to power through love, passion, betrayal and death.

The opening scene features a narrator (representing Kashmir) who introduced the Kargil War that is about to rage between India and Pakistan, rekindling the deadly memories of the insurgency that killed thousands of Hindus in the Valley. The Year is 1999, about a decade after the tragedy in the Valley that forced more than 400,000 Kashmir Pandits to flee their home State, abandoning their properties and belongings.

It shows the Ikwanis, ex-militants, who changed loyalties and became instruments of anti-insurgency operations in the Valley. Azad and Basheer (Rahul Rede) are powerful leaders and close confidants of Abbaji. While rejoicing their recent victory, Azar and Basheer are perplexed as a spirit addresses Azar as the ‘Future Wazir’ (Minister) and ultimately ‘Betaaj Badshah’ (an Uncrowned King). The film narrates how Azar fulfils the prophecy but loses everything because of his greed, goaded by his wife Yasmin.

Azar does not go into details like its more descriptive and gr

Yasmin devises a deadly plot (A scene from ‘Azar’)

aphic counterpart ‘The Kashmir Valley’ but brings out the atrocities committed by the militants in the Valley.

Bikram Banerjee in the title role does justice to the role, showing ambition and greed, which, along with the treachery of his wife Yasmin (well portrayed by Swastika Ganguly) lead him to the murder of ‘Abbaji’ (Devadutt Paranjape), the de factor Ruler of the Poonch District of Kashmir. Vijesh Nangia, who has taken on the role of Major Shivji Rathod mentions a home truth: “Revenge is an act of passion and vengeance is justice.”

About the Kargil War

The Kargil War was fought between India and Pakistan from May 1999 to July 1999 in the Kargil District of Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere along the Line of Control (LoC). The Indian government called it ‘Operation Vijay’ (Victory). The Indian Air Force, operating jointly with the Indian Army, flushed out regular and irregular troops of the Pakistan Army from the vacated Indian positions along the LoC. This operation was ‘Operation Safed Sagar (White Sea).

Major Shivji Rathod vows to vanquish Azar (A scene from ‘Azar’)

The War was caused by Pakistani troops who infiltrated the Indian side of the LoC, disguised as Kashmiri militants. During the initial stages, Pakistan blamed the fighting on Kashmiri insurgents but the documents left behind by casualties and later statements by Pakistan’s Prime Minister and Chief of Army showed the involvement of Pakistani paramilitary forces and General Ashraf Rashid. India later captured a majority of the positions on its side of the LoC. Pakistani forces withdrew from the remaining positions after the country faced international opposition.

About Abhinetri

‘Abhinetri’ is a short film (13 minutes) that was screened on April 1, 2022, before ‘Azar.’

It resembles the life and sufferings of Mrinalini Shome, a famous Bengali actress of yesteryears, who looks back at herself and her journey on earth.

Abhinetri sends a message to women all over the world – women who have survived domestic violence and abuse of any form at some point of time in their lives or are still enduring the pain.

Mrinalini’s life progresses from rags to riches, from slum to the high risers, to fame and stardom and eventually descending to heart-wrenching oblivion following a series of traumatic incidents that scarred her for life.

Swastika Ganguly has played the main role of Shakuntola Banerjee with her superb rendition of emotions, ably supported by Bikram Banerjee (as Arghya Banerjee) as her husband.

Swastika Ganguly as Shakuntola in a pensive mood in ‘Abhinetri’

Swastika scoops Awards

Euphoria Entertainment Inc is a South Asian Performing Arts Group established in 2017 by Swastika Ganguly, Anirban Datta and Bikram Banerjee.

The trio, based in Auckland, shares the same passion for theatre and cinema. Each of them has won multiple awards and several nominations at numerous international film festivals worldwide for ‘Abhinetri.’

Among the Awards are (1) At the Tagore International Film Festival, India: Best Actress (Swastika), Best Film and Best Women’s Film (2) Cotswold International Film Festival, England: Best Actress- Swastika (3) Virgin Spring Fest, India: Best Short Film (4) Singapore International Film Festival: Best Film for Women (4) London International Monthly Film Festival: Honourable Mention (5) Kosice International Art Film Festival, Eastern Europe –Finalist (6) Athens International Art Film Festival, Greece- Finalist (7) Sweden Film Awards Sweden- Semi-Finalist (8) Best Indie Film Awards – Semi-Finalist.

The film has also been included in the ‘Official Selections’ category at the Golden Short Film Festival, Rome, Italy; Istanbul Film Awards; Eastern Europe Film Festival; Lift-Off Sessions and Hollywood Gold Awards.

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