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Rahat Kazmi: A tale of filmmaker's struggle and successes

Post by on Sunday, July 25, 2021

First slide
 Rahat Kazmi, a filmmaker from the Surankote area of Poonch has made quite a name for himself in the film arena of the country after making internationally acclaimed films during his 20-year stint in the industry. After starting his career with Doordarshan in the late 90s when he was just 18, his works have been released the world over in different cinema halls, film festivals, and on OTT platforms.
After working under different production houses,  Kazmi went on to launch his own banner by the name ‘Rahat Kazmi Films’ and started producing independent films which won him and his team several accolades. Two of his award-winning films ‘Lihaaf’ and ‘Lines’ are set for release on Voot Select next week.
Kazmi spoke to the Rising Kashmir Special Correspondent Manzoor-ul-Hassan about his journey, his latest works, and the present scenario of filmmaking in J&K. Here are the excerpts.
Family background
I belong to a Sufi family in Poonch. My grandfather Late Walayat Shah Bukhari was a religious leader and a Sufi poet. My life and work have been influenced by my grandfathers (maternal and paternal). I completed my early education in Poonch (Surankote area), and my childhood and teenage years were also spent in Poonch. Around 1999, our family moved to Jammu due to an unfavourable situation.  
Native place 
My native village is Pamrote in Surankote area of Poonch. The district is famous for poetry and literature. Great personalities like Krishan Chander are from the area.  It is also called the Valley of Saints and Peers. It has a history of invasions, wars, and great emperors. It was in a way a gateway to India. Even Alexander the Great entered Kashmir through Poonch district. The historical Mughal road is proof of its rich history. But, since decades the area has witnessed little development and is the most neglected area of Jammu and Kashmir. 
Since my school days I love poetry and stories, later I developed a certain love for the cinema. I was writing Urdu poetry when I was hardly a 12-year-old. My maternal grandfather got impressed and he taught me various contours of poetry.  Later, I met Tariq Khan in school. We both shared the same passion for films so we started making a local film in Poonch during our matriculation. 
We involved several other friends including those who are with us even today. The main actor of my latest film ‘Lines’, Zahid Qureshi, was also part of the team during those days. It was just a beginning, then a long struggle began from Mumbai and I started discovering about the cinema. Tariq Khan and I are together even today and we have made almost all the films jointly as partner producers and he has acted in many of my films. 
Filmmaker’s challenge 
Everyone knows it is very difficult and challenging, you have to immerse yourself into it completely. My wife, Asiya Kazmi, who actually belongs from Srinagar, has been the biggest support to me in this journey. She has handled me, kids, and guided me from time to time brilliantly. She always says it is difficult to live with creative people because they are always lost in their work. I have three brothers, all in the same field. My younger brother Shoib Nikash Shah is an award-winning actor and director and the youngest one Shahid Kazmi is also a filmmaker, in a way now we have a culture of films and literature at home.
Motivation in work
I love Iranian cinema the most, especially the films by Asghar Farhadi including ‘A Separation’ and ‘Salesman’ which have motivated me a lot. ‘Turtles Can Fly’ which is set in Iraq also had an influence on me. Apart from these Steven Speilberg's films like ‘The Terminal’ and Tom Hanks’ ‘Forrest Gump’ are my all-time favourites. There are so many great films which have taught me. My friend Siddiq Barmaq's film ‘Osama’ set in Afghanistan is also my favourite. It’s one of the best films I have seen.
Filmmaking in J&K
In Kashmir, we have been working towards it for a few years; we have shot more than 15 feature films in different parts of Jammu Kashmir. But, we never got any support from the government, except for the permissions. Although many local producers are trying to make short or feature films or music videos, honestly there is no business model for the film industry in Kashmir till now. If someone makes a film, where will he or she showcase it, and how will they generate revenue out of it, is a question. We are trying to set up an OTT platform specifically for J&K which will cater to local languages and stories for world audiences. If we get local support from the business lobby and government then for sure a full-fledged film industry will develop in Jammu and Kashmir.  
Best creative work
As a director my 7-8 films have been internationally released and recognised, which includes ‘Mantostan’ on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Recently ‘Wishlist’ with Hina Khan was released on MX player. I have been awarded in several countries as the best director and producer including the USA and UK.  
Latest OTT releases 
‘Lihaaf’ and ‘Lines’ are two important films that are going to be released on ‘Voot Select’ which is a big platform. The first look of both the films was launched in Cannes and both have won several international awards.
Pandemic Times 
Many films were stuck due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since theatres are closed, all big-budget films go to OTT despite the fact that people do not like them but all the budgets of OTTs are mostly given to big star films with no scripts. Still, we are getting a position with filmmakers like Rajkumar Hirani and actors like Vidya Balan's films, so we are happy.  
Draft J&K Film Policy 
We are quite hopeful, as after a long time something is happening. But, the thing is that we, who have shot more films than anyone else and taken those films around the world, are not even a part of their meetings.  I am looking forward to the government to involve people like us, as we can bring the best to the table.

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