The Poet of Silence: new film on Rehman Rahi is a ‘creative observation’ of the poet’s work

Rehman Rahi | A still from the film

A new film on Rehman Rahi – who arguably is Kashmiri language’s greatest living poet – is set to introduce Rahi’s life and work to the Kashmiri masses, for whom Kashmiri poetry has been out of bounds during the last twenty-seven years of unceasing conflict and uncertainty.

The film The Poet of Silence by independent filmmaker Bilal A. Jan, whose previous film Ocean of Tears was banned by Jammu Kashmir government, is a 40 minute biographical documentary on life and work of Rehman Rahi, who received Jnanpith award for his brooding poetic collection called Siyah Rud Jaaren Manz (Under the Dark Downpour) in 2007. Rahi is the only Kashmiri poet who has received Jnanpith, considered the highest literary honour in India. In the forty-minute documentary film, Rahi talks about his inner poetic vision during the turbulent years of Kashmir’s history.

The film is produced by Film Division of India (FDI), a film production house belonging to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.

The film The Poet of Silence is Bilal Jan’s first foray in capturing elements of the literary landscape of Kashmir. His previous films focused on social and environmental issues besides documenting voices of victims of mass rape in the twin villages of Kunan Poshpora in his film Ocean of Tears (2012).

Bilal Jan told Wande Magazine that the idea of making a film on Rehman Rahi was always on his mind, as he believes that Rahi is a different sort of poet from other poets of Kashmir. “Most of the Kashmiri poets have written about Tasawuf, or Sufism or about Islam but Rehman Rahi is perhaps the only poet in Kashmir who writes about the human condition, the predicament of a human being and day to day problems of life,” he said. “Rahi is basically a realist poet, it may be because he is influenced by the Marxist thought,” Jan added.

The film, whose trailer was released on YouTube in late October, is a visual treat besides being one of the only few films made on the legendary Kashmiri poet. In the trailer Rahi is seen quoting verses from his poems, brooding on the tale of Jhelum with lines like Khabar soa Vyeth cha winni ti wasaan (May be that Vyeth River Jhelum still flows) and draws a brilliant, yet precious picture of Kashmir’s political climate with lines like Annigot chu tyuth zi annigottui yoat labne yivaan (The darkness is so thick that nothing but darkness is seen).

The film also features one of Rahi’s oft-quoted poems on Kashmir Karrav Kyah. Lines like Kathe zann aasi ni waar, karrav kyah (What to do when there is no freedom of speech) produce the effect of the dilemma that a common Kashmiri undergoes, when faced with the question of speaking out. The line is followed by an effective response in the form of Weatrini weanij baar, karrav kyah (What to do if no one has tolerance to hear), effectively underscoring the inability of both society and state to hear truth about itself.

Bilal A. Jan and Shafi Shouq, who is a known literary figure have jointly written the film. Jan said that the film focuses more on Rahi’s work than on his life. “My thrust was on his work rather than his life. The film is a creative observation of his work,” Jan said.

The journey of making this film, which took 2 years to complete, has been a thrilling experience for Jan. He said that sometimes engaging with Rahi, who can be quite dense at times, was tough. “But it was mostly pleasant.”

The filmmaker said that after engaging with Rahi’s poetry, he sometimes felt that only Rahi himself could understand the meaning of his verses. “His poetry is very meaningful and profound. Sometimes, I think no one, either a scholar or a common reader cannot truly discover any other meaning of his poetry, than the one Rahi himself articulates, ” Jan said.

The film was made to address this gap, ‘to take his work to the common masses’ in the words of Bilal Jan. The film, which features 10 poems of Rahi, is scheduled to be screened later this month.

Jan believes that the creative output by Kashmiri filmmakers has not been duly appreciated by the society at large but he would expect his film on Rahi to reach to the wider masses. “Shafi Shouq sab told me that my film is a complete one and the film would be very helpful to teachers, research scholars and students of literature alike. I hope its true, as I want my film to reach to masses at all levels of society,” Jan said.

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