Aamir Rafiq Peerzada is an eminent media professional of Kashmir. From North Kashmir district of Bandipora and an enthusiastic Documentary Filmmaker ,television producer 30 year old Aamir Rafiq Peerzada has won prestigious RedInk award twice . Pertinently filmed a documentary on Mount Everest dung the disastrous 2016 Nepal earthquake .
He is currently working with BBC having previously worked with NDTV.
In an exclusive interview with News Kashmir, Aamir Rafiq Peerzada talks to Rameez Makhdoomi.
1 How was academic life like ?
My academic life was more like a military schooling because I did my schooling from a boarding ,Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya Baramulla, Those are the memorable years of my life,I Spent seven years of my life at this school, Where you have no idea of what’s going on in the outside world, How are your family members, We were so far and shielded from the realities of life in Kashmir that we knew nothing about human sufferings, Injustice, Politics we were naive, innocents and living in our own fairy tale world where everything was so disciplined and perfect. This campus was our world, everyone has their dreams, ambitions and crushes.
2 Were you inclined towards media industry since beginning ?
I was Born in 90s in Kashmir, When Kashmir was turning from peaceful paradise to a land of massive tension, wave of Militancy had already approached, and Protests were seen everywhere, military encounters and crackdowns had become a daily routine. Kashmir a disputed zone for over 3 decades have witnessed heart wrenching realities of life and I have seen men in their most grim & inhumane bearing, I have seen people getting disappeared leaving an option of waiting and hope of their return among their families and relatives, wives of married one’s was and still is given the name of Half widows who are still living with a dream of seeing their families getting completed. I have seen my uncle who was taken by the army one day in a Crackdown; we had never imagined it was going to be his last day with all of us as he never returned. It’s been over 17 long years his wife is still waiting for his comeback. I still remember the dreadful night that still haunt me in my dreams and keep giving me nightmares when my own father was asked to accompany some unknown Gunmen, They wanted him to show the way to some village, we with my mother and other siblings I being the eldest among others just 12 years old kept waiting for him whole night but he did not came and he never did that because next morning his body was found on a street with amputated head and He was dead, It’s not only me who has suffered and gone through all this, But every Kashmiri… to unveil those unheard stories of common people which are never given a due attention which they deserve. I think every Kashmiri has seen/suffered something of that sort and they deserve to be heard and our duty is to tell their story and to tell stories of common man not politicians, this is what has made me to be a journalist and a documentary filmmaker only to tell the stories of common man who never get any coverage .Two of our family members lost their lives but that time there was no one to bring it up and tell their story and bring them justice but I want to be that person to bring such stories of sufferings in light.
3 Share with us bit about your Mount Everest experience especially amid storm
My first big documentary film was with NDTV it was on Mount Everest as Every year people lose their lives trying to Summit Mount Everest. We humans feel the need to test our limits constantly, I find this enthralling, and this is exactly why I wanted to film the world’s most dangerous mountaineering feat. I wanted to capture the real nature of men and women when faced with death, pain, fear & victory. In 2015, I took a leap of fate and decided to document an arduous & challenging journey to the top of Mount Everest. During the expedition, Nepal was rocked by an earthquake of 7.8 Richter scale, over 9000 People were killed and 23000 others were injured. Our team of mountaineers was approaching camp 1 of Mount Everest, when the rubble of Ice collapsed into a series of mega avalanches, engulfing everything in its way, there was a huge sound, and then tons of snow hit us. At first, I did not know what had happened. Our other team mates were shouting out instructions to follow. All I knew was that I should do what I was told. A few minutes later, when it was kind of over – that’s when I realized we had been struck by an avalanche. It was not a single avalanche but multiple avalanches, as it would turn out. There were glaciers crashing down on the right and left. All we did was hold on tight to a rope while we stood on a tiny strip, trying to cover our noses and faces so that we could avoid the powdered snow flying at us, all around us.
I held the rope so tight that the gloves I was wearing almost tore. All I could see was white snow rushing towards us and nothing else. We had no option but to run for life. The path was so difficult that running was also very hard. I held on to the rope. At that moment, I feared death. But I kept Filming
16 mountaineers were immediately dead and almost 60 were injured it was the first time in my life I was witnessing such disaster and escaping death Changed me forever. I kept filming every moment and recording every moment and finally was able to make a documentary Film (Operation Everest – Summiteers to Saviours) out of that. This documentary won 6 National and international awards Including two prestigious Excellence awards (Ramnath Goenka award for on-spot Reporting and Red Ink award for Sports Journalism) in journalism in India for doing this Coverage.
4 How was your experience with NDTV like
NDTV for me is mecca of Journalism in India, That’s the only channel who still are trying to follow journalistic ethics, Otherwise there is No journalism left in this country, and It is very sad news for democracy, NDTV has always tried to bring change by having many campaigns on cleanliness, health and that is great, I have made many Documentary Films when I was with NDTV and I don’t think It would have been possible for me to make these films if I would have been working with some other INDIAN News Channel because No Indian Channels believe in Documentaries except NDTV and everyone should appreciate NDTV for taking forward this legacy of traditional journalism.
5 How is stint with BBC going ?
Working with BBC is Great, I have been continuously travelling from last one months, We have been filming for a series which will be released in English and 10 other regional languages of south Asia, It will be released in around september. Whole team is working very hard for this and we are hopeful that people will love it.
6 A bit on red ink award ?
After getting stuck on The Everest Basecamp when many Avalanches hit the camp, leaving 22 dead and over injured including one of my Camera person, and at that time It was very hard to stay there when people were running down, nothing was left there everything was blown away that’s when we decided to stay cover/film every bit of this suffering and also help in rescuing the injured, After coming back I got Two prestigious awards first award was Red Ink award for Sports Journalism because Mountaineering is a Sport and This award was presented by Governor of Maharastra and Mr Puish Goeal Minister of Coal and Power, Another award was Ramnath Goenka Award for On-spot reporting which was presented by Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi .
This years My another Documentary Lighting the Himalayas had got nomination in Red Ink award for best reporting In science and Innovation and it too won the award.
8 Your message to youngsters?
Our greatest weakness lies in giving up but never forget beginning is always hardest. Don’t let your fears triumph over your dreams and ambitions, consistency is the way that success demands so don’t give up keep going.
Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition because you can truly do what you want to, so believe in yourself and have trust on you because everything else is secondary
I believe everybody is a genius all it needs is just know that little thing that makes you extraordinary from the ordinary one’s. Always try to walk those extra miles that seems hindrance because trust me if you are able to cross them success is surely going to be yours most importantly remember that it’s not necessary to do everything just do the thing you love to do with utmost honesty and love what you are doing………
9 Advice to aspiring documentary filmmakers ?
Documentary film making is the most difficult profession to take in the current time when credibility gets measured by TRPs Because Documentary film making needs more Money , More time, Intense research and huge man power But in the current times of tabloid news when News organisations are not interested in spending more money and also are not ready to give you more time to produce it So that’s what is making it more difficult, Documentaries having no Market, Distribution, Theaters never agree to run these films because People come to watch entertainment films not serious informative stories which are real, It is very difficult to keep this Documentary tradition going.
My advice to aspiring filmmakers is to never ever compromise on the quality and content of the film that’s what is going to be your identity, You will face many challenges in terms of funds, distribution, But keep going because you are the ones who are keeping and going to keep this culture of film making alive.