Cast: Aadil Khan, Sadia, Zain Khan Durrani
Director: Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Written by: Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Rahul Pandita, Abhijat Joshi
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
The film ‘Shikara’ directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra and co-written by Abhijat Joshi and Rahul Pandita is the story of the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits told through the love story of Shiv Kumar Dhar (Aadil Khan), a poet, PhD student and teacher and a nursing student Shanti Sapru (Sadia). They met on the sets of the movie ‘Love in Kashmir’ where they were picked up from the crowd to play background artistes.
Their love story blooms in the background of political and communal tensions in the valley. The communal tension and violence are on the peak in 1990, where lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits were asked to leave the valley for their safety. It was the night of 19th January 1990, when houses of the Pandits were burnt, and the infidels (pandits) were being forced to leave the valley.
The story post the exodus revolves around loss and pain in the refugee camps where Shanti and Shiv had to make tents out of bed sheets. Shiv lost his close aide and brother, Naveen during the exodus and to keep his last wish, Shiv started writing letters to the American president to get international attention on the issue.
The film is two hours long, tightly edited, yet a cinematically brilliant movie. Rangarajan Ramabadran’s brilliant cinematography kept the movie going, and it felt it like a live canvas on the screen. Great production with beautiful, yet simple costumes makes it an interesting watch.
However, it will be completely wrong to assume any mainstream Bollywood film to cross the steric hindrance of complications and fully comprehend the story of Kashmir. The film lacks a proper political or historical context and ends up in the one-sided and biased narrative of the exodus. The film, at times, to be politically correct, lacks the natural insouciance to tell a story like this.
The soul of the film is the love story of Shiv and Shanti, and somewhere in the beauty and simplicity of the love story, the film loses its purpose of telling the story of the exodus. The scenes from the refugee camps are quite accurate and well-depicted, but the story of Kashmiri Pandits deserved a more powerful and realistic film.
There are certain scenes in the movie which are painfully disturbing and reduce the entire narrative into binaries like the one with a grainy video of Benazir Bhutto asking Kashmiri Muslims to fight for independence. The motive of the director, though was to establish a narrative of love and compassion in the film. This can be evident from one of the scenes which date backs to 1992 where a kid was shouting “Mandir Wahi Banayenge” in the refugee camps. The protagonist, Shiv on hearing the slogans explained to the kid that the work of a leader is to unite and not divide.
The transition of the story is well portrayed through the change of colours from bright blue and green to slightly darker shades of brown. Beyond the vilification of ordinary Kashmiri Muslims, the film also blames the successive governments who didn’t do anything to help the cause.
The cast is the best thing that Vidhu Vinod Chopra was able to manage in this entire film. The acting by the two c was flawless, but somewhere the characters fell flat. There was no background story to those characters. In one scene we see Lateef (Zain Khan Durrani) abandoning a cricket match to deliver a letter for Shiv, and on the other (after his father’s death), we find him threatening Shiv to leave the valley.
The film lacks pace in the second half and seems almost rushed through in the end. The story moves without any drama or a major climax—expect the unexpected ending which looked poetically beautiful but realistically impossible.
The music composed by A.R. Rahman keeps the story going and aids you in watching the abrupt plot turning into a loosely-packed script.
Overall, the movie ‘Shikara’, which envisions its journey in the majestically beautiful water of Dal with lush greenery around, ends up staying just afloat in the muddy puddles.