Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mission Kashmir

A still from the film
     Over the years, several films have been shot in Kashmir but not many have been based on it. For obvious political reasons. By this cowardly yardstick, Harud (Autumn) has to be a welcome exception. Not only is it entirely filmed in the so-called paradise but also centred on those who indeed live there and speak accented Urdu. Appropriately, their struggle for dignity—if not freedom—can be seen documented throughout the movie. However, the initial commotion silently gives way to a relatively calculated pace of events that unfolds.
     Following a family that has lost a son and is on the verge of losing another, the plot draws parallel against the unstable ambiance. The protagonist’s father, sane as a cuppa, turns somewhat weird. His mother isn’t prepared to mourn her firstborn’s death yet. His friends hope to get out of the mess they are not responsible for. This may sound like a perfect melting pot for militant bullets and grenades, surprisingly enough, there aren’t enough explosions to rattle your eardrums. Perhaps the chaos prefers to manifest mentally than physically.
     Director-turned-director Aamir Bashir merits kudos for his perseverance given the fact that the film was made back in 2010; and most importantly, for choosing such a grave topic. No doubt Harud is his baby from beginning to end. Having said that, there are instances when he indulges too much in scenes that don’t particularly contribute much to the overall narrative. The characters could have been sharper. Other than the veteran Iranian actor Reza Naji, all other cast members are non-actors. And it shows. But what they lack in performance, Bashir tries to make it up with wondrous visuals.
     The tranquil images of pristine lakes juxtapose with the boy’s violent past. In the meantime, long shots continue to tease your patience and abstract references tests your ignorance. Metaphors flow in abundance. With the change in season, chinar’s leaves get busy leaving the tree. But the people are sticking to their roots, armed with technology. Maybe there is hope. Maybe not.
     If the purpose of a movie is to move you, then Harud does that pretty well. For mainstream regulars, this independent effort might come across as a bit boring. But then, boredom is a luxury where fear rules. Not everyone can afford it. The same is true about this rather brave film.

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