- Movie Name:Shikara
- Critics Rating: 3.5 / 5
- Release Date: Feb 7, 2020
- Director: Vidhu Vinod Chopra
- Genre: Drama
The timing of 'Shikara's release is hard to ignore, with the "Union Territory" of Jammu and Kashmir limping to get back to normalcy. Ironically, the time frame in which 'Shikara' is based belongs to an era where Jammu and Kashmir was a state with its own Constitution. How and why the Pandits were thrown out of the state in a matter of just one day -- January 19, 1990 -- deserved a retelling that could evoke emotion, and Vidhu Vinod Chopra wins hands down at least in this aspect. What he only lags is the movie's political espousal with the "Kashmir problem".
Chopra's 'Shikara' chronicles the life of two young lovers trying to make a living in a conflict-ridden state. The tenderness and genuinity of love between the leads -- Aadil Khan's Shiv Kumar Dhar and Sadia's Shanti -- make for one outlook of the narrative.
This outlook is all love. Shiv and Shanti are two insanely, beautifully optimistic souls who believe love, and only love, can win over hatred. They choose to stay at the refugee camps and teach the school children despite having secured a PhD. Their love story is sweet, and gives an old-school romance in a wilder setting.
Debutants Aadil and Sadia are a revelation. They brilliantly execute whatever is asked of them, not leaving any room for an ill-placed emotion. Aadil, particularly, excels in his 50-something avatar. The restraint in his performance speaks volumes about his talent. He has a long way to go.
Sadia is the perfect foil to Aadil. She literally glows in every frame, and shows a lot of promise.
The second and the most important detail missing in the movie is the political background to the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits on January 19, 1990. The strike on the Pandits emerges out of nowhere. They are asked to leave the Valley with threats of killings and blasts soonafter Shiv and Shanti start their married life. It's the travails of Shiv and Shanti that mostly capture the frame and narrative of 'Shikara' -- entirely overlooking the politicial dynamics that went into the tragedy. There are sub-plots that are equally engrossing -- but too little too late. These plots are also not given the required depth and screen-time.
In one sequence towards the climax of the film, Shiv's long-lost best friend, who had become a militant when his father was killed, confesses to have killed Shanti's soul sister. Lateef Lone had a crush on the friend, Aarti -- summing up one of mini-tragedies in the wider blight of Kashmir.
There are a few scenes of the television coverage of the then Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto's rallies where she invited Muslims from India, particularly Kashmir, to seek refuge in her country. The blink-and-miss scene does no good to the narrative either.
The screenplay and story, jointly written by Chopra, Rahul Pandita, and Abhijat Joshi, reduces the complex issue of Kashmir to a series of incidents over 30 years primarily faced by two people in love. That Chopra wanted to do just that -- bring forth the grief of losing a home to unknown forces -- is understandable; but he could have at least not employed clumsy ways by which the leads fight/tend to fight their problems.
Writing letters to the US president and seeking international intervention to handle matters in Kashmir is one of the ways Shiv employs to find solace. But -- and obviously -- to no avail.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra has said the movie is a tribute to his mother, also named Shanti, who could not return to Kashmir. 'Shikara', by that measure, is Chopra's ode to the Valley. Shot by Rangarajan Ramabran and edited by Chopra, the movie presents Kashmir in its most natural glory. The filmmaker, in order to lend authenticity to the narrative, has taken real-life refugees (read: Kashmiri Pandits) to play people who shared the camps with Shiv and Shanti. The movie was conceptualised 11 years ago, and shot over the years. That alone deserves an applause.
AR Rahman and Sandesh Shandilya's music is magical. And so are Irshad Kamil's lyrics.
'Shikara' is a sketchy account of a larger issue, highlighting only the hardships of the affected without delving deeper into the cause and ramifications. It does not boast of chest-thumping patriotism, but it also does not provide a suitable context to explain why the Hindu-Muslim binary changed when it did. A few scenes are tear-jerking, and some are heart-wrenching. A few also go to show how Bollywood has forgotten the better way to do "romance" on screen.
Watch 'Shikara' for the scenic beauty of Kashmir, Aadil and Sadia's earnest portrayal of Shiv and Shanti, respectively, Vidhu Vinod Chopra's sensitive depiction of a part of his own life, and an important History lesson. The political nuances can take care of themselves.
IndiaTVNews.com verdict: 3.5 stars