Kashmir has always been ‘heaven on earth’ for Indians (and for some across the border too). Actor-turned-director Aamir Bashir attempts a serving of Kashmir from an insider’s perspective.
The plot: Set in district Kupwara near the Indo-Pak border, Rafiq (Shanawaz Bhat), mother Fatima (Shamin Basharat) and father Yusuf (Reza Naji), are struggling to cope with the loss of his older brother Tauqir. A photographer, Tauqir has disappeared due to the insurgency persisting in Kashmir.Rafiq goes about his daily chores listlessly, ‘forever sleeping’, as his friends put it, until, he stumbles across his brother's old camera. The camera provides a new perspective and life begins to slowly look up when calamity raises its ugly head once again.
The good: It’s no longer ‘heaven on earth’ and this sorry plight has been brought out well through little details. The appalling state of the state needs focus and the film does just that – be it the insurgency, the broken spirit of the people, the search for dignity, the desire for independence or the political problems flaring up at regular intervals. Subtle performances, without too many obvious dialogues, make sure that the film is not a mere entertainer. It commands people to ponder.
The bad: Despite its many insights, Harud fails to evoke any real emotions in the viewer. Even though it isn’t an outsider’s overview, there is no genuine connect with the protagonist or with the state of affairs in Kashmir. It is a tale told with complexity, demanding complete focus on the proceedings, which inches forward at a snail’s pace, making it difficult to pay complete attention. The complete lack of humor and music adds solemnity to an already serious subject. The use of subtle metaphors and symbols cuts off the understanding of the film for a major section of the people.Harud has done well on the festival circuit, being the official selection for the Toronto International Film Festival 2010, 54th BFI London Film Festival and the Mumbai Film Festival 2010. However, it seems unlikely that this will translate into commercial gains with just three prints at the cinemas (released by PVR in the Director’s Rare category).
Overall: Being a Kashmiri himself, Aamir Bashir has chosen a subject close to his heart. But the telling doesn’t translate into heartfelt cinema.
– Nikita Periwal