Aadil Khan, Sadia
Vidhu Vinod Chopra
When you want to lean into the romance of poetry and beauty of love, but instead are jostled into the wrath of politics you know that life isn’t fair at all.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra brings us the story of Shiv Kumar Dhar (Aadil Khan) and Shanti (Sadia) The youngsters come together for a play but join hands for life. Shiv is a teacher and a poet, and Shanti is his strength. Together they have made a lovely life in the picturesque valleys of Kashmir. But everything changes in January 1990, merely a few years into their married life and they have to fled everything they called home.
With their basic belongings and memories, they join thousands of other Kashmiri Pandits who were forced to leave their home and hearth by the militant organizations in Kashmir.
Being suddenly homeless is difficult enough, considered refugees in their own country is adding insult to the hurt. How do Shiv and Shanti cope with this unrest? Do they ever go back home to Kashmir? That’s Shikara for you….
Vidhu Vinod Chopra never made it a secret that he holds his story close home. His own family having faced the brunt of it years and years ago. So his personal intentions are obvious in the film, the care with which he has built the characters and etched the aftermath itself tells you that Shikara is not a film, it is a personal diary of sorts.
Yet, it is that same care and attention that somehow mar the narrative. The pace of the film, for instance, is slow and the drama is underplayed in many scenes. Shanti played by Sadia has very restrictive emotions. She is either silently passing on the strength with half an expression on her face or she is crying. Worse the actions are on a constant loop making it monotonous after a while. Aadil gets his fair share of histrionics, as he displays frustration and fears in parts. One of his outbursts are really memorable too.
For both, Aadil and Sadia – this might have been a dream launch, given their director masters in setting love stories around unfortunate circumstances like Parinda, 1947 A Love Story and Mission Kashmir but with Vidhu Vinod Chopra so intent on his own story, the launch of two new actors seems to have taken a backstage. How unfortunate to have a big release but a tepid debut.
For music, Chopra has pulled in the best in the business – With A R Rahman, along with Sandesh Sandilya working on the songs and the background score – Shikara is bound to have the best. Yet, none of the songs stay with you when you come out of the theatre.
Which brings me to my ultimate confusion – if Vidhu Vinod Chopra wanted to make a film which brings the plight of the Kashmiri pandits out in the open, why did he choose to keep his film so select. Why didn’t he want to promote it more? It isn’t like Chopra cannot make a film feel real and yet be a commercial enterprise, we just have to look at his previous works, yet Shikara is not made for all. You need to be patient with the film, for it to come and bare its issues with you. Do the audience really have that kind of patience, Mr. Chopra?