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Paradise Regained: Hamid Tells Us Why Kashmir Is Still Paradise




Starring Talha Alshad  Reshi, Vikas  Kumar, Rasika  Duggal

Director  Aijaz Khan

Rating; **** ½(4 and a half stars)

 Political turmoil  and  separatist violence have  now  become  synonymous with Kashmir. It wasn’t always that way. Once  known as heaven on earth, the paradisical  importance of the violent Valley  is  celebrated  in  muted shades of  innocence and  redemption in this gentle saga of love trust and belief during times  of  acute strife.

This is a film that Majid Majidi could have made. The blend of  blood and innocence is the hallmark  of  the Iranian auteur’s filmmaking style. Director Aijaz Khan has adapted  Majidi’s  style wholesale and  then given it his own striking yet  unostentatious   twist. This is  a Kashmir  shrouded  in  militancy and yet salvaged by redemptive  twists  of fate which perhaps would stump even God.

Standing tall in this slender parable  of  strife and  humanism is  little  Hamid, played with a instinctive  gravity and  artless wisdom by Talha Alshad Reshi.  Casting him  is half the battle  won. As  little Hamid converses  on his  missing father’s  cellphone with ‘God’(who turns out to be a troubled CRPF jawan with a  Bihari accent) the plot  puts forward  a sturdy yet subtle  argument for dialogue,albeit on an  artless “poetic” level which for all  practical purposes serves  no purpose in  the real world  of stone pelters and human bombs.

And  yet  in spite  of  the film blissfully  burying its head in  the  clouds, there is a burning yearning for peace underlining the treacherous tranquility  of  the film’s  surface. In fact the  director doesn’t seem  to be very comfortable with the  bursts of  violence that  punctuate  little Hamid’s  dialogues with  ‘God’.The  film’s  only  unconvincing moments are  those that show the characters losing  their equilibrium.

 Hamid’s  desperate  desire for the return of his  missing father, his unlikely phone-friendship with the  soldier  Abhay (what  if Ritesh Batra’s  Lunchbox  was  about a longdistancefriendship between a father-less child and a man seen to be  in some way responsible for  the little  boy’s  tragedy?) and his eventual realization that the father he so  anxiously  awaits will  never return , are mapped in a labyrinth  displaying  the  pathway  of   pain and  suffering into the human heart.

Adapting this poetic political parable to  the large  screen,  director  Aijaz Khan forfeits none of Kashmir’s scenic  outdoor beauty, nor at the same  time,  does the  film’s frames  look like touristic  brochure.  As the story of  little  Hamid unfolds in a tapestry of pain andselfrealization we are taken on a  subtle tender  yet revealing voyage  into the valley of  violence.

While the little boy Talha Alshad Reshi with his  big questioning  eyes is  a natural-born  scene stealer , Rasika Duggal as an impoverished  single parent  struggling to come to terms  with the immensity  of  her loss, is the portrait  of supreme conviction and credibility.

 Curiously  the film daintily steers away from getting inti  the murkier aspects  of  the mother’s singlehood  in  a  state ridden with  predatory aggression. For  better or for worse, this gem  of  a  film wants  to  steer  its  boat  away from the  violence that stares  little  Hamid and his  mother in the face.  Rounding  out    this resonant raga  of hope , the narrative concludes  with  little Hamid receiving some expensive paint to colour the boat the boy builds by embracing his father’s craft of carpentry.

Red  is  the  colour of blood  and bloodshed. But in this  film it is also the  colour  of  hope and positivity. It’s time to paint the Green Valley  into postcard-perfect shades again. Hamidbrings hope . It’s  an irresistible  piece on peace, and one that every Indian must see. The film opens across  India  on March 15. 

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