Dear Vidhu Vinod Chopra:
Like the ever so many letters ‘type written’ to the American President in the movie, some in hope, some in despair, some on poetic justice, some from desperation, here is one that may well not reach the target.
After that deft handling of a poignant tale of a Kashmiri Pandit couple, I shed a tear or two in the dark environs of an urban multiplex. As a stand-alone essay of a family dislodged and lakhs forcibly shunted out of their homes, you touched a chord of hurt and sorrow. However, I must inform you that just as you were telling us the tragic details from the Presidential Suite near the Taj Mahal, three jean clad youngsters were giggling and faulting the narrative. Never mind. Let’s stick to the narrative.
You deal with how the terrorists ‘they’ indulge in arson, loot and push one community out of there homes. Yes, there is a brief, very brief preface lost in the larger picture. That lead to the nagging doubt on intellectual honesty. However, are you obliged to be so? Did Leon Uris stick to the truth in his narrative? Are you bound to be objective? So close to happenings in real, can this reel be seen with a lens of suspicion or at least the cynicism that is all to heavily loaded on our side?
Professor Shiv Kumar Dhar (Adil Khan) and Shanti Dhar (Sadiya) are the newly married couple building a nice home. Unmindful of what is happening around them, they romance in a Shikar, invest in a nice new home but then January 19, 1990 happens. Uprooted, they find themselves in a refugee camp alongside many Kashmiri pundits forced to leave the heaven on Earth. A microcosm of a family shattered surely paints the pain, trauma and suffering of the victims. Why then the disclaimer? It mocks the cinematic integrity of the two hours to follow. Compromise qua passion!
Outside of the severe security of being balanced, the space you choose is a conceded space as a film-maker. In what limited expanse of non-accountability, you are impressive. As real as Munna Bhai – only this time, the protagonist is neither a doctor nor a mahatma.
Of course, there can be no justification to militancy in a civilized society. The corollary is no one can support the January tragedy. We must however not wink at the larger issue. Alfred Hitchcock made an entire film from a single area – the Rear Window. You are obviously inspired by the genius. Have you heard about the Kashmir Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons?
While it surely is a sensitive display of agonised deep-rooted pain – half the pain, the narrative of the Mahabharata cannot be only about the killing of Abhimanyu and Drona. That is episodal of the epic. Maybe you were hard pressed for resource. For time, you had aplenty. You said elsewhere that this is a story you have waited for decades to say. Congrats for saying it well.
The lead pair made me feel you were telling a story with Ashwini Bhave and Priyanshu Chatterjee. Given your track record, you surely had reasons not to invest in stars of even more tested actors – just as the viewers with their response. Thanks especially for great music and cinematography.
You said there would be “the other side” soon. Will wait, in the meanwhile, the state of the state has changed completely, we are told. We are also told: the more we change, the more we remain the same.