Directed by Oscar-nominated Ashvin Kumar, 'No Fathers In Kashmir' is a story of forgiveness and hope, seen through the playful eyes of love-struck teenagers, Noor and Majid.
A young British-Kashmiri girl Noor comes home to meet her grandparents in Kashmir with her mother and to-be-father. She eventually becomes friends with Majid. Majid's mother tells Noor that her father didn't just 'leave them', he was 'picked up' by the Army and never returned. Noor's life turns upside down when she learns this dark secret about her father.
Noor, along with Majid, sets out to dig up the truth about their fathers — are they dead or alive? But this journey brings in its own hurdles. Everything changes when they get arrested by the Army near the Indo-Pak border. While Noor is released because she is a British citizen, Majid is held back. What happens next is an intense and innocent drama unfolding in the scenic beauty of Kashmir.
Boy: 'Do click a picture with a terrorist when you are in Kashmir! It would be cool'
Noor: 'Where am I going to find a terrorist?'
Boy: 'Everywhere in Kashmir'
That's the film's opening interaction, between Noor, played by Zara Webb, and her friend in London.
Noor who decided to visit her ageing grandparents in Kashmir, befriends Majid, a teenage boy who also lost his father years back. Noor's favourite hobby — clicking pictures for social media. Her camera captures the beauty, the Kashmiri locale, and the seemingly perpetual battle between two opposing forces, the grief families go through and more. Her phone camera does play an important part in the story later.
A stark difference between the two Kashmiri kids — one who is seeing the world with questions in her mind and the other whose world has seen war, humiliation and violence around and doesn't want any answers.
A discussion on Kashmiri Sufism and Islam also finds a place among the complex issues discussed in director Ashvin Kumar's film
The film deals with a lot - half-widows in Kashmir (something that Vishal Bhardwaj's 'Haider' also touched upon through Tabu's character), loss of your family members, naivety of the generation today, fear of the 'darkness' surrounding the beautiful valley.
Ashvin Kumar doesn't take any sides in the film but rather leaves it up to the viewer to decide. A dialogue that may summarise the plot of the entire film — 'We never know why people do what they do, because we were never there.'
Cast: Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Soni Razdan, Zara La Peta Webb, Ashvin Kumar, Natasha Mago, Shivam Raina, Anshuman Jha, Sushil Dahiya, Maya Sarao
What works: To begin with, the writing. The dialogues were on point and one could connect with them. Each actor delivered terrific performances. The cinematography by Jean-Marc Selva and Jean-Marie Delorme was simply stunning. Kashmir and the rawness of the Valley was perfectly captured. Kashmiri music was refreshing to listen to. The shaky camera-work gave the feeling of the viewer being present there to witness the grim reality, which was brilliant. A special shout-out to Maya Sarao who was terrific and a gem as Majid's mother in the film.
What doesn't work: The screenplay was a bit slow in the first half but that was probably needed to build the intensity and shock that was to come in the second half. Some continuity flaws and some questions were left unanswered. Soni Razdan's screen time was less and leaves you wishing the director could have given her a more meaty role.
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