Shikara – The Untold Story of the Kashmiri Pandits is anything but that. It was only marketed as one. Soon after I saw the film, someone pointed me to the publicity material. It had miraculously morphed into 'Shikara – A Timeless Love Story in the Worst of Times'. Sadly, the film isn’t even that. There is nothing timeless about Love or the Story in Shikara. And the Times it is set in were, actually, far worse than the filmmakers could summon the candour, or competence, to show. In fact, it is about the depiction of these Times that the film badly lets you down.
The story of Kashmiri Pandits is that of a brutal genocide. You may need a love story, or any other story, to show how that genocide was committed 30 years ago. That bit is understandable. In Shikara, it is the other way round. The film has used the Kashmiri Pandit genocide to show an ordinary gooey, mushy and pulpy love story. And, that it is not all.
You know how genetic modification (GM) makes fruits and vegetables look better, tastier and longer-lasting. Genocides are a messy business. Is that why ours has been given a bit of genetic makeover? Shikara has not only airbrushed the horrors of our brutal cleansing from the Valley, it has been fairly inventive about its origins too. For example, the film tells us that like all our problems, it is the President of America who is actually responsible for the exodus of Hindus from Kashmir. From the very first frame till the last, the hero is shown typing away. He writes hundreds of letters to the President of America protesting against their politics. Because, the Director believes that had the US not fought the Soviets in Afghanistan, we KPs would still be in our homes in Kashmir.
We are also told that the jihad we face is for a rational reason. A terrorist in the film takes to guns because his father succumbs to the head injuries sustained in a cane-charge by police on a political procession. Till I last checked, Hizb, Lashkar or Jaish were not formed to avenge the individual grievances. Nor did the brutes like Yasin, Bitta or Zargar take to guns for such reasons. Such rationalisations have served the cause of camouflaging jihad in Kashmir just as clumsily as the Naxals are justified in Bastar.
The scale and speed at which the violence is shown to erupt, leading to the Hindus emptying out, renders the pre-exodus bonhomie in the Hindu-Muslim relations in Kashmir unreal and exaggerated. This generally happens when you attempt to give primacy to a few individual exceptions over the larger societal realities. But then, how else would you secularise the hatred for Hindus and sustain a rose-tinted narrative?
And if you think that secular monkey balancing is now too trite to cut much ice these days, the story-teller begs to differ. While tomato-distribution in a refugee camp was to mock at a political party with a dead giveaway pseudonym, there was not even a pretence of an effort to mask a pedestrian homily on the Ayodhya issue. These issues in the film seem there to apologise for even the kid-glove treatment given to jihad.
Years ago when I heard that “Our Moon Has Blood Clots” was going to be turned into a movie by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, I thought, like many other activist friends, that our story might, finally, get the production values it deserved to deliver impact and reach. I should have recalled 1942, A Love Story he made to commemorate the golden jubilee of the Quit India movement. The leitmotif of that film was a song- Ek ladki ko dekha toh aisa laga… In Shikara, this time, Mr Chopra who sells romance for a living, seems to have turned the book into Mills and Boon has a few Blood Clots.
Sushil Pandit, author of this article is a Republic Contributor on Kashmir and Internal Security.
The views and opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing do not reflect the views of Republic TV/ Republic World/ ARG Outlier Media Pvt. Ltd.