No Fathers In Kashmir Movie Review: Ashvin Kumar’s Sensitive Drama Is Too Important A Film To Ignore

The film asks the question, ‘Do Kashmiris want a free state?’ Many born in this piece of Heaven on Earth have reservations about belonging to either India or Pakistan. Is the war for Kashmir one of the deadliest in modern-day history? Well, this film says that it is far worse than those being fought in other parts of the world. Does the movie raise pertinent questions and emotions? Yes, it does. However, the first half is a complete mishmash. In a bid to educate the viewer on the difference between a militant (one who fights for freedom) and terrorist (one who is a criminal), the narrative wastes time by giving you a sideshow on many other aspects. Noor’s quest to find her father is understood. Her restlessness holds. However, her mother’s new-found relationship with a diplomat and her grandparents’ attempts to cope with their missing son is all predictable. A disturbed father writing letters to his son (who he hopes to see someday) and a mother’s outbursts when she remembers her child are emotions that could have been deeper. Kumar bravely implants a love story into the narrative which literally goes to great heights of absurdity when a Londoner NRI girl Noor(Zara Webb) takes off into the densely forested mountains with a local Kashmiri boy Majid(Shivam Raina) in search of her missing father’s grave. The whole expedition, a misadventure shared by two children who deserve to be spanked and put under house arrest, lapses into the ludicrous when the boy, barely into his teens, gets into intimate kissing with the girl in the forest. The entire episode, contrived and unconvincing, changes the core issue of the film into something much less political than militancy.

The whole idea of a foreign-returned girl roaming around the violent valley sneaking into the homes of militants and climbing up mountains filled with dangerous animals (both two and four legged) strikes me as utterly unpalatable. Kumar has also cast himself in the film’s most complex role, playing a tortured impotent jihadi whose motives are as suspect as his sneaky demeanour. The rest of the supporting cast including some very fine actors like Kulbhushan, Soni, Anshuman and Maya(playing Majid’s distraught mother with nerve wracking intensity) are wasted, as the plot barely allows them to say their lines before they are rudely pushed out into the abyss. But one look at the innocent articulate eyes of the two lead players, and you forgive the film’s inability to tighten the screws around the edges. Zara and Shivam are prized finds. They seem to belong to the film’s Kashmiri landscape.

“No Fathers in Kashmir” has its gaping flaws. These cannot take away from the film’s disturbing truth about Kashmirthat the rest of Indiais unwilling to face.