REVIEW: The setting is late 80s and the communal tension in the picturesque valley of Kashmir is increasing at an alarming rate with every passing day. Yet, literature enthusiast Shiv and his docile and demure wife Shanti are convinced that they are safe in the neighbourhood they have called home for decades now. But, as years pass by, the intensity of widespread religious violence surpasses the supposition of the couple and that of thousands of other Kashmiri Pandits, and then, they are struck with the horrific exodus of January 19, 1990. Standing at the threshold of losing everything they ever had, Shiva and Shanti are now torn between two equally tough choices – save their lives and leave behind their beloved birthplace or stay back and face the aftermath of a battle against their community.
If it’s not already evident, Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s ‘Shikara’ is an attempt to bring to light the plight of Kashmiri Pandits and their insurmountable strength and courage in the face of adversity. Staying true to the 90s era and the hostility prevalent during that period, Chopra, very systematically, rolls out his historical romantic drama through an innocent love story between two perpetual optimists. Then, blends it with the real-life story of constant conflict between the Muslim extremists and the Kashmiri Pandits in the valley, eventually, wrapping it up with the theme he had originally started out with – how pure love can withstand many a battle, even of war and bloodshed. Throughout the film, the writer-director throws in various subplots – both real and reel – without derailing from the central theme even once.
However, the narrative is a tad bit more visually exciting and cinematically engaging in the first half, as there are multiple elements to keep one guessing about what’s going to unfold. While the second half is more invested in the love story – which does feel far-fetched, predictable and dated at times. Also, considering it’s a historical drama, it is rather disappointing to witness that the film does not go beyond a few fleeting mentions of the ordeal of the people from the other side of the incident; a one sided approach. Not to mention, some parts of the screenplay of ‘Shikara’ seem all too convenient; almost like it was written in haste to rush back to the theme of romance.
Debutants Sadia and Aadil Khan make an attractive pair to watch on screen. Sadia, with her infectious smile, is a natural in portions where she is playing the younger part. Aadil’s depiction of an amateur poet does not resonate half as much as his portrayal of an older man.
The music and background score (A.R Rahman and Sandesh Shandilya) of ‘Shikara’ is like balm for the soul, with able support from lyricist Irshad Kamil.
To sum it up, Vindhu Vinod Chopra’s ‘Shikara’ will cater to the cinematic sensibilities of a certain section of the audience. As a love story, it works at some level, but in the bigger picture, this old-school romance doesn’t really grip you and keep you engaged for too long.