No Fathers in Kashmir: A unique, raw story
You don't have to visit Kashmir to experience the agony and stark reality prevailing there. After you watch No Fathers in Kashmir, director Ashvin Kumar's unique, raw story-telling will remain etched in your minds. Noor (Zara Webb) and Majid (Shivam Raina), a local Kashmiri boy, go on a dangerous journey in search of their fathers who've been 'picked up' on suspicion of being involved in militant activities.
The movie raises pertinent questions and emotions. It is a grim story sprinkled with heart-warming light moments of interaction which bring a smile to your face.
The moments shared between Noor and Majid eventually develop into a tender love story with the backdrop conveying the stark contrast between love and war.
Talking about emotions, Noor's quest to find her father is understood. Her restlessness holds. It is symbolic of the struggle of Kashmir's 'half-widows' and 'half-orphans' of the 'disappeared' men. However, her mother's newfound relationship with a diplomat and her grandparents' attempts to cope with their missing son is all predictable. A disturbed father waiting for his son and a mother's outbursts when she remembers her child, are emotions that could have been explored better. Moreover some attempts to create an air of childlike innocence are ridiculous, like when Majid poses with a gun so Noor could get her photo with a 'terrorist'.
It seems absolutely bizarre and only exists to set up a plot point later in the film. But every actor is aptly cast. Both Webb and Raina retain the curiosity and innocence throughout the movie synonymous with their characters. Unlike most child actors, the approach these debutants use to convey their expressions are really strong. Soni Razdan and Kulbhushan Kharbanda also do a wonderful job.
Kumar as Arshad signifies the few men who make it back, albeit scarred for life and radicalised, despite being highly educated. Theoretically, the narrative includes all the components for an emotionally driven film but the exposition sometimes seems to be forced. However, the tension and emotional build-up is shown excellently, especially in the scene where they're looking for their fathers and get lost near the Indo-Pak border.
The first half is a complete mishmash and the narrative wastes time by trying to educate the viewer on the difference between a militant (one who fights for freedom) and a terrorist (a criminal). Also the film tries to present the cold face of the Indian army patrolling our borders. It will make you uncomfortable that the sight of men in military uniform would make you feel unsafe.
Cinematography is a mixed platter of shots but the panoramic view of the edge of mountain where the two teenagers are standing is breath taking. The beauty of Kashmir is shown in each shot but the bleakness of its reality is seen in the grey that dominates every frame.
The film ends with Noor leaving Kashmir to go back to the UK, as Majid chases her car. This gives the message that outsiders have the luxury to tune out of the Valley's suffering because they have no real stake in Kashmir.