Super Deluxe Movie Review: Sink into the ethereal blissfulness

Source: Twitter | Gopi Prasannaa

Super Deluxe leaves you with thoughts – about life, our existence, the perception of normalcy and questions over what is considered right (or wrong)

Greatness of Director Thiagarajan Kumararaja, who garnered towering praise for his debut film Aaranya Kaandam, was well-known. His second film Super Deluxe is beyond greatness. It’s blissful and enlightening. After a thrilling and exceptional neo-noir gangster movie like Aaranya Kaandam, Thiagarajan has taken several leaps forward since then and there’s an unprecedented masterclass shown by him through his latest film. Super Deluxe leaves you with thoughts – about life, our existence, the perception of normalcy and questions over what is considered right (or wrong).

Super Deluxe has three disconnected stories (Not to forget that it is powered by super-stylish background score of Yuvan Shankar Raja). When I say disconnected, it means that they have no real dependence on one another and the events in each of those stories are taking place without any relation to the other. But somehow their worlds collide at some point and alter the lives of characters involved completely. There’s a lot happening in these stories that keep you on your edges throughout the movie. A small kid named Rasukutty (Ashwanth Ashokkumar), in the first story, is excited to see his father returning home after several years. And when his father returns, he is, now, revealed to be a transwoman named Shilpa (Vijay Sethupathi) which leaves his wife Jyothi (Gayathrie’s dejected and shocked countenance in this role moves you) in utter shock. The second story shows a group of teenage boys adroitly planning for a movie time together. Why is planning required in the first place just to watch a movie? They are planning to watch a porn movie and revel in sexual pleasures that they will obtain from it. The ultimate revelation as they play the movie on television is that the actress turns out to be one of the boys’ mother. The third story shows that Vaembu (Samantha Akkineni) has slept with her ex-boyfriend in her home and he has died just after the sex. While she is frozen with horror, she looks out from her window and sees that her husband Mugilan (Fahadh Faasil) is returning home on his motorcycle. The intriguing start to all of these three stories sets the wheels turning right from the incipient stage. The film never allows you to slip into a train of thoughts and its interesting turn of events keeps you engrossed throughout.

The entire first half of the movie is evenly mixed with both the seriousness and the humour. It is only in the second half that the gravity of those grave situations starts to overpower the hilarity attached to them. Take the case of transwoman Shilpa (Vijay Sethupathi has outstandingly shed his masculine nature and has lent a terrific performance). It is hilarious when Rasukutty repeatedly runs to the door to see if his father has arrived. And when he does arrive, Rasukutty’s grandfather, funnily, due to his old age, has no clue who that is. Even though Rasukutty accepts his father for what he is now, the outside world has not welcomed Shilpa with open arms. Shilpa is sexually abused by a police officer Berlin (Bagavathi Perumal is amazing in this character) and even mocked at by school children (A direct potshot at the importance of sex education for children). In another story, there are comedic instances where Vaembu openly confesses that she had intercourse with the man who died immediately after sex and her husband Mugilan tries to take a look at dead man’s penis to figure out if that’s the difference between him and the dead man. Later, a threat from police officer Berlin and his demand for intercourse with Vaembu makes you uncomfortable. In the story involving the teenage boys, their meet up with the boss of goons and their pursuit of money remains one of the most side-splitting instances in the film. But one of the boys is admitted in a hospital and it’s agonising to see his mother Leela (Ramya Krishnan), a former porn actress, begging to Doctor to start the surgery. It shows the horrifying reality of some of the hospitals taking no interest in saving lives but to rake in money. The situation gets worsened when Arputham (Mysskin), the religious and superstitious father of the dying boy, takes his son to his place of worship in the hope of saving his life (You really get annoyed by this superstitious Arputham character. That’s how well this character is written).

I was mesmerised by the camera work and the detailed shots. Shots captured using still camera were phenomenal (As Shilpa is strolling along the street with Rasukutty, in one scene, the colourful posters on the wall makes up for a picturesque shot). Sometimes, the background scenes play important role in defining a moment and even explain so much about the situation a character is in (Rasukutty suddenly gets lost and Shilpa frantically searches about the street. At this instant, we see ‘Real World, Magic Event’ scribbled on a wall). Even the depiction of life in different forms enthrals you. No matter how much trouble you are in, there is a life beyond your purview which keeps moving (Vaembu and Mugilan are caught in a complicated situation. A dead man is kept inside their refrigerator. Some guests are sitting in their living room. Amidst all this, the camera closely focuses on the ants busily crawling up the wall).

With the representation of lust, infidelity, extraterrestrial life, superstition, sexual abuse, sex education, dejection, merriment, harsh reality and everything in between, Super Deluxe has a much bigger thing to convey. And in what style! The teenage boys go to a cinema hall to watch a porn movie called ‘Super Deluxe’ and it’s through this adult film, we get to look at a much bigger picture of life as a guy narrates in a preachy and quirky tone. This is a film where Thiagarajan questions what is considered a ‘normal’ life and what should be done (or not to be done) so as to be accepted by society. We get to realise that we all are one. This is one world. Super Deluxe is the greatest Tamil-language Indian film I have ever witnessed. I can even go on to say that it is one of the best films of all time.


Review of How To Train Your Dragon Movie Series: Peace and Unity

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How To Train Your Dragon is a film series comprising stupendous animated action fantasy that shows that there is strength in unity and with unity comes peace and mirthfulness.

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is taking his dragon, Night Fury a.k.a Toothless, for a flight. The dragon dives straight to the ground before altering its direction just above the ground level and going upwards and soaring at a great height. This is so fantastically depicted that we get immersed in a phantasm and feel like we are the ones riding that dragon. This is also the first taste of successful flight for Hiccup as a dragon rider in the first instalment of How To Train Your Dragon series. The immersive experience remains intact in the subsequent follow-ups to this first part.

Based on Cressida Cowell’s series of books by the same name, this film franchise, set in a dreamy world, has a moving story that, with human-dragon friendship, illuminates how unity and togetherness can bring about a much-needed peace and happiness even in the real world. How To Train Your Dragon shows Hiccup, a small kid, often termed weak and incapable of fighting, leading the way to prove how love can prevail over hatred. In How To Train Your Dragon 2, it’s Hiccup’s mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) living alone amongst the dragons and safeguarding them to ensure that one species do not get wiped out because of assault by the other (again, a much bigger picture represented where, in reality, we hear of a number of animals in danger of extinction due to man’s callous activities). While Hiccup has got this “dramatic flair” of protecting and loving the dragons from his mother, we can only learn from him and apply that in this world we love so dearly so as to protect endangered animals on our planet. Well, I am not sure if this is what it tried to depict but, in a way, it did seem to be sending out this strong message – This world is not only for humans.

Hiccup’s father Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler) leads from the front in killing the dragons for the security of people but the other side of his character, that is understanding and affectionate, takes over due to Hiccup’s influence. The father-son relationship was, especially, touching as Hiccup lovingly reminisces about the time spent with his father as a young kid in How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.

The series is committed to showing a world where women are part of the decision-making process and are as strong as men. Hiccup’s father asks for the opinion of his wife on what she thinks is needed to be done as she opines and leads them along to save dragons. She, also, can be seen winning in an arm wrestling match against a muscular-looking man.

The series has its share of hilarious instances too. My favourite of all is the one where Night Fury takes the cue from his master Hiccup to impress a female dragon Light fury but winds up doing them all wrong and even weirdly enough.

John Powell’s exceptional music lent a great value to this film. It magnified the emotions attached to different scenes and aptly blended with the mood of the film.

The fairy tale endings of the first two parts did not work for me and seemed draggy. Even some of the revelations did not really come off as a surprise (Hiccup says that he did not kill Night Fury as it was frightened like him but the events leading up to this revelation was suggestive of the reason for his refrainment and it was a child’s play to figure this out).

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World made the most of the foundation laid down by the first two instalments. It was easily the best of this film franchise. Even though it has a proper ending, it still leaves a sign of continuity and one can only hope that it resumes from where it left with another remarkable outing. Nevertheless, How To Train Your Dragon is a film series comprising stupendous animated action fantasy that shows that there is strength in unity and with unity comes peace and mirthfulness.

Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota Movie Review: A desi Superman

Replete with indirect references to brainless masala movies, this film is a reinvigorating and chucklesome take on familiar turn of events with a twist of weirdness.

It’s a never-ending process. It seems like masala genre and Indian cinema have been going hand-in-hand since ages and it is still continuing to be made for it has a huge fan-following and hero-worshipping. There are plenty of films that have largely been on the lines of familiar structure – hero-meeting-heroine-against-all-odds – with some of them having really good stories at its helm. Mostly, such films are criticised for defying all the logic. Vasan Bala’s Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota does the exact opposite. Replete with indirect references to brainless masala movies, this film is a reinvigorating and chucklesome take on familiar turn of events with a twist of weirdness.

Surya (Oh! How fantastic was Abhimanyu Dassani in this character) has a medical condition called congenital insensitivity to pain which literally means that he can’t feel the pain. Hence, the aptness of the title – Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota (The Man Who Feels No Pain). The movie goes about showing how Surya meets Supri (Radhika Madan is splendid), how he takes inspiration from a one-legged karate master named Karate Mani (Gulshan Devaiah), and the eventual capture of the villain (also acted by Gulshan Devaiah) in order to get back the chain snatched by him.

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Sometimes you get a scene narrated or played out in full and later get to know that it was either a figment of imagination or was actually ridiculing what would generally happen in a masala movie. Whenever such revelations happened, they were always laughable subjects. Surya’s mother, in a scene, hits a goon in a cinema hall sending him flying up in the air before the narrator clarifies that it didn’t happen that way. In another instance, Surya joins Supri in fighting off the goons before he comes to his senses and realises that it was all in his imagination and that it is Supri alone fighting them all off.

Even in serious situations, the hilarity remained intact. A goon lying on the ground acts as if he is hurt and purposely does not stand up so as to get away from the fighting scene. The villain, in another scene, asks for the genius who has, stupidly enough, fixed a tape on the leg of Karate Mani so as to restrain him. My favourite was the one where Surya shows all his fighting skills against a bunch of hospital staff and all Karate Mani does to encounter them is to casually squeeze an orange in their eyes.

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As the younger version of Surya calls it, if he is “Aag” (Fire), then Supri is a “Toofaan” (Storm). It turned out to be very true when they met 12 years later. Unlike the usual notion of masala films in which hero acts as the saviour of heroine and they both fall in love, this film chooses to show female empowerment and emphasises that they are in no way lesser in terms of physical strength when compared to men. Supri’s mother, while highlighting her own inability to choose a ‘life’ for herself, persuades Supri to run away to escape the man who is seemingly trying to take her to Canada and live a married life with her. Also, Supri can be seen fighting more than one goon with great style and flexibility.

Time and again, Surya does the Superman punch and asks Supri to use the laser in her eyes to ward off evil. You need someone to push you into a state where you think of yourself as some sort of superhero and it’s the grandfather Ajoba (Mahesh Manjrekar) who does that in this movie. So, there is always a feeling of watching a comic book sort of story. In this case, it seems like a story involving Superman and Supergirl devoid of any superhuman powers.

There comes a time when, much like us, Supri gets irked by childish mannerisms of Surya when she asks him to “grow up” and says that she does not have “bandwidth” for retelling what happened in 12 years of life, in which they apart from each other, in just a few minutes. In all its weirdness and funny instances, the frivolous nature of the pursuance of the ultimate goal is something that would put you off towards the end. Nevertheless, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota hints at a possible sequel in the end. It was amazing to see the way it took a dig at clichéd Indian masala movies and I hope it keeps doing so in the sequel.

Kesari Movie Review: An underwhelming showcase of an important Indian history

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Kesari pins its hopes on getting loud cheers (which it does get) for action sequences that are filled with intrepidity

Even before the film begins, there is a note that clearly says that this is based on the Battle of Saragarhi that also includes fictitious depictions. This did reflect onto the screen as Akshay Kumar, one of the biggest commercial actors in Bollywood, revels in the heroic fights in this painstakingly long drawn-out film. As a matter of fact, the very first fight sequence, where Havildar Ishar Singh (Akshay Kumar) jumps up in the air and shoots a man, foretold what’s in store for us. This is a film that pins its hopes on getting loud cheers (which it does get) for action sequences that are filled with intrepidity. Once the brief history is portrayed and the causes behind the battle are established in the entire first half of the movie, you realise that there is still another half of the movie left to endure. Director Anurag Singh’s Kesari (Saffron) is the account of how 21 soldiers of Sikh regiments show bravery and fight till death to combat thousands of men.

You don’t really need someone to spoon feed the patriotism in you. You should be able to feel it while watching a film. ‘Lagaan’, India’s rare gem that was shortlisted for Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, instilled a feeling of pride in every Indian. But there weren’t any forced instances of making us feel so. Except for the story that is set during the British rule, both Lagaan and Kesari are entirely different (with the former clearly outclassing the latter in triggering the emotions). By reiterating dialogues like Indians are “Ghulam” (Slave) to British and are “Darpok” (Coward) or “Pag ko haath nahi lagana” (Do not dare touch my turban), there is a definite effort being taken in Kesari to intensify the moments. As an Indian, I did understand the gravity of these dialogues and where they stem from, but such forced triggers hardly moved me.

On the contrary, some of the less emphasised scenes were much more interesting and I could only wish if those moments could stay longer. Parineeti Chopra, who fills the spot of Ishar Singh’s love-interest, lends much-needed warmth during the brief stay and even Akshay Kumar’s calm and jovial attitude in her presence is a loveable portrayal. The pre-battle comedic instances are transient and yet so nice (When Ishar Singh smirks behind the door thinking of how his men have misinterpreted a hen’s ‘Kook-Doo-Koo’ sound as ‘Cook’ or when he purposely visits a soldier’s room repeatedly to see him standing there and saluting him). Even Ishar Singh’s funny interaction with an Afghani girl, where neither of them knows each other’s language, is a great addition. Ishar’s kind gestures of offering water to the injured men or helping to build a mosque were unexpected and touching.

Kesari does serve the purpose of reminding Indians of a history that is not talked about or even taught in Indian schools. But it fails to leave the kind of impact that it intends to. It remains a forgettable affair.

Mere Pyare Prime Minister Movie Review: An open letter magnifying the problems of lack of public toilets in India and the rape cases

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Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Mere Pyare Prime Minister is a story where Kanhu (Om Kanojiya), an eight-year-old son of Sargam, writes a letter to the Prime Minister, after what happened to his mother, requesting him to build a toilet.

It’s the festival of Holi and, as is customary, Sargam (Anjali Patil) has drunk bhang which is a drink made out of cannabis. Sargam is joined by the entire group of people who live in this basti (Settlement). With everyone having fallen in the mood of celebration, the camera zigzags around to show them enjoying in this festive time, particularly the focus being given on Sargam and her love-interest Pappu (Niteesh Wadhwa). It, then, cuts to wee hours of the morning on the next day. It is still dark as the women in the basti go out together to defecate in the open. While they are heading back to their home, they meet Sargam who has overslept and couldn’t join them. Sargam assures them that she will be fine alone. A woman going out alone at night or in the wee hours, especially in India, is considered so dangerous with the reason being the cruel act that ensues at that spot involving Sargam. She becomes the victim of rape with a police constable acting as the guardian for such heinous crime. Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Mere Pyare Prime Minister is a story where Kanhu (Om Kanojiya), an eight-year-old son of Sargam, writes a letter to the Prime Minister, after what happened to his mother, requesting him to build a toilet.

The movie is an open letter to the administration raising concerns over the dearth of public toilets in India. And the best part is that there are no preachy instances to make us understand the gravity of the issue. Kanhu builds a toilet, all by himself, using just a few wooden pieces and a cloth. He, then, takes his friends to a public works department office and has to confront arrogant and unhelpful officials. He, even, travels all the way to the Prime Minister’s office with just a couple of kids to give him company for handing over a handwritten letter that innocently describes the issues faced by him and his mother (All it takes is an effort to make this world better and Rakeysh chooses to educate us through a kid). There is no uncertainty with regards to whether the letter to PM will bring about the desired change. It is just a matter of time when we finally get to see that the PM has stepped in to construct the toilets. It is more about the trauma that women like Sargam go through and how significant the issue is.

Devoid of basic amenities and living amongst the dirt, Sargam and Kanhu can live so happily. This is like an in-your-face answer to the people who crib about small things when there are bigger problems in the world. I loved the scene where Kanhu and Sargam sing “Aati Kya Khandala” before Sargam puts him to sleep. The mother-son relationship is further exemplified when Kanhu returns home after handing over the letter to PM’s office and says, “Maa ke liye kuch bhi kar sakta hoon” (I can do anything for Mother) and all he wants her to do in return is to cook the food spicier. In another scene, Kanhu and his friends are having fun and betting each other on some silly games while defecating in open. There is fun in filth. So, there is definitely a hope for goodness even in troubled times.

It was fantastic to see the way the importance of sexually transmitted disease (STD) is exhibited. It happens through a mature love angle between Sargam and Pappu. He says, in a scene, to a distraught Sargam that he thought about it a lot and he thinks it is better if she undergoes a medical-checkup for STD. He, also, had to say to the nurse in the clinic that the test is for him and asks Sargam to get herself tested as well since she is here. It was brilliantly portrayed to showcase a society where a sexual problem with a man is not as big a deal as it is when the same concerns a woman.

There is not much of a romance going on between Sargam and Pappu as that’s not the main focus of the movie too. But on a few occasions, when ladies in the neighbourhood vouch for him or jokingly say if she slept with him on the night of Holi, there is always a feeling that they will get together. And we want them to be getting along eventually. There have been many marriage proposals, even unique ones. But the mutual agreement between both of them, putting forth their consent for marrying each other without neither of them actually proposing with a straightforward question, is one of those scenes you remember for a long time.

Although I revelled in the scenes where Kanhu and his friends end up selling condoms or asking for donations using fake causes, the narrative was such that there was no conclusive thought given to all of that. They get caught by the police but when Sargam asks Kanhu to apologise to God for doing such illegal things, all he says is that he won’t say sorry to someone who didn’t save you while you became the victim of rape. Kids in the slums shouldn’t beg or steal money no matter what. Nothing of that sort could be inferred in this film. That’s the only weakling I felt in an otherwise spectacularly told story, with credible performances from Anjali Patil and Om Kanojiya in particular, that magnifies the problems of lack of public toilets in India and the rape cases.

Photograph Movie Review: Serenity at its peak

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The Lunch Box fame Ritesh Batra has this knack of creating characters with whom the different shades of life come to the fore. Photograph is no different.

A long shot shows Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui is brilliant as always) walking on a footover bridge as the traffic on the roads below is crawling along. There is a placidity and quietude about him even as he is deluged with loud honks of the vehicles. This is the very first scene of the movie. Even though it is ephemeral, it is also a moment to be captured on camera. A photograph of this scene will bring back the memories of solitude and quietness amidst the noise of everyday hustle and bustle. Such is the beauty of a photograph that Rafi, who earns a living by taking instant photos of tourists outside the Gateway of India, uses to great effect. The Lunch Box fame Ritesh Batra has this knack of creating characters with whom the different shades of life come to the fore. Photograph is no different.

Rafi and Miloni (Sanya Malhotra) are like two different ends of a thread. Circumstances are such that the two ends meet each other in the form of a knot. But the knot is not tight enough and is in the position of getting disentangled anytime.

Rafi’s stubborn grandmother (It must be said that Farrukh Jaffer’s authentic performance lent great weight to this grandmother character) is trying to get him married. Around the same time, he meets Miloni with his usual selling point when he says that “saalon baad jab aap ye photo dekhengi madam, toh aapko aapke chehre pe yahi dhoop dikhai degi…” (You will be able to see this sunshine on your face when you will take a look at this photo after several years). The story begins when Miloni agrees to act as his girlfriend in front of Rafi’s grandmother and a feeling of love and affection starts growing between them.

It is the bond between Rafi and Miloni that remained the standout feature of this film for me. Rafi, while writing a letter to his grandmother, writes that Miloni is like the first rain in the fields. It is, also, lovely to see Miloni’s slight hints to her fondness for him during her interactions with Rafi’s grandmother. The charming interaction between them when they sit opposite to each other in a tea shop exchanging their childhood secret is so wonderful (While Rafi reveals why he always goes for a kulfi at the end of a month, Miloni narrates her love for a beverage named ‘Campa Cola’ that is not in business anymore). When Rafi reaches just in a knick of a time to take Miloni away from her teacher (Jim Sarbh), who was trying to force her to come with him for a cup of coffee, she, later, innocently expresses her relief of being in Rafi’s company again as she utters, “Tum theek ho?… Main bhi theek hoon” (Are you fine?… I’m also fine).

The life of Rafi and Miloni, however different they are, seems to have one thing in common – wedding. Rafi dodges a question like “What sort of girl do you want?” from a shopkeeper. Even the news of his grandmother’s decision to not to take her medicines until he agrees to marry reaches the likes of taxi drivers and the kulfi (a type of dessert) sellers who know him. Miloni, on the other hand, is a bright student, belongs to an affluent family and her parents are looking for a perfect match. She is living life by the rules laid down by her parents. All she has to do is study well and get married to a guy who they think to be her best match. She has no say in the choice of her own dress (In a shop, she nods in agreement to whatever dress her family chooses for her). She silently eats her food and responds with a feeble voice that all is well when enquired by her father. The best portrayal of suppression of her feelings comes to light when the camera focuses on her feet, which is hesitantly moving, and we hear the voices of her parents discussing her future.

I was moved by Miloni’s character and a lot of credit goes to Sanya Malhotra for lending innocence and gentleness to this character with aplomb. Miloni’s revelation that her photo, taken by Rafi, showed a much happier version of her and a more beautiful one too, is telling evidence of how, in reality, she has to be content within the constraints of her life. In another instance, when Miloni expresses that she wants to live in a village and work in the fields, we understand how eagerly she wants to be liberated of her confinements.

As the movie neared its end, Rafi tells Miloni, while sitting outside a movie theatre, that all films have a similar tale where a man and a lady love each other but get separated due to man’s poor financial condition and the pressure exerted on the lady from her family. Somehow, the ending of such tales seems to be the most likely outcome of this movie as well. Ritesh Batra, probably, understands how attached one can get to these lovely characters and there is no definitive end given to this story. The beautiful bond between them is ephemeral just like the scenes inside a photograph.

Hamid Movie Review: Amidst the innocence, there is a harsh reality!

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Aijaz Khan’s Hamid is a film that brings the climate of fear to the forefront that is prevailing in the Kashmir and highlights the air of uncertainty in the lives of Kashmiris by portraying their loss and separation.

The film begins with a close-up shot of a wooden piece being sliced and smoothened. This is a scene inside a carpentry workshop that builds boats. Rehmat (Sumit Kaul), who works here, calls it a day and heads for home on his bicycle. On his way back home, he fearfully stops his bicycle at a distance when he looks at the security forces. On being called by them, he takes gentle steps towards them. He is asked to show his identity card and explain what’s inside his toolbox. Their eyes also fall on his diary and they ask him to read whatever’s written inside it. Rehmat reveals that he is good at “shayari” (poetry) and writes his own verses. The few verses that Rehmat goes on to read from his diary include words like “bawaal” (chaos) and “bechaini” (restlessness). Unable to deduce what he just recited, they suspect him to be a terrorist. Rehmat clarifies that this poetry is talking about how restless and chaotic his heart feels in the times of sufferings. Aijaz Khan’s Hamid is a film that brings the climate of fear to the forefront that is prevailing in the Kashmir and highlights the air of uncertainty in the lives of Kashmiris by portraying their loss and separation.

Hamid, which is an adaptation of the play Phone No 786, delves into the problematic situation in Kashmir by closely following Rehmat’s sudden disappearance and the effect that it has on his family. Rehmat is the father of Hamid (Talha Arshad Reshi is so lovely in this character). The movie explores how Hamid and his mother Ishrat (Rasika Dugal) go about searching for Rehmat in their own ways (if at all there is small hope of him coming back into their lives).

Innocence, humour and reality-check come to the fore through Hamid’s quest for knowing whereabouts of his father. He gets to know the importance of the number ‘786’ in Islam. Somehow, his innocuous trials of calling Allah using ‘786’, in the hope of seeking His help in finding his father, lead him into calling Abhay (Vikas Kumar) who happens to be a part of armed forces stationed in Kashmir. Their interactions on phone were not only funny but also showed how children like Hamid are oblivious of the gravity of the situation in Kashmir.

Rasika Dugal’s magnificent performance, albeit for a brief period, brought out the feeling of despondency in the character of Ishrat. She goes to the police station in vain. She is not able to talk to her son with compassion and does not even know Hamid is waving her goodbye while sitting inside his school bus. She unravels the sweater that she so lovingly knitted for her husband before his disappearance. She couldn’t stop crying while taking part in a sit-in. Such was the trauma and agony attached to her character that I wished she had more screen presence.

The film also depicts the ground reality in Kashmir through the people, the armed forces and the child. It is not trying to uncover what’s right and what’s wrong. Instead, it tries to show what’s really happening in Kashmir and does not shy away from doing so. There’s a guy spraying on road writing ‘anti-Indian’ message. A young guy pelts stone at an armed officer before getting caught and peeing his pants out of fear. A throng of people is holding placards and chanting “azaadi” (freedom) while an officer gets into a fight with one of them. The people are frightened by merely the sight of an armed officer (Abhay goes near a woman to know if she is Ishrat and help her in any way but the woman fearfully keeps her head down). Abhay, in a scene, reveals that he did not know the presence of a child when he went about killing terrorists in an operation and feels tired of being stuck here. Even during the phone conversation, when Abhay reveals who he really is, the first utterance that comes out of Hamid, a young eight-year-old boy, is “dushman” (enemy).

The limited nature of happier times that were shown in the movie can make one wish that more of such joyous times prevails in this beautiful part of the world. The brief display of father-son relationship, when Rehmat takes Hamid on his bicycle to school with both singing a Kashmiri song, is so beautiful that you want them to be like this forever. And as the movie comes to a close, Hamid takes his mother out on a boat. Seeing their smiling faces, one can think that they have moved on. But the pain of loss will linger in their hearts forever.