Lamhaa The Untold Story: Told Tale…Watered Down
By MovieTalkies.com, 17 July 2010
'Lamhaa The Untold Story Of Kashmir', comes close on the heels of 'Red Alert', and like the former, tries to take an upfront, close up of a volatile issue plaguing the county. Both films deal with issues which are highly complex and it would be stupid to expect the respective filmmakers to provide a solution in their films.
Jammu and Kashmir has been burning since almost after Independence, and to date, there has been no peace in the state. Rahul Dholakia's 'Lamhaa' attempts to go close to the problem and builds a fascinating story around it, but obviously, is not able to provide any answers.
The film's tagline is somewhat misleading as Lamhaa is not really an 'untold story' but one which people have been reading in newspapers and seeing on television for years. With this movie, Dholakia steps into very typical Bollywood territory and the film is a very typical mainstream product. The material that Dholakia is dealing with is hardly new. Yes, one has to admit that hearing anti Indian slogans is quite disturbing and a sort of novelty for Hindi film viewers.
Dholakia does attempt to untangle the politics behind the Jammu and Kashmir issue but it still comes across as a very watered down treatment. Once you enroll stars, there are certain things which come with the territory, like Dutt's heroics at the end, which is hardly realistic and the romantic song between Bipasha Basu and Kunal Kapoor.
The other problem with the movie is that even though it has a very fast paced screenplay, often it also appears to be very scattered and disjointed. But overall, the film is still quite a refreshing change from the usual simplistic Hindi film fare that is normally dished up. The disappointing thing about the movie is that it has been directed by Dholakia and one expected a stronger statement from him.
The film opens with military intelligence officer Vikram (Dutt) being assigned to a special mission in Kashmir, where a major disturbance is expected, one which is expected to have far reaching consequences. He assumes the identity of Gul Jehangir and lands in the Valley. On that very day, a major blast takes place in Srinagar, where a top separatist leader, Haji (Anupam Kher), who is in cahoots with the Lashkar and ISI, escapes with his life.
There seems to be a connection with the blast and the expected operation to be launched by the separatists and Vikram gets into action trying to unravel the plot. He meets Aziza (Bipasha), one of Haji's close followers. Her outspoken ways bring her into a confrontation with Haji and she soon parts ways with him and teams up with Vikram to unravel the plot.
What comes out is the usual nexus between politicians, businessmen, arms dealers and the Pakistani ISI. The 'jihaadi' camps in Pakistan occupied Kashmir where kids are trained in warfare and a corrupt army top brass which is more than happy to look the other way as separatists infiltrate the porous border between Indian and Pakistan is something that everybody knows about, nevertheless, it is still disturbing to watch.
Also on display is the plight of so many mothers, wives and sisters awaiting news of their men, who were taken by the army and have been missing for years. Yes, none of this is new and we read about it daily in our newspapers. Kashmir, the heaven on earth is really a hell hole, as one of the characters in the film aptly puts it.
The mess in the state created by successive governments, the Indian army, our neighbouring countries and the corrupt middlemen, seems to be almost beyond repair. And of course, nobody is willing to take the risk of allowing the real voice of the Kashmiris to be heard.
Dholakia does his best to capture all of this despair and anger in his movie. He is greatly aided by his cinematographer James Fowlds, who does a brilliant job of recreating this atmosphere with his camera. The colour palette that is chosen by the DoP is telling. Delving mostly with greys and blues, he succeeds in bringing out the stark despair in the state. And even in these stark colours, the Valley looks breathtakingly beautiful. The music by Mithoon perfectly complements the content and the scenic beauty.
Dholakia is letdown by his screenplay (Dholakia and Raghav Dhar), which though very well paced, is a little scattered and does not go very deep into the issue. Also the manner in which Dutt's character cracks the plot in the end and manages to win the day, is a little too filmy and not dealt with sincerely. Probably, Dholakia's intent, though in the right place, was not strong enough to make a stark difference to the movie. The finale, it is just way too filmy, and that too without any proper buildup.
In fact, Dholakia's intent gets watered down the moment one sees Dutt stroll into the frame. No fault of the actor though, as he puts in a sincere performance. It is more about what Dutt stands for. Ditto for Bipasha, though one must confess that she has done quite a fine job in the movie.
Kher is a great actor and he gets a chance to display his histrionics in this movie and fares quite well. Kunal Kapoor's role takes a backseat, but at least he seems to look the part. He is impressive in certain scenes but is not charismatic enough.
The other character actors like Shernaz Patel, Yashpal Sharma and Rajesh Khera are quite good in their parts. However, Mahesh Manjrekar seems a little wasted and his Marathi accent is quite a giveaway.
'Lamhaa' works in parts. As a whole, it is disappointing only because one expected a lot more from Dholakia. By taking the mainstream way, Dholakia may have ensured that his film gets watched by all, but one is not sure if the compromise seemed worth it as the issue seems lost.
'Lamhaa' manages a few convincing and sane moments, but that's about it. In the end, Dholakia's 'Lamhaa' seems quite doomed, almost like its subject.