Mission: Kashmir

Vinod Chopra has created a movie that clearly displays the disharmony that a region (and a country) can possess over the always sensitive matter of religion. The film's writer Abhijat Joshi was asked if he thinks this film makes a statement by fostering social or political change, he says:

"It would be a pity if a potent medium like cinema, with its massive reach, fails to make an important statement in a country with innumerable problems of terrible magnitude. Mission Kashmir is an anguished outcry against violence. Mission Kashmir is neither anti-Hindu nor anti-Muslim. It blames fanatical forces on both the sides for turning a paradise like Kashmir into a hell."
Wikipedia lists 21 different types of religions in Canada and, though we too have our share of spiritual discord, I can't imagine anything like Chopra depicts in his film happening over here. It's one thing to create a piece of actiony fiction, but another when it's based in reality.

Mission: Kashmir is the story of SSP Inayat Khan (Sanjay Dutt), who, after losing his son due to the effects of a well known terrorist, decides to find and eliminate said terrorist. However, his actions have consequences (as most actions do), and he unwittingly orphans a young boy named Altaaf Khan (Hrithik). Inayat and his wife take in Altaaf, and things look like they might work out for all parties involved, but, alas, Atlaaf discovers a black mask in a desk drawer and thus ends what could have been a happy life. Instead, he runs away and turns into the very angry, very buff adult Altaaf who is now in cahoots with another terrorism group hell bent on creating a religious war between the Hindus and the Muslims.

I don't often like war/terrorist movies, but usually Bollywood offers a little of what I enjoy in a film despite all of the violence (ie, Kajol and Aamir's incredible love story in Fanaa). What propelled me to watch this can be summed up in one word: Hrithik, but once the film began I didn't know if I would be able to get through even the first 20 minutes simply for the amount of adolescent homicide. I think had Chopra focused on this one either being a revenge thriller or a political drama, it could have worked for me, but I felt like Altaaf's story is overshadowed by the mission which I found difficult to follow most of the time. Plus, I felt like we should have been privy to the years between Altaaf running away and meeting up with him again as an adult. For instance, we never find out when or how Hilal Kohistani finds Altaaf and his personal journey from boy to man is taken for granted. Props have to be given to Chopra and his team for an appropriately intense and gripping climax.

One thing that Chopra has going for him in the film is the cast. Sanjay Dutt is fantastic as the nationalistic Muslim cop. I think I've only seen Sanjay in Lage Raho Munnabhai, and I liked him in that too, but as Khan, we get to see a different side to him. He's very human and his performance is completely genuine. Hrithik does well as the angst ridden young man in search of retribution and excels in the action sequences. Jackie Shroff gives us a brooding and menacing performance, but looks a little too much like a pirate for me. Aargh matey. Sonali Kulkarni and Preity Zinta add some much needed femininity to an otherwise testosterone-brimming film. Preity is gorgeous and disarming as always with her natural effervescence in the supporting role of Altaaf's childhood love, and Sufiya Parvez is equally effective as the matriarchal voice of reason.

Interestingly enough, the team of Shankar/Eshan/Loy have provided the music for the film, but with each composing their own songs separately. I think each of them have their place in the film, whether it's the ironic Rind Posh Maal or the beautiful So Ja Chanda (note: if my kid spit water at me during a bath, I don't think we'd continue frolicking in the water!) or the catchy Bumbro. Maaf Karo is the only one that doesn't really fit into the film's theme, but I still like it. It's a fun picturization (well until the ending that is - I've never seen such an upbeat song end so disastrous). Overall, a very good score (upon second listen) by a great musical team. Cinematographly speaking (is that a word?), the movie possesses some beautiful scenery, but is often very dark, almost too dark for me, during the terrorism bits, and that takes away from the story a little bit.

Will I watch this again and again? Probably not, but it is all about the journey after all, isn't it? On to the next one...

8 Response to "Mission: Kashmir"

  1. dunkdaft says:
    December 24, 2009 at 11:06 AM

    this is my most favorite underrated movie yaar. Been thinking of writing abt it since so long. Hrithik is performing one of his best act. Also loved Sonali.

  2. Shellie says:
    December 24, 2009 at 2:26 PM

    I would love to read your write up and see how it differs from mine. I think this movie may have made a much bigger impact with me if I was Indian, but it was still a compelling story.

  3. bollyviewer says:
    December 24, 2009 at 10:51 PM

    Echoing Darshit here! I LOVE this film to bits. As one who grew up on Govind Nihalani's dark films on communal tension, this is pretty light-hearted fare for me! Apart from all the pretty, I think I liked this so much because the two heroes play very gray characters, unlike normal Bollywood black and white heroes.

  4. Shellie says:
    December 25, 2009 at 9:50 AM

    I agree about the shades of grey. Characters are so much more interesting when they aren't so cut and dry, just like real life. We all have dark moments as well as redeeming ones.

  5. Jules says:
    December 27, 2009 at 3:26 PM

    I have to say that Hrithik's emotion and intense acting was really good in this movie. I felt for him, felt his pain...

    I can't say I simply loved this movie, but I did like it, and thought it was worth watching for sure.

  6. Shellie says:
    December 27, 2009 at 4:21 PM

    Yes, Hrithik was good in it for sure, but I liked Sanjay better.

  7. Filmbuff Says:
    December 29, 2009 at 5:37 PM

    I think you are right about Indians appreciating this movie more. I am in tune with Darshit and Bollyviewer - this was an awesome movie and I liked the performances of Hritik, Sonali and Sanjay Dutt

  8. Shellie says:
    December 29, 2009 at 8:07 PM

    Thanks for the comment Filmbuff. I suppose it's easier to relate to stuff when it hits closer to home.