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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Shikara: An Ostracised Voice Finally Being Heard?

Shikara – The Untold Story of Kashmiri Pandits marks Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s comeback on the director’s seat in Bollywood after 13 years since Eklavya… And such a hard-hitting, powerful film to return with.

The trailer has just released and it aims to tell the real story of Kashmiri Pandits and their families back in the ’90s in a compelling way.

Through the lens of a love story of Shanti Dhar and Shiv Kumar Dhar, played by newcomers Sadia and Aadil Khan, respectively. Speaking about the main crux of the film, Chopra explains:

“This is a story about a Kashmiri Pandit couple, some 30 years ago. Their story starts in 1987 when everything was fine. From 1989 till today, it has been that couple’s story.

It is the story of their 30 years’ journey and the story of India as well.

It took me a lot of time and effort to make this film and it is the story of all those people who have been refugees in their own country over the last three decades.”

As such, the movie addresses the riots that took place in Kashmir during 1989 and in recent times when Article 370 was abolished.

On the gloomy and icy day of 19 January 1990, more than 4,00,000 Kashmiri Pundits were forced to flee the Kashmir valley, following persecution and threats by militants and radical Islamists.

Post a mass exile, only 2000-3000 Hindus remain, according to a 2016 report… A movie like Shikara comes at the most opportune moment.

It’s high time that such hushed and ignored outcries, of those FORCED to be exiled from their own homes, finally be heard.

Captions in the trailer like: “What is it to know the agony of being a refugee in your own country?” and “when hate is all that is left, love is your only weapon” are eye-opening and thought-provoking.

Observing real footages of the exodus as well as burning houses, as well as hoards of refugees, leave us feeling enraged and devastated.

One finds it shocking that such a dark chapter has been immensely disregarded in the book of Indian history.

It’s also shocking how ‘Bollywood’ has never had the courage to address this subject on a commercial front. Why?

Until now, all we had seen is the extremism and militant presence (i.e. Chopra’s initial work, Mission Kashmir) in the valley.

Except for the ‘Megha’ segment in Onir’s I Am, very few Hindi films have presented voices of the ignored and driven out from their own home.

Reflecting on making a film on this matter, VVC says:

“Somewhere deep down in my heart, there is this hopeful individual maybe because I am from Kashmir and attached to poetry.

I feel that someday this icy mountain will melt, the snow will be gone and there will be spring.

I am saying this with all honesty. I am hopeful that someday soon there will be the blooming of India for each one of us.”

Given his background of being Kashmiri, perhaps he is the most ideal filmmaker to present this story on celluloid.

Not only does the film promise to be a ‘love letter to Kashmir’, but it also makes the region an additional character in which the ‘Shikara’ itself promises to be a silent and object narrator.

After masterpieces like Parinda, 1942: A Love Story, and Mission Kashmir, this might just prove to be Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s most personal and heartfelt work yet.

Watch Shikara trailer here:

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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