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SHIKARA - A soft film on an open wound that makes a decent impact mainly due to the impressive new faces. (Review by Bobby Sing)

07 Feb, 2020 | Movie Reviews / 2020 Releases

Releasing in the times of extreme opinions and biased viewpoints, Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s SHIKARA based on the forced mass evacuation of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir in January 1990, happens to be a film that both works as well as falls short at various levels of its execution of the crucial issue.
Presenting a love story with the backdrop of Kashmir and a span of three decades, what works in SHIKARA is its emotional pull and the heartfelt portrayal of personal losses and fears experienced by the couple and their families. The cinematography captures Kashmir beautifully and the art-direction, costumes and the cultural references (including folk songs) of the region take you back in those tough times, with the refugee camp sequences even reminding you of partition of 1947 and the Sikhs genocide in 1984.
As a personal film of writer-director Vidhu Vinod Chopra, dedicated to the memory of his mother, who could not return to her home in Kashmir post January 1990, the biggest merit of SHIKARA remains its fresh cast with talented actors portraying the key roles. Though Chopra yet again displays his craft in creating the tragic love saga but I strongly feel the film would not have been the same if he had roped in some already known faces in the lead roles. In reality SHIKARA works as one can easily relate with the unknown people on screen without having any kind of image or perception of mere actors performing as per their professional assignments. 
Appreciating their individual acts, the film introduces Sadia and Aadil Khan, effortlessly playing the characters of Shanti and Shiv (note their real and reel names). And this thoughtful selection of artists assigning them difficult roles reminded me of V. Shantaram’s classic PADOSI (1941) in which, Gajanan Jagirdar played a Muslim and Mazhar Khan played a Hindu character. Both Sadia and Aadil perform as the common people really well becoming the soul of the film and so does Priyanshu Chatterjee in his short appearance along with Zain Durrani and more.
Besides, this is also one of those rare films of the present times wherein a few songs work, their picturization touches (especially the boat song on the wedding night) along with an apt musical score (A. R.Rahman). In fact, after a long gap, we get to hear a soothing melody (Sandesh Shandilya) with simple poetic words as “Jo Ik Pal Tumko Na Dekhein To Mar Jaayen Hum” penned by Irshad Kamil.
However, on the other side the film suffers when it falls back to the same old clichés and seen before twists including a sub-plot of terminal illness in its second half, that now appears to me as the repetitive last resort of the writers. 
But more importantly, SHIKARA fails to rightly recreate or enlighten the viewers about a crucial chapter of our history which was much more complex, brutal and bloodier than depicted in the film. In order to maintain the soft feel of a love story, Chopra actually avoids portraying the tragic times with some powerful tension filled sequences that ideally should have been there making it a much more authentic film.
No, Vidhu doesn’t take any sides and SHIKARA isn’t any propaganda film either made with any biased purpose. It is in reality a pretty simple film telling an innocent love story in the backdrop of Kashmiri Pandits exodus of the 1990. And the director doesn’t get into any political or ideological details that many intentionally would be interested in. So, the film might turn out to be disappointing, if one is looking for that kind of narrative considering it to be a political film talking about the history instead of an emotional love story. 
As I felt, Chopra never wished to make that kind of political film, remaining more focused on the heartfelt emotions experienced by the loving couple in the span of three decades, exactly on the lines of Mani Ratnam’s BOMBAY having the backdrop of Mumbai riots.
Hence, if you are ready to watch it as a love story with reference of a tragic chapter of our history then SHIKARA will surely turn out to be a more than decent film for its merits stated above.  But, since these are the times when people wish to see films made with a biased vision in order to decide whether to appreciate or oppose them, SHIKARA is sure to find extreme reactions from the viewers for the obvious reasons. 

Coming to the claims I read at many places stating it as the first film talking about the Kashmiri Pandits forced evacuation of the 1990, actually it is not the first Hindi film to do so. Where we have seen short references of the event in quite a few films, there was one National Award Winner movie, an anthology - which did have an entire section out of its four, focusing on the issue. And it was Onir’s I AM released in 2010 featuring Juhi Chawla and Manisha Koirala (also included in the MOVIES TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE list of BTC).
Summing up, SHIKARA is a film which would turn out be good or bad as per your own thought process and vision while watching it. For me it is just a soft and simple love story told subtly with some soothing music and appreciable honest performances. At the same time, it is certainly not ‘The Untold Story of Kashmiri Pandits’ touching an open wound and surely ‘Not Any Masterpiece’ contrary to what was said by James Cameron quoted in the film's publicity campaign.

Rating : 3 / 5

Tags : SHIKARA Movie Review by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, New Hindi films reviews by Bobby Sing, New Bollywood Movies Reviews by Bobby Sing, Hindi films on Kashmiri Pandits exodus in 1990, Hindi films on Kashmir issue.
07 Feb 2020 / Comment ( 2 )
Sapna Kekre

Awesome site and amazing work. Keep it up BTC 

Best wishes from Unitedbyink and sapna kekre 

Bobby Sing

Thanks a lot Sapna Kekre for your kind praises.
Keep Visiting and Writing in.
Cheers with

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