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Saturday, April 06, 2019
By Deepa Gahlot

No Fathers in Kashmir
Ashvin Kumar
Cast : Zara Webb, Shivam Raina, Natasha Mago, Ashvin Kumar, Maya Sarao, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Soni Razdan and others
Rating: * * 1/2

There are two important questions asked by characters in Ashvin Kumar’s No Fathers In Kashmir. An old man whose son has gone missing asks a freedom-seeking militant sympathizer who he wants freedom for, and what will he do when he gets it.

An army man, faced with the cruel task of interrogating a kid caught illegally entering a sensitive border area, wonders who they are fighting and who they are protecting in the shadow war taking place in Kashmir, with an enemy they cannot even see.

The film does not deign to seek answers, but takes a simplistic anti-Establishment route, painting the army as the villain, and showing graffiti demanding “Stop Genocide,” without even a mention of what the Kashmiri Pandits went through, or the obvious lack of political will to deal with the vicious cycle of violence in which the innocents of the Valley have been trapped.

That said, it is a poignant story of two families, suffering because a man in each was picked up by the army and never returned. Noor (Zara Webb), raised in England is brought to Kashmir by her mother (Natasha Mago), because she has given up hope of her husband’s return and wants to remarry. Noor is a ditzy teen who wants a picture with a terrorist to post on Facebook, and goes about recording everything she sees on her phone. When she finds out that her father had not abandoned them, as she was told, she wants to find out what happened to him.

Majid (Shivam Raina), a sweet village kid, whose mother (Mara Sarao) is struggling to survive after her husband disappeared, befriends Noor. She, in her naively brash way, drags Majid into serious trouble. Seeking the truth about their fathers, Noor runs into the slimy Arshid (Ashvin Kumar), who hides his deviousness under the local legend that he was brutally tortured by the army.

The Valley’s half widows and half orphans live with the anguish of not knowing what happened to the men. The faces of Noor’s grandparents (Kulbhushan Kharbanda-Soni Razdan) are lined with sorrow. Ashvin Kumar’s portrayal of the old parents is the most sensitively handled—they do not want to stand in the way of their daughter-in-law’s future, but are also unable to give up the hope that keeps them alive.

No Fathers In Kashmir adds to the list of feature films about Kashmir, like Hamid and Half Widow (unreleased), that go over the same ground, and make a plea for peace, at least for the sake of the children.

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