[T]he tranquil restraint with which Aamir Bashir and Shanker Raman depict the violence and madness in Kashmir in “Harud” (Autumn) is extra-ordinary. They achieve remarkable success in capturing the human side of the situation in Kashmir in a manner that we rarely see in Indian cinema.
Rafiq (Shahnawaz Bhat), an unemployed Kashmiri young man, attempts to cross the border possibly to join a militant training camp in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. His father, a traffic policeman, foils his attempt and brings him back. Rafiq lives a life of utter confusion and meaninglessness until he finds his lost brother’s camera.
Through his meandering life, the director shows us the shattered pieces of life in Kashmir: a mother waiting for her disappeared son, a man leaving for Ludhiana to sell shawls, a wannabe actor eager to get selected for a model hunt reality show, a Kashmiri pundit visiting Kashmir to distress-sell his ancestral property and a father who is worried about the future of his son. It’s an achievement on the part of the writer duo Shanker Raman (also the man behind the camera) and director Aamir Bashir to weave such a huge canvas for their story without compromising on the quality of storytelling.
Quite contrary to the stereotypical vision of the valley, the Kashmir of “Harud” is made of closed spaces. All the instances where we see the wild expanse of nature is always shadowed by guns or gunshots. Barrels of guns are used so repetitively in the film that it almost becomes the counterpoint to the leitmotif of beautiful and picturesque Chinar leaves that signify autumn in the valley.
There is a certain austerity with which the film seems to be made. A haunting background score (that uses only two instruments Oud and probably Cello) is used so sparingly that you might not notice it at all.
Shanker’s camera completely breaks itself free and starts breathing and living with the protagonist Rafiq. He beautifully uses the spaces – the house, bylanes and the valley and builds his narrative mostly through faces. Camera is often left alone with the protagonist – in his rage and in his confusion. The power of “Harud” lies in its silences.
Shanker uses camera to tell the story. His images are grainy and his movements are fluid. He uses innovative visual devices to tell the story; like the scene where passage of one entire day is shown through just one shot – Rafiq’s face. We see him first in the morning light that changes into a harsh day and the day gradually dies into the darkness of yet another night.
We the audience, lost in the confusion of the protagonist, know little of what’s brewing underneath the superficial calm of the film. When this restlessness comes to the fore after a violent eruption, the film leaves us with a profound feeling of loss.
It’s truly a cinematic vision, an outcome of the successful collaboration between the writer-director (Aamir Bashir) and writer-cinematographer (Shanker Raman). “Harud” is a highly accomplished piece of cinema that’s innately humane in its storytelling.
Also read: “Harud” director Aamir Bashir’s interview here
The film is releasing this Friday in selected PVR Cinemas. Release schedule could be found on their website: PVRCinemas.com