“No Fathers in Kashmir” tells the story of a 16-year-old girl Noor, a British national and a foreigner in Kashmir who arrived there via her mother and almost step-father. Noor’s tie to western society is apparent from the beginning of the film. Her love for selfies and her smartphone connects the film and lead character to modern plugged-in society, though her bloodline and ancestral roots lay in Kashmir.
Even myself, as the daughter of a first-generation immigrant who was raised in a small village in Greece, could relate to Noor and I imagined myself acting quite a bit like her if I were plucked from my comfortable American life and dropped into an entirely different culture as a teenager.
Although some may interpret her obsession with her smartphone as annoying and a direct commentary on the first world problems of the western world, the device becomes delicately interlaced into the story, connecting Noor to a very harsh reality, the conflict between India and Pakistan and the disappearance of her biological father who never returned home after he was “picked up” by the Indian army years prior to Noor’s arrival.
I couldn’t help but wonder, since the Kashmiri conflicts are very real, the profound emotional and psychological effects the disappearance of these men had on the women and children they left behind. The unresolved grief, survivor’s guilt, and turmoil associated with missing persons.
In the film, Noor meets and connects with Majid, a 16 year old boy, and the son of her father’s best friend. They instantly bond despite their obvious differences, and a teen love story becomes interestingly intertwined. Though the main topic of the film is heavy, it was sweet and heart-warming to watch an innocent and pure love develop between Noor and Majid.
I found this to be clever and very real, as people really do connect with one another in mysterious ways, and can sometimes experience love and heartbreak at the most inconvenient times.
Majid, smitten with Noor, eventually helps her seek out answers to the questions she had about her father’s disappearance at the dangerous Indo-Pak border in Kashmir, and Noor inexplicably uncovers more than she could have imagined whilst investigating. Eventually Noor and Majid are captured, but, due to Noor’s british nationality, she is immediately released, leaving Majid imprisoned and pleading with Noor not to leave him. It was difficult to watch Majid’s heartbreak as a frightened Noor left, I could see the helplessness in his eyes.
The rate at which Majid developed a foolish love for Noor was relatable. Watching how far, against his better judgement, he was willing to go to keep it, even if it meant risking his own life showed the characters’ selflessness and innocence. Seeing this rough conflict through the pure eyes of teenagers was really an interesting path to chart.
Not having been bogged and worn down yet by the harsh reality that is life, kids and teens sometimes show us best how to cling to hope like a fool, they see life more simply, that it has more than one meaning for all of us, and that we can always re-invent ourselves even under overwhelming and unfair circumstances.
The film’s landscape and cinematography, by DP Jean-Marc Selva, is equally visually pleasing and arresting, the direction is fluid, Ashvin Kumar, who directed, wrote, produced, edited and starred in a very pivotal role in the film as Arshid, is without a doubt multi-talented.
While the monotonous pacing of the film leaves something to be desired, the bright eyes and innocence of a perfectly cast Noor (Zara Webb) and Majid (Shivam Raina) helped keep me engaged. Some of the sub-plots, including the one surrounding Noor’s grandparents, just didn’t seem to propel the story forward. Although the actors were excellent, I think it would have behooved the film to stick mostly with the teen love story angle as to not confuse the plot with multiple points that came across disjointed.
I would have also preferred to see more of a historical backstory on the conflicts associated with the Kashmiri area in order to fully grasp the atrocities, and although I, personally, could have done with some more scenes on that, I think and understand that the director deliberately kept that out in order to show the story through the eyes of love.
All in all, this film is worth a viewing and is an interesting take on other films that explore tragedy and war torn areas, we see Kashmir through the eyes of hope, forgiveness, and innocence rather than barbarianism, destroyed lives, and murder.
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