Lamhaa: Definitely deserves a watch
Rating: 3.5 out of 5*
Starring: Sanjay Dutt, Bipasha Basu, Kunal Kapoor and Anupam Kher
Director: Rahul Dholakia
July 16 (Sampurn Wire): While the burning issue of Kashmir has been handled before on the Indian screen rarely any effort has been such well researched, carrying such depth and effectively narrated with technical finesse as Rahul Dholakia (Parzania) directed Lamhaa. Taking you straight into ‘the world’s most dangerous place’, Dholakia offers a very disturbing piece that brings out many emotions out of you.
The film opens with Indian Military Intelligence suspecting a plot to disrupt and paralyze Kashmir and an attempt to do a successful repeat of what was a failed attempt in 1989. That’s breaking of the state of Kashmir away from India, hand in glove with Pakistan. A retired paramilitary commando Vikram (Sanjay Dutt) is sent to investigate and avert it. In Kashmir, he goes undercover posing as press photographer Gul Jehangir. Haji (Kher) an influential separatist leader has had 17 attempts on his life so far in the last 18 years and Vikram through his sources concludes that last attempt on his life was an insider’s job. He succeeds in gaining the trust of Haji’s protégé Aziza (Bipasha) and convinces her that there is another attack planned on his life. Atif (Kunal Kapoor) a former militant and love interest of Aziza who has had a fall out with Haji hopes to bring peace to the valley by participating in the upcoming state elections. But then as Vikram digs further he realizes the mess has only got deeper. Nothing is actually what it seems and there is hardly any one who can be trusted.
Dholakia and his co-writer Raghav Dhar successfully put before the viewers the fact that Kashmir is being run like ‘Company’ where everyone (RAW, ISI, Indian and Pakistani Military and political leaders from both sides) are all its mutually benefiting shareholders. Also, how everyone is keeping the issue burning forever so they all can benefit more from it. Hardly giving any space to breath, Dholakia’s treatment of the film is very international with quick cuts and hand held camera moment giving many a time a feel of guerilla shoot. He doesn’t waste time in establishing a scene but gets straight to the point with minimal dialogue exchanges, expecting the viewer to apply his brains and be an active participant. He also brings superb authenticity to the proceedings by means of setting, locations and jargon. Despite the fact that the big conspiracy at the climax doesn’t come across as effectively as it should have, the culmination of the principal characters appears apt.
Dutt in an unrecognizable look is in top form and goes beyond the character. Check out his body language on his arrival to meet anyone, he always looks around trying to feel convinced he is not on ‘target’. Bipasha Basu is an unusual choice for a Kashmiri girl but puts up a convincing act. Kunal Kapoor does his job earnestly but fails to maintain consistency in his diction. Anupam Kher not only looks the part but goes on with it with tremendous conviction. It is a hard act for any Kashmiri Pandit but Kher proves why he is the best in the business when it comes to strong character roles. Cameos by Denzil Smith as the Army officer, Yashpal Sharma as the ISI agent masquerading as a businessman and Mahesh Manjrekar as Dutt’s trusted old source are good. Murli Sharma, Jyoti Dogra and Shernaz Patel are effective as well. Another aces are Mithoon’s soul stirring tunes and James Fowlds remarkable camerawork.
If you are going in expecting solutions offered to the burning issue of Kashmir then you will be in for a major disappointment as Dholakia avoids it. Taking a no nonsense approach, he also doesn’t fall shy of making the Indian government reflect its role in Kashmir especially since 1989. Lamhaa is a non-jingoistic and honest attempt that definitely deserves a watch.