The trailer of Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Shikara — The Untold Story Of Kashmiri Pandits is here. Set in the 90s, the story follows a young couple that leaves Kashmir as part of an exodus and ends up in a refugee camp, where once well-to-do people are seen chasing a truck for tomatoes, rations. The militancy, the hit lists on trees, and homes burning… all form the backdrop as the couple endures exile. The film has been co-written by journalist Rahul Pandita (author of Our Moon Has Blood Clots) and Abhijat Joshi, along with the director. Music is by AR Rahman and Qutub-e-Kripa. Chopra previously made Mission Kashmir, starring Hrithik Roshan and Preity Zinta, two decades ago in 2000.
The lead actors, both debutants, (Sadia plays Shanti Dhar and Aadil Khan, Shiv Kumar Dhar) perform rather poorly and the emotions of leaving behind a home and a way of life, never hit you, mainly also because of the way the trailer is cut. The supporting cast’s acting is also nothing to write home about. Everything is literal. In one scene, men stand around a tree that has names of Kashmiri Pandits. It is a hitlist. One of them reads it, like a student in a school play, “Likha hai ek mahiney me yahaan se nikal jayiye varna goli marenge” (leave in a month or we’ll shoot you). The scene, if done with nuance, could have been chilling, instead the horror never hits you. It is just exposition after exposition. News anchors reading out things. Benazir Bhutto’s speech. The lead actors’ declarations. The visuals do little justice too, which is a pity. Shikara’s being touted as the first film that tells the untold story of the Pandits but it does the very cause it seeks to support a disservice by doing a shoddy job of telling this story.
The timing of the trailer is also a bit problematic, one wonders how neither Fox nor Vidhu Vinod Chopra considered this. Kashmir has been on a shutdown ever since the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5.
The film releases on February 7, 2020.