Film: “Sargoshiyan”; Directors: Imran Khan and Vijay Verma; Cast: Imran Khan, Hasan Zaidi, Inderneil Sengupta and Sara Khan; Rating: **
It takes guts to continue to believe in the Kashmir that once was paradise. Or, as the voice of India Lata Mangeshkar sang, “Kitni khubsoorat yeh tasveer hai, mausam bemisal benazeer hai yeh… yeh Kashmir hai”.
It is with some such paradaisical idealism in the head and lots of noble intentions in the heart that we enter the head-in-the-clouds world of “Sargoshiyan” — a fairytale rendition of Kashmir where militancy is a distant nightmare and Kashmiri Pandits co-exist with the Kashmiri Muslims and Santa Claus is getting ready for next Christmas.
The closest we come to gun shots and militancy in “Sargoshiyan” is through the character of an affable Kashmiri widow (Farida Jalal as delightfully benevolent as ever) who has lost her son and now spends her time spreading sunshine in travellers’ lives.
Quite like the makers of the film who seem to be believe all is well in the world and that militancy can be wiped away with goodwill and brotherhood, this rose-tinted view of a bloodied reality is welcome on a fairytale level.
So, we have two protagonists — a photojournalist (Indraneil Sengupta) and his existentially disoriented more-or-less moorless pal Aryan Raina (Hasan Zaidi), a local tourist guide Imran (Imran Khan, the producer of this film) and a research scholar Sheena Oberoi (Sara Khan) on a road trip to discover “the real Kashmir”.
The various cameos by Farida Jalal, Alok Nath, Tom Alter and Shahbaz Khan make scant impact. What stays with us is the panoramic shots of Kashmir’s natural beauty, still so stunning, still so inviting, still so still and tranquil. We really don’t need a tourist brochure masquerading as a movie to remind us of the breathtaking beauty of Kashmir — our dear beloved bleeding Heaven On Earth.
The makers of “Sargoshiyan” have their collective heart in the right place. But the narrative is strangled by sweetness, thwarted by the postcard-pretty view of life in the violent Valley and finally felled by some awful acting. Shahbaz Khan’s dialectic Kashmiri accent and his hamming over his physically disabled daughter provide some unintentional comic relief.
“Sargoshiyan” means well. But so, I am sure, did Kamaal R. Khan when he made “Deshdrohi”.
By Subhash K. Jha