As an army major tells Noor’s mother, “Here, every villager is an enemy and a countryman. Whom do I protect?” Insurgency and militancy have long ailed the Kashmir valley. Everyday families are torn apart. Young men are picked up by the armed forces for questioning, never to return. The Indian army is also caught in a crossfire. They have no idea who is the enemy, who they fight and who they protect. Thousands of brothers, fathers and sons disappear from the land once known as a ‘Paradise On Earth’.

Ashvin Kumar’s poignant, yet compelling watch No Fathers In Kashmir, does not take sides. Instead presents an unbiased and a true picture of the case of the missing men in Kashmir. The film shows the story of Noor, a British Indian who comes back to Kashmir to trace her missing father and she befriends local boy Majid. They form an innocent love story which is then challenged when they find themselves scrapping a dark secret in the hills leading to their arrest. With a tagline that says, “Everyone thinks they know Kashmir”, the film hopes to show the reality of the Kashmiris and their real stories.

No Fathers In Kashmir is directed by Oscar nominated director Ashvin Kumar who has also previously won two National Awards. The film features a talented star cast including Ashvin Kumar, Soni Razdan, Anshuman Jha and Kulbhushan Kharbanda.

Storyline And Execution:  Writer-producer-director Ashvin Kumar’s No Fathers In Kashmir is a coming-of-age tale set in one of the most politically turbulent, heavily militarised zones on the planet.  It is into this boiling pot of anguish, bitterness and resentment that Noor is thrown without much preparation, and discovers a world more troubled than she could ever have imagined.

The writing, however, isn’t watertight and is flawed in several areas. Ashvin Kumar’s Arshid, is pretty much caricaturish and his character is written as a stereotypical Muslim who works for the Islamic state and the armed forces. He is a shown as a misfit in Kashmir’s separatist movement. At times he comes across as a very preachy person. When Noor finds out about him being a double agent, a potentially life-threatening event, he does nothing to silence her — which comes off as a bit incredulous and the audiences find themselves not believing that.

Even attempts at creating an air of childlike innocence around Noor and Majid involve actions by the characters that seem inexplicable — despite being aware of Kashmir’s oppressive climate, Majid poses with a gun in order to get Noor her photo with a ‘terrorist’, and even agrees to set this as his Facebook profile picture. This was an extremely bizarre scene which has been written to establish a plot much later in the film.

No Fathers In Kashmir features only relatively mild shots of violence that too in just a couple of scenes. It is not a gore film as have been several films on the same topic, but it has quite nailed the politics of Kashmir.

Performances: Zara Webb and Shivam Raina make up for an excellent onscreen pair in their first feature film. There is equal amount of childlike innocence in their roles as well as a bit of coming of age drama. They don’t disappoint in front of industry veterans such as Soni Razdan, Kulbhushan Kharbanda who play their roles to the T.For Maya Sarao, this is her second film and she doesn’t disappoint as well. The filmmaker Ashvin Kumar who debuts as a fundamentalist Muslim is pretty convincing in his role as well. However, Zara and Shivam are prized finds and they steal the show They seem to belong to the film’s Kashmiri picturesque landscape.

The movie makes one think and ponder, presents the point of views of both sides. It does not pick sides and expect people to turn revolutionaries overnight. While the movie poses certain questions about the disappearance of men by the armed forces, it also makes you wonder what would happen if the armed forces were indeed removed from the valley. The movie is one of the balanced takes on the Kashmir issue, as it has humanised a genuine problem. We offer the film 4 chirps, for its outstanding display human emotions.


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