Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Release date:
July 27, 2012
Aamir Bashir

Shahnawaz Bhat, Reza Naji, Shamim Basharat, Salma Shabir Ashai
Urdu (with English subtitles)

Harud is so stark that it’s hard to believe it’s fiction and not just reality unfolding before our eyes. It’s a challenge to make a film about Kashmir because the national debate on the state is too often dominated by partisan voices speaking up for one religious community or the other, instead of speaking up for the human cause. Yet, like director Onir’s National Award-winning film I Am released just last year, Harud too manages to raise uncomfortable issues without prejudice and without bias.

An entire generation has grown up in Kashmir without knowing who Kashmiri Pandits are, says a man in Harud. Hey son, he calls out, do you know any Kashmiri Pandits? The boy shrugs. No he does not. And in that brief exchange, the film establishes the all-pervading absence of Hindus from the scene as unambiguously as it does the all-pervading presence of soldiers, bunkers, fire-arms and concertina wire in the lives of the Muslims who have remained. Clearly there are no victors among the common people in this battle. 

Harud (Autumn) is the story of Rafiq who finds a new direction to his aimless existence when one day he chances upon his missing brother’s camera. Rafiq lives in a home drowning in the din of its silences. His ageing father – a traffic policeman – is gradually crumbling under the weight of the atmosphere of suspicion that surrounds them; his still-feisty mother persists in attending meetings of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons. This is a Kashmir where bomb blasts are as much an everyday occurrence as the man wounded by gunfire who drags himself towards the spot where you happen to be idling away an afternoon with your friends; where a frightened and depressed old man’s awkwardness could be misconstrued by the watchful eyes of the Army; where a moment of hesitation could lead to fatal consequences.

Debutant director Aamir Bashir – a Kashmiri himself – adopts a completely matter-of-fact tone in his narrative, thus underlining the tragedy of Kashmir in a way a melodramatic manner could not. I’ve read that mental illness has been one of the major fallouts of militancy in Kashmir, but nothing has brought the point home to me as strongly as this film in which Bashir’s storytelling, Shanker Raman’s camerawork, the production design by Rakesh Yadav and sound design by Nakul Kamte all collaborate to recreate that pall of gloom that seems to permeate the lives of Rafiq, his family and friends. This is no paradise. This is a permanent state of gray, punctuated by youthful dreams of escape and burnished chinar leaves falling to the ground. It must have been tempting to embellish the film with snapshots of Kashmir’s picturesque beauty, but Harud refuses to succumb. For this reason I suppose it must also be stated for the record, in this week of Kyaa Super Kool Hai Hum’s release, that Harud is a demanding film; and a far far cry from being a slap in the face of maturity.

The cast of Harud are uniformly wonderful. Thankfully, nobody is ‘doing an accent’ – the Kashmiris here actually look and sound Kashmiri. The film’s website tells me they are all either “non-actors or amateur first-timers” and that the actors playing Rafiq (Shahnawaz Bhat) and his friends were part of a theatre workshop held by Naseeruddin Shah in the state. The exception of course is Iranian actor Reza Naji (Children of Heaven) in the role of Rafiq’s tormented father. I read an interview with the director in which he said Naseer was initially supposed to play the part. I, for one, am glad that did not work out. Not that I have anything against Mr Shah, but having seen Naji’s hunched shoulders and forlorn face, I can’t imagine another human being who could inhabit that character as evocatively as he does. What a lovely film, Aamir Bashir!

Rating (out of five): ***1/2

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
99 minutes

Photograph courtesy: http://www.harudthefilm.com/press.html      


  1. You have been far far too kind to the film. As an honorary Kashmiri I can point out that sometimes the SFX were not matched to the shot accurately. I found the acting wooden and I wish that the film had been in Kashmiri with English subtitles. I wish the last scene had been dramatized/SFXed more realistically. Just for impact.
    However, I am very glad that a fellow Kashmiri has made a film that has received critical acclaim, that has been shown in PVRs around the country and that had (when I went to see it on a Monday) over 40 members in the audience.

    1. Hi Marryam,

      I must say I completely disagree with you. Being an honorary Kashmiri myself, I found the acting very apt for this film. I didn't see it as wooden, I thought those were faces more or less (though not entirely) emptied of dramatic emotions because of the seeming hopelessness of their situation. And I was so relieved that there was no melodrama in the treatment, because the melodrama intrinsic to the situations in the film was sufficient for me.

      I also have no issues with the decision to make the film in Urdu instead of in Kashmiri, because that immediately alters the audience and reach of the film. The problem would have arisen if the Urdu dialogues were written in a way that sounded stodgy or unnatural in this setting or caricaturish. Hmmm ... don't know if I've explained that clearly ... Okay, let me use a vastly different film as an example ... Perhaps it could be argued by some that The Dirty Picture should have been made in Tamil since it was set in Tamil Nadu, but for me Hindi worked pefectly because of the way language was used in the film - actors were not made to speak in Hindi with heavy Tamil accents. The audience knew of course that those characters would, in reality, have spoken Tamil or Tamil+English, and the film maker was asking for a suspension of disbelief.

      Harud in Urdu has the potential to reach a much larger audience than Harud in Kashmiri, which is very important, especially for a film on this subject.

      Not sure what you mean about the SFX ... Could you explain further?

      Thanks for writing in :) Rgds, Anna

  2. sound effects. I thought that was the jargon you film wallahs used. Sorry if I got it wrong *facepalm*.
    When Rafiq goes out to buy tsot (Kashmiri bread) in the beginning of the film, the voices of the bakers and chaiwallahs approximate exactly what you would hear in such settings. Thereafter - like in the mental hospital scene - it bears NO resemblance to reality.
    All 30-40 ppl in the audience on Monday night were Kashmiris, hence my remark :)

    1. Oh ok, no need for a facepalm :) :) SFX is used for special effects in general and sound effects in particular. I use it only for the former, that's why I missed your point. To be honest, I enjoyed the way the ambient sound seemed to melt away so many times in this film. It's interesting, isn't it, that both of us saw the same film, noticed the same points about it, yet feel so differently about it? For me, the arguments with friends are sometimes as much fun as actually watching a film. :) Rgds, Anna