I saw Fitoor! Opening night! With 20 other people! It was not a good film. It was also not a very good political statement. And it kind of felt like the main goal was more the political statement than the film. But it turned out to be a pretty simplistic political statement and a pretty bland film.
The movie starts off with a bang, when our young boy hero ties up his boat and walks along his pier, when suddenly a wild figure leaps from the water and grabs him! Inches away from his face, a man stares at him and threatens “do what I say, or I will tear you limb from limb!” The boy is terrified, goes into his house and grabs food and clothes, and brings them back out. The man softens once he puts on extra layers and eats food. He thanks the boy. The boy softens also, and takes him into his shed for the night. The man sees the boy’s drawings that cover the walls, but does not comment on them. Outside, the army has arrived, and is broadcasting a call for the “terrorist”, where ever he is hiding, to come out. The boy instinctively reaches out and turns out the lamp, hiding them from sight.
Now, this is great! We have a gripping action, and a complex character interaction. Plus, there is a very very lowkey political message, that a Kashmiri boy would instinctively protect a terrorist on the run from the army.
And then, almost two hours later, the two of them finally reunite. Only for the boy to reject all the help the terrorist has given him in the succeeding years, and instead announce “I never asked you to do any of that! You have no right to decide what I want! I reject everything you have given me, as it was under false pretenses!” Who talks like that?!?!? And acts like that?!?!
This is of course a character based on Magwitch from Great Expectations and his interactions with Pip. Only, in the novel, Pip reacts like a normal person. With shock that his fortune was created by this demon figure from his childhood. But also gratitude and care for the man who has done so much for him.
In Fitoor, the Pip character has to reject the Magwitch character, because this isn’t a young man dealing with the lower class and somewhat embarressing source of his success, this is Young Kashmir, forcefully rejecting the extremist actions of the Kashmiri separatists, even if they benefited him. And this kind of interaction happens all the time! His big embarressing romantic outburst is “Khoon mangoge kheer denge, Kashmir mangoge toh cheer denge” (ask for blood, we will give you kheer, ask for Kashmir, we will give you blows) instead of something a little more normal, like, for instance, “I love you!” Katrina is engaged to the son of Tabu’s old fiance, which is a pretty big coincidence. But it’s all in service of seeing Old Pakistan’s worshipful and loving attitude towards Old Kashmir versus Young Pakistan’s possessive and violent treatment of Young Kashmir. Oh, and we go straight from winter to fall to winter again, because there is no summer in Kashmir. It’s all bleak dead or dying beauty. The very seasons of the year must bow before the all powerful visual metaphor!
Obviously, since this is all a metaphor for Kashmir, the ending is a bit lame. Because everyone knows what the region needs (Peace, of course), but no one is very clear on exactly what happens next. Katrina, the beautiful dream of the idealized Kashmir finally unites with Aditya Roy Kapoor, the modern young Kashmir born from violence and pain. But, like, what are they going to live on? Is the modern young Kashmir going to leave again because there are no economic opportunities there? Is the beautiful dream of the idealized Kashmir going to sell off the possessions that support her beauty to pay for their future? Or are they going to move in with Young Kashmir’s elder and learn traditional skills from him? Also, is Young Pakistan really going to just let them leave like that? (in case you were wondering, the anthropomorphized Young India appears to be gay. I don’t even know what to do with that)