This was my most popular review for a long LONG time. Because no one wanted to watch the movie but everyone was kind of curious what happened. Or else they saw the movie, an could not follow it AT ALL.
Officially, this is a remake of Great Expectations. I haven’t read the book since high school, but I am pretty sure there are massive changes. The beginning and the ending are basically the same, but the middle seemed to be missing. Unofficially, I am pretty sure it is just a remake of the 1990s Great Expectations with Gwyneth Paltrow, which, based purely on the trailer, also seems to have turned it into a swoony romance instead of a bildungsroman.
But really, this is just Abhishek Kapoor writing “A Brief Introduction to the Kashmir Question”, then changing all the names of political groups into characters and making them talk and act out their disputes through a toxic love story. I honestly don’t even know what the movie would look like to someone without the political background. Probably incredibly boring and confusing. But pretty!
Oh my gosh, so pretty! They actually filmed in Kashmir (but they used Poland as a standin for London. Why? Is London now harder to get to and more dangerous than Srinagar?), and it was definitely worth it. So pretty!
The leads were awfully pretty too. Although Aditya Roy Kapoor was way too skinny, to my mind. But they didn’t have much to do besides being pretty. Since everyone was just little playing pieces in the regional conflict, they didn’t have much of an inner life or ability to act unpredictably. I’ve been periodically impressed with both Katrina and Aditya, in the right roles in the right films, but these weren’t the best roles to make them stand out.
In contrast, Tabu was AMAZING. The screen came alive every time she showed up. She had the same thankless one note character and super blunt dialogue, but she would add these little hand-gestures, or trailing off at the end of lines, or even a sort of distinctively unbalanced way of walking, and make it her own. But that’s Tabu, she’s always that good. And has 10 more years of acting experience than her little co-stars.
Oh, Lara Dutta was in it too! Boy, what happened to her? I mean, I know what happened to her, she got married and had a kid and got to be well-over 30. And now she is playing third or fourth lead roles, older women who get no romantic interests. But she does a nice job, sort of smooth and cool and classy. Much better role for her than whatever that was in Singh is Bling.
But the big take away is, there are many many conflicting attitudes and interests in Kashmir and this film represents aaaaaaaallllllll of them. Like, even the dog means something (the faithfulness of the spirit of Kashmir, I’m thinking).
And if you want a full rundown of all the ways in which these characters provide a living tableau of the situation in Kashmir as it is today, check out my spoiler-full review!
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
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)
You are right, it is a great review. I understand the film and have no need to see it!
Yes, you should never see this film! It is NOT GOOD.
On Mon, Nov 16, 2020 at 9:57 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
Oh yeah, this. I watched ten minutes and gave up, which is really something considering the kind of movies I’ve watched.
Tabu is amazing, might be worth to fastforward and watch the Tabu edit. She throws herself totally into the Miss. Havisham role, you can imagine how insane that gets.
On Tue, Nov 17, 2020 at 1:16 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
And I will always love this film for how beautiful it is visually.
But it’s so DUMB!!!!
On Tue, Nov 17, 2020 at 8:22 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
Half of the movies I have seen are dumber, and don’t have ARK, Tabu, Aditi, beautiful Kashmir landscapes so for me it’s a win 😉
i watched this in the most appropriate place: on a plane after having had dinner and two cocktails. I watched it fuzzily for a few minutes and then dozed off and woke up and tried to find my place and gave up and dozed off again, repeat for two hours. I would just wake up and stare at this pretty thing for a few minutes between naps, which is just perfect. Only thing is, I sort of got the impression that ARK is boring and I don’t like him, which lasted until I saw D-e-I.
You are right, that is the perfect way to watch this film. I saw it in the middle of a blizzard in Chicago, which meant I wanted to nap (late night, warm theater, tiring cold drive there), but had to force myself to stay awake, and that made the whole thing so much much worse.
On Tue, Nov 17, 2020 at 8:55 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
Yes, it’s totally a remake of the Ethan Hawke/Gwyneth Paltrow movie. The artist thing is a dead giveaway, that seemed innovative at the time because it gave the film and the character such a unique visual identity and a modern rags to riches path that’s more glamorous to watch than toiling away in an office (not to mention an excuse for Gwyneth/Estella to pose nude in Pip’s apartment as part of her tease), but it’s a complete departure from the novel. This film felt like a reimagining of a movie that was already a liberal reimagining of the original story, and the plot of the original story is convoluted to begin with. Not surprising it ended up hard to follow.
I didn’t dislike this movie as much as you did, mostly because I liked Tabu and the leads. And it is very pretty, even if it doesn’t always make sense. But clearly I missed most of the personification of Kashmir layers, that might have been a blessing of ignorance.
My big take away from this being a remake is “wow, Katrina and Gwyneth have really similar onscreen energy!” Do you see it too? That sort of remote beauty?
On Tue, Nov 17, 2020 at 11:58 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
Yes, I see it. They’re both good at that kind of hooded beauty, all object for the other character to project desire onto, but not giving anything inside away.
Whenever they try to make a movie on the 1947 Partition or the Kashmir issue by way of Kalank or Fitoor,it makes me cringe so,so hard.It isn’t necessarily wrong, but it is too early for South Asians and this is why such films get panned horribly here,as aesthetics alone do not justify the tragic backdrop.I don’t expect them to be master storytellers and treat Partition as sensitively as Garam Hawa and the Kashmir issue like Haider,but romanticising the pain to such absurd levels like Fitoor is positively horrifying.Watching Fitoor with the poorly managed Kashmir conflict(which they could have entirely avoided by setting it in Himachal Pradesh-similar geography,easier storytelling)is like watching GWTW and its ignorant treatment of black people.The film tries to show it as mostly good protective army-confused Kashmiri-bad extremist terrorist,but the question of self determination is projected as brainwashing in the film.The main issue I have with these films is the use of violence to peddle stereotypes.Bloodthirsty Muslims in Kalank rampaging during Partition instead of sane politicians arguing for or against Partition,and a “terrorist” in Fitoor instead of a sane separatist leader.The choice to have a “terrorist” instead of separatist shows the flawed understanding of the film of Kashmir conflict.And the aristocracy-the Begum looked like Bollywood idea of a Begum from Lucknow and very little Kashmiri.It was mind bogglingly inaccurate and a pain to understand why the writers even thought of it.
Even the symbolism is deeply stereotypical.Katrina as Kashmir-who exists only to be brainwashed.This,coupled with her being a woman,makes her a problematic depiction of her lack of agency as if India or Pakistan(or even China lately)need to “save” her from an abusive fiance or a manipulative mother(which as you mentioned,stand for the two countries).And the anthropomorphic depiction of Pakistan as a young violent nation and India as gay is just confusing(since gayness has become associated with being anti-conservatism).Being gay is not something to be ashamed of,and I guess the filmmakers didn’t mean it in a progressive way,which again leaves a stereotypical depiction of Pakistan and the Kashmiris.Worst of all,Tabu is so charismatic,we understand her pain and even forgive her for brainwashing Kat because of the backstory of her being “cheated”(a rather ugly metaphor for Pakistani army invading Kashmir just before Raja of Kashmir signed a deal with India, as if the Kashmir issue exists solely because of Pakistan and not because of our failure).It sort of justifies Tabu’s actions and its impact on Kat,which is unsettling for real life parallels.The message that “Pakistan is bad,Self Determination of Kashmiris is good,Indian violence is bad but breaking ties with India leads to economic crisis in Kashmir and loss of job opportunities”felt like the movie forgot that propaganda need not always be saffron to be problematic.The overall message of projecting Kashmiris as confused and needing to be saved and justifying the use of force by Pakistan or India as “protecting” it is deeply offensive.ARK as a Kashmiri boy keeps roaming around but remains oblivious to the aspirations of Kashmiris,as if he dropped there from space(or storks,but that would be too Western).Even his art bears very little resemblance to Kashmiri art,and felt like a silly compromise with authenticity for aesthetic.They included a song literally titled “Pashmina”(Kashmiri shawls)but forgot to use the very Kashmiri instruments like rabab or santoor(Bismil song did it masterfully,but also had Gulzaar sahab as the lyricist which is always an added advantage).
Your detailed review of Fitoor is one of my favourites on this site,your understanding of the political subtext and unbiased,gentle explanation of it was lovely,especially considering you are not even Indian(or South Asian,for that matter)or a historian.Your review wasn’t even mean,the movie was too dumb and tiring.