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)