The Kashmir Conflict has been a major issue between India and Pakistan, and Nikhil Allug uses it as a base in order to present a rather unusual but quite intriguing approach to the subject.
The film begins functioning as a tour guide, as we watch a family of four (Nasif, Mariyam, Jasim, and Khalid), using various means of transport, including boat, car and train to reach Mumbai from Kashmir. Once they arrive to their destination, they are settled in an apartment where the true purpose of their trip, as much as their characters and relationships, are revealed.
Evidently, the film is split in two parts, although the first one, which features no dialogue, is much smaller. This part highlights the beauties of the locations the movie was shot, with the mountains, the rivers, and the valleys being exquisitely cinematographed by Allug. At the same time, the music selection is also excellent, with a number of fitting tracks that enhance the atmosphere of the journey.
In the second part, the style of the production changes completely, as it takes place almost exclusively inside a large apartment, scarcely furnished. The cinematography however, retains its artistry through the elaborate framing, while the set design, which includes some sudden splashes of color here and there, is equally competent.
Probably the film’s best asset is the way Allug reveals the actual situation of his characters, as he gradually builds up tension to the point of eruption, in a manner very similar to the one implemented in psychological thrillers. In this aspect, the catalyst is Khalid, a truly obnoxious character despite his age, with Burhan Shafi Itoo making a great job of portraying him. A second catalyst is provided by Zaffar, the man who welcomes the family in Mumbai, with Kaliprasad Mukherjee having a quite nice performance, having to portray a number of opposite behaviors and psychological statuses.
On the opposite axis stand Sunil Kumal Palwal, who provides a very dignified and quite imposing performance as Nasif, and Ira Dubey as Mariyam, whose calmness and amusement prove her biggest faults. Zahid Mir as Jasim has a secondary role, but he also delivers.
I could say a lot more about the film, but the nature of the script does not allow me to do so. However, I have to note that I felt that it lagged at some points, while the first part, although quite beautiful, does not have much to do with the rest of the film, which, at 126 minutes, feels a bit long.
Nevertheless, “Shehjar” is a more than competent effort from a director that shows great promise in his debut (actually, he has shot another film before that, but this is the first that is shown in public).