It goes without saying that it has usually been beyond the ambit of mainstream Bollywood to fully comprehend and encompass the multiple skeins that constitute the old, intractable Kashmir imbroglio. It is, therefore, not surprising at all that Shikara, intended to be an elegy to a lost paradise, falls short of its avowed goal. It tells the Kashmir story from the point of view of those that were forced to leave the Valley when militancy erupted there in the late 1980s. Inevitably, the film is limited in its scope. No matter how hard director Vidhu Vinod Chopra tries to do a balancing act, it cannot be anything but lopsided.
Shikara is a love story set against the backdrop of the exodus but it floats largely in shallow waters and stays away from the muddied whirlpools that are inevitable when the unrest in the Valley has continued as long as it has. The film revolves around an idealistic couple who pines for their lost home without letting hate and distrust rob them of their humanity. They cling to the hope of returning some day to the land of their birth, reflecting the yearning of all victims of conflict, not just Kashmiri Pandits.
It would be pertinent to question the timing of Shikara. Kashmir, where much of the action is set, has been under lockdown for several months now and the rights of the people of the Valley have been summarily curtailed. It redounds to Chopra’s credit that the Hindu-Muslim binary at the heart of this fictionalized account “based on true events” isn’t manipulated to overtly tar a whole group of people with the same brush although the film has a couple of defining moments where the them and us divide comes to the fore and determined the flow of the narrative.