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Article 370 Film Review: A Missed Opportunity to Amplify Kashmiri Voices in a Tale of Their Own Land

Article 370

Article 370 is a cinematic exploration that delves into the complex and tumultuous events leading up to the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which granted special autonomy to the region of Jammu and Kashmir. The narrative is structured around pivotal incidents that have significantly impacted the region and its people, starting from the encounter of Burhan Wani in 2016. Wani’s death ignited widespread unrest in Kashmir, a situation that further deteriorated with the Pulwama attack, among other critical developments.

These events serve as a backdrop to the personal and political journey of the film’s main characters, Zooni Haksar (played by Yami Gautam) and Rajeshwari Swaminathan (played by Priyamani), the latter portraying the PMO secretary.

Zooni, a native Kashmiri, and Rajeshwari, a key governmental figure, embody the divergent perspectives and the multifaceted discourse surrounding Article 370. This Article accorded the state of Jammu and Kashmir the right to have its constitution, flag, and autonomy over all matters except foreign affairs, defence, finance, and communications.

The film attempts to weave a narrative around the reasons and the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370, aiming to present a storyline that culminates in the Indian government’s decision to revoke this special status, thereby bringing the region under its direct control.

The screenplay endeavours to navigate the complex socio-political landscape of Kashmir, reflecting on the implications of the abrogation for the region’s identity, autonomy, and the everyday lives of its people. Through the personal stories of its characters, the movie seeks to offer insights into the broader national and regional dynamics at play, exploring themes of identity, sovereignty, and the quest for peace in a land marked by prolonged conflict and beauty.

However, the narrative’s execution and its ability to authentically represent the voice and the nuanced experiences of the Kashmiri people are critical aspects that define the film’s impact and relevance. The unfolding of events through the eyes of its characters aims to provide a window into the lived realities and the contested narratives that have shaped the discourse on Kashmir and its future.

Article 370 Film Review: A Controversial Narrative Overshadowed by Its Limited Perspective on Kashmir

In “Article 370,” writers Aditya Dhar, Arjun Dhawan, and Aditya Suhas Jambhale embark on the ambitious task of encapsulating the intricate tale of Kashmir and the contentious abrogation of its unique status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. With a runtime of 2 hours and 38 minutes, the film attempts to distil a complex historical and political saga into a digestible narrative for its audience. The filmmakers’ approach, dividing the story into six chapters, aims to provide structure and depth to the unfolding events, including fictional and real-life incidents that have shaped the recent history of Kashmir.

The narrative’s ambition, however, is met with significant challenges, primarily in its portrayal and representation of the Kashmiri populace. The film’s disclaimer, lingering longer than usual, hints at a fictionalised account set against the backdrop of real places and events, including figures resembling current Indian government leaders. This blurring of fiction and reality raises questions about the film’s authenticity and claim to neutrality.

The script’s attempt to avoid overt nationalism is notable, yet it inadvertently positions the central government as the unilateral benefactor, thereby oversimplifying the complex socio-political dynamics at play. The focus on characters like Zooni, a Kashmiri working with the government, and Rajeshwari, the PMO secretary, as the principal voices of reason and concern, starkly contrasts with the absence of a diverse range of Kashmiri perspectives. The portrayal of Kashmiris predominantly through the lens of corruption, extremism, and victimhood significantly undermines the narrative’s authenticity and depth.

The film’s execution further complicates its reception. The first half needs to work on engaging, with pivotal events feeling disconnected from the overarching aim of illustrating the implications of Article 370’s abrogation. In the second half, the narrative gains momentum as Rajeshwari’s quest to uncover legal loopholes in Article 370 and Zooni’s efforts to ensure peace post-abrogation take centre stage. Yet, the irony is palpable as the narrative fails to adequately represent the very people it claims to protect and promote peace for—the Kashmiris themselves.

“Article 370” thus stands as a missed opportunity to genuinely explore the nuanced and multifaceted stories of Kashmir and its people. While the film endeavours to navigate a politically and emotionally charged topic, its limited perspective and failure to incorporate the voices of Kashmiri people significantly diminish its potential impact and credibility. The narrative, by sidelining authentic Kashmiri voices and experiences, ultimately presents a version of events that may leave audiences questioning who the story is about and for whom it is honestly told.

Article 370

Yami Gautam and Priyamani Shine Despite Constrained Character Arcs

In “Article 370,” Yami Gautam and Priyamani deliver compelling performances, albeit within the confines of roles that echo previous characters and tread familiar narrative ground. Taking on the role of Zooni Haksar, Gautam channels a fiery intensity reflective of her character’s personal and professional turmoil.

However, the depth of Zooni’s anger, ostensibly rooted in the ongoing strife in Kashmir, sometimes feels overshadowed by a portrayal that leans heavily into the tropes of a government operative seeking redemption. This character treatment makes Zooni appear as an extension of Gautam’s previous roles in “A Thursday” and “Oh My God 2,” where she portrayed characters driven by a quest for justice, albeit in different contexts. The repetition diminishes the uniqueness of her role in “Article 370,” potentially limiting Gautam’s ability to showcase the full range of her acting capabilities.

As Rajeshwari Swaminathan, Priyamani presents a stark contrast to Gautam’s Zooni. Portrayed as the calm and collected PMO secretary, Priyamani’s character navigates the political intricacies of the Article 370 abrogation with a composed demeanour. Her performance stands out, bringing balance and thoughtfulness to the film’s portrayal of governmental processes.

Yet, the script positions Rajeshwari in a way that subtly aligns her calmness with the narrative’s inclination to depict the government as the primary caretaker of Kashmiri welfare. This portrayal risks oversimplifying the complex dynamics of governance and conflict resolution, suggesting a one-dimensional view of the state’s role in addressing the Kashmir issue.

Gautam and Priyamani’s performances are noteworthy for their professionalism and commitment to their roles. However, the characters they embody are scripted in a manner that restricts their ability to fully explore the nuanced emotional and psychological landscapes of their characters.

The film’s approach to these characters, one filled with rage and the other exuding calm, serves as a narrative device to explore the themes of conflict and resolution. Yet, it inadvertently reinforces a simplified dichotomy between emotion and reason, personal and political, thereby limiting the depth of the conversation around the complex issue of Article 370.

In essence, while “Article 370” benefits from the strong performances of its leading ladies, the film’s narrative framing and character development fall short of providing a platform for genuinely groundbreaking portrayals. The actors shine, but the constrained character arcs highlight the challenges of translating intricate real-world conflicts into compelling cinematic narratives without succumbing to oversimplification or repetition.

Director Aditya Suhas Jambhale’s “Article 370” attempts to navigate the turbulent waters of one of India’s most contentious political decisions without resorting to the overt displays of patriotism often seen in similar genres. The technical structure, particularly in the film’s second half, is crafted to maintain audience engagement, showcasing Jambhale’s skilful direction. Yet, the film’s foundational premise raises significant questions about its narrative integrity and portrayal of reality.

The decision to label “Article 370” as a work of fiction, despite drawing heavily from real-life events and featuring characters that mirror contemporary political figures, invites scrutiny. This choice, alongside the depiction of the abrogation of Article 370 as a largely peaceful and uncontested process, suggests a deliberate framing. The portrayal of Prime Minister and Home Minister characters that closely resemble current political leaders and a narrative that aligns with the government’s perspective blurs the lines between fiction and political messaging. This approach has led to criticisms of the film potentially serving as a vehicle for propaganda despite claims of neutrality.

The film’s treatment of the internet shutdown and communication blackout in Kashmir is particularly contentious. Presenting these actions as having minimal impact on the daily lives of Kashmiris, and primarily through the lens of government-affiliated characters, significantly downplays the real-world consequences experienced by the region’s population. Such portrayals contribute to a narrative that seems to overlook the complexities and hardships faced by the Kashmiri people during this period.

Moreover, the film’s music needs to resonate with the gravity of the subject matter, missing an opportunity to deepen the story’s emotional impact. Although a minor part of the overall production, this aspect reflects a broader issue with the film’s engagement with its themes.

In its conclusion, “Article 370” presents a simplified resolution to a profoundly complex issue, encapsulated in a scene that glorifies the political achievement of abrogating Article 370 as the fulfilment of a long-held dream by the Prime Minister. This portrayal not only overlooks the contentious debates and diverse opinions surrounding the issue but also fails to give voice to the Kashmiri people themselves. The film’s narrow focus on government perspectives and the lack of representation of Kashmiri voices contribute to a narrative that feels disconnected from the lived realities of those most affected by the political decision.

Ultimately, “Article 370” is a film that provokes thought and discussion, not so much for its cinematic achievements but for the questions it raises about the representation of political events in cinema. The absence of a balanced portrayal of Kashmiri perspectives and the film’s subtle alignment with government narratives highlight the challenges of depicting complex political realities through a fictional lens.

News Shot 24
Author: News Shot 24

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