wogma rating: Add to 'must watch' list (?) - The film may not be as impactful as a DVD watch, however.
One of the most visually impactful films in recent times, Harud may not be palatable to all primarily because of its pace. But the sheer power of the manner in which Kashmir has been captured on celluloid will make it worth a watch for many.Read more
Harud (Autumn), directed by the talented Aamir Bashir, isn’t the easiest of films to watch. Set in an autumn in Kashmir around the time cellular services are set to be launched in the strife-torn state, it tells the story of a family that has lost one son and is grappling with a tormented other.
Poignant and confusing in equal measures, it is a film that can be discussed far more than the run time of the film; a film that is sure to have polarized opinions, ranging from it being called sensitive and beautiful, to it being found slow and downright pretentious. Harud is that rare film, however, which I’d recommend, even if I’m not sure whether the person I’m recommending it to will like it or not.
Rafiq, the surviving son of the family, is the focal point of the film. Essentially directionless, his life seems to slowly take meaning when he picks up something that belonged to his brother. Without giving anything away, the best thing for me about Harud is the journey that Rafiq takes between finding his brother’s belonging and actually using it for the first time.
Co-written, co-produced and shot by Shanker Raman, arguably one of India’s best cinematographers today, the film’s real victory lies in the manner in which it captures life in Kashmir. No wide, sweeping shots to capture the beauty of the Valley here; Harud is more intimate than that. It is the close-ups, the long, hand-held takes of faces, actions and life that truly bring out the essence of what it must be like to live in such a beautiful place, yet have terror hanging over your head like the Sword of Damocles.
The film, however, suffers from some key flaws, which bring the film down considerably. Primary amongst them are the performances. Even though every character looks their part completely, the acting is quite wooden and stilted at places. The dialogues often sound like they are being read out, rather than being felt by the characters and delivered.
Also, there seems to be no real clarity on exactly what the makers of the film were trying to convey. Yes, the angst of families living in Kashmir, the fact that youth there are looking to escape that life, the little nuances in the life of a Kashmiri, all of these, and more, are there in the film in abundance. And the fact that clearly, the intention is to draw our attention to it is visible in the treatment. But, visual appeal apart, there seems to be no particular reason for a lot of the happenings in the film. For example, I enjoyed every one of the long, beautiful tracking shots of Rafiq on a bicycle, but I can’t claim to understand exactly why there were so many of them in the film.
While uninspiring writing and poor acting can potentially cripple a film, with Harud, they come across more as aberrations than anything else. The long takes are compensated for by the edgy camera-work, bringing about a sense of urgency despite the slow pace. The cinematography is one of the reasons I never found the film slow at all. Minimalist in every sense, the film has virtually no background music, relying on the sounds of Kashmir to create emotions that would otherwise have been created by music.
Harud is the kind of film that you need to submit yourself to, to immerse yourself in, in order to enjoy the visual and emotional experience that it is. Personally, I’ve seen a number of films set in Kashmir before, but this is truly the first film that has made me want to actually live there.
This article is by guest author Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.