Lightning from Kashmir

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8ad001295c993bde339e9c8272c47787-2YAHAAN. Director: Shoojit Sircar. Players: Jimmy Shergill, Minissha Lamba, Yashpal Sharma, Mukesh Tiwari. Music: Shantanu Moitra. DVD (Viva). 2005.

Plots that attempt bridging romance with a military subtext—let alone anything as complex as the story of Kashmir—pose a challenge to most filmmakers. Mission: Kashmir was the rare entry that got it right. Now add to that short list Sircar’s foray into this difficult terrain. Nailing an action story held in place by romantic barbwire, Yahaan is nothing short of a lightning bolt from the Himalayas.

B-film hunkster Shergill, who is a fixture on Indian TV serials, plays Capt. Aman, a ranking Indian sentry at a military post located smack in the center of a village square in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Across the street from the sentry-post is the humble dwelling of a local family whose daughter Adaa (newcomer Lamba in an impressive debut) catches Aman’s eye. As love blossoms, so do the obstacles, not the least of which is an Afghanistan and Al-Qaida-linked terrorist cell festering in the vicinity.

With this score Moitra’s proves that his magnificent debut with Parineeta was no fluke. Gulzar’s heartfelt lyrics delight in leisurely North Indian ditties that pause for both a Punjabi-accented party song as well as a sitar-tinted, sumptuous duet. Shreya Ghosal is as much at home on this score as she was on Devdas.

Viva’s DVD transfer nicely translates both the blue-hued mountain exteriors and the earthy tones of the village interiors. Sircar’s artistic arsenal includes the use of gritty—almost black-and-white—shots of the outdoor action sequences while opting for a more colorful, softer, lens when zooming in on indoor emotional scenes. Like Santosh Sivan’s brilliant 1999 entry The Terrorist, Yahaan is a small story that captures volumes more than it shows onscreen.

—Aniruddh Chawda

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