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Film Review: Mission Kashmir

THE CAMERA moves along the calm Dal lake with the silent mountain ranges in the background. A single houseboat is seen rocking gently in the middle of the lake. A scene straight out of a picture book one would think, till suddenly the boat bursts into flames and splinters hit the screen.

Welcome to strife-ridden Srinagar and ``Mission Kashmir''. ``It is a film about Kashmiriyat, which is the age-old tradition of religious tolerance and harmony'' is how director Vidhu Vinod Chopra described his film in an interview.

The film focusses on the violent unrest that has been dogging the ``Paradise on Earth''. It is a plea to restore peace and harmony. The main players are Inspector General Inayat Khan (Sanjay Dutt) and Altaf (Hrithik Roshan) who are pitted against each other in an inevitable battle of muscle and wits. Seven-year old Altaf watches his parents gunned down by a masked man, who haunts him in his dreams. The orphan boy is brought to IG Khan's home where Khan's wife Neelima (Sonali Kulkarni) takes care of the traumatised boy, till Altaf discovers one day that the masked man is the IG Khan himself. He runs away from the Khan's home with a vow to destroy the IG.

Altaf comes under the wings of the dreaded mercenary Hilal Kohistani (Jackie Shroff). Their goal is `mission Kashmir'. The stable factor in Altaf's life is his childhood sweetheart Sufiya Parvez (Preity Zinta), who works for a television channel.

The screenplay by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Vikram Chandra, Suketu Mehta and Abhijat Joshi suffers because of the predictable twists and turns. But what make the film watchable are the performances and excellent production values. Also the characters, barring Jackie Shroff's, are well- etched out. Full marks to cinematographer Binod Pradhan whose camera realistically captures the beautiful as well as the ugly face of Kashmir. The aerial shots of the valley leave one wondering when things will return to normalcy. Some shots really leave a mark like the one where Hrithik is seen falling into the lake from a height. Also Jackie Shroff appears menacing thanks to the low camera angles.

This is Sanjay Dutt's film all the way. He has evolved as an actor and his is an understated and subtle performance. The scene where he sobs his heart out in the bathroom after he loses his son, really moves the audience. Hrithik Roshan's is a role more along the lines of ``Fiza'' but he seems more convincing here as the misguided terrorist than in ``Fiza.'' But does he have to show off his muscles all the time?

It is a typical Hindi villain role for Jackie Shroff, whose character has no shades whatsoever. Preity Zinta is her usual cherubic self and lends colour to the otherwise serious proceedings. The music by the trio, Shankar-Ehsan-Loy is catchy.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra's message on Kashmiriyat gets diluted towards the middle of the film as the focus shifts to the personal war between Dutt and Roshan. ``Mission Kashmir'' might have its faults but it is definitely a cut above the rest of the commercial Hindi films that have been made on terrorism.


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