"We will never know why people do what they do because we were not there," says Abdul Rashid. Rashid, played by Kulbhushan Kharbanda in No Fathers in Kashmir, is an old man whose son, a militant in making, disappeared to never return. His wrinkles have seen it all and therein lies his wisdom. By some strange grasp on life, Rashid still has his composure unscathed. He doesn't lose hold of it, even when his teen-aged granddaughter asks him, 'Where's my father?'
The title, No Fathers in Kashmir, is quite an allegory if you place it onto the backdrop that the film is trying to give you. Noor (Zara Webb), residing in London, visits her native place in Kashmir ahead of her mother marrying for the second time. Too naive to understand the nuances of political impediments in Kashmir, she has a hunch that something is being kept discreet here.
Amid the valley, Noor befriends Majid (Shivam Raina), whose father has also gone missing. While No Fathers in Kashmir is a dark slice of life, Noor and Majid's impending love story is rather endearing, although often placed upon harshness.
In one particular sequence, Noor is heard asking Majid, 'What's the difference between a militant and a terrorist?' 'A militant fights for freedom, a terrorist is a criminal', answers Majid. Majid, young, bright and sans a father, would want to become a militant too.
This will, inevitably, land one to ponder about questions that go unanswered. Why is that guns are picked and what freedom does one seek? How must we decide who causes suffering and who suffers? And how would we ever conclude who belongs where?
Ashvin Kumar's film is a brave attempt that way. Noor's encounter with a true story of betrayal pushes her many steps ahead in life. If she didn't land herself in circumstances most unexpected, she wouldn't know why 'Azaadi' is even chanted. No Fathers in Kashmir is rather a story of a young girl developing a real perspective, far from her first-world problems. She returns with a live story imprinted within, and warm kisses on her lips.
Kumar himself plays an important character in the film; in fact, the game changer, if we may call him one. 'They were fighting for Kashmir, I was fighting for Islam. It's obvious who had to survive', says Kumar with a cold face, therefore throwing you in the face of the world's coldest war; that between ideologies.
Soni Razdan, who plays Noor's grandmother, has a rather brief appearance. The film belongs to Zara and Shivam, who keep us hooked with moments, laughter and tragedies that they share.
The film calls itself based on true stories from the world's 'most secret war'. Who knows who pays the price for the war? India? Pakistan? Hindus? Muslims? Militants? Soldiers? No Fathers in Kashmir and the children yet await a return...
Watch it for a reality check you want to escape.