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Article 370 Review: Get Your Patriotic Fix

By DEEPA GAHLOT
February 23, 2024 12:08 IST
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Article 370 is not as crude as some of the openly propagandist films made in recent times.
It could at least open up a discussion on what is to be done to heal the wounds of the people of Kashmir, which years of shrieking TV debaters could not do, notes Deepa Gahlot.

In most people/s minds, Kashmir in recent years, could have been hash-tagged with two terms: Terrorism and forced exodus of Pandits.

The heaven-on-earth tourist tag, the picture postcard images of shikaras has long faded from memory.

Some would be dimly aware of Article 370 that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

Then, in 2019, the media was abuzz with the abrogation of this contentious Article, and opinion sharply divided over the pros and cons.

 

Aditya Suhas Jambhale film's Article 370, produced by Aditya Dhar (director of Uri: The Surgical Strike) seeks to simplify the history behind the special status to J&K and then the processes that led to the successful repeal.

For most part, it is structured like a thriller, with the usual hunt for terrorists. But there is also the step-by-step guide for dummies -- fictionalised, of course -- on how the conspiracy to prevent this abrogation was dismantled by a dedicated IAS officer and a ferocious intelligence operative, interestingly, both played by women.

Kashmiri Zooni Haksar (Yami Gautam Dhar), whose family suffered at the hands of corrupt politicians shielding militants, goes against orders to gun down a terrorist, Burhan Wani, no less, which results in a surge of violence and louder separatist demands in the Valley.

She is transferred to Delhi, and given VIP security duty.

When Rajeshwari Swaminathan (Priyamani) reaches out to her to return to Kashmir and lay the groundwork for 'something big', she finds Zooni embittered because Kashmir has been turned into a 'lost cause' by a corrupt system that benefits from a 'conflict economy'.

When promised a free hand, she agrees to head the National Investigation Agency team in Kashmir and starts going after the funding sources of the terrorists.

When the Pulwama massacre takes place, her grief at losing a dear comrade (Vaibhav Tatwawadi) and 40 other soldiers, is channeled into a no-holds-barred rage.

The events in Kashmir, including her run-in with a sneering politician (Raj Zutshi), and the horse trading with the chief minister (Divya Seth Shah) are juxtaposed with Rajeshwari's efforts to find a Constitutional loophole that would make the repeal of Article 370 legally unassailable.

They are encouraged by the unnamed prime minister (Arun Govil) and Home Minister Madhav Patel (Kiran Karmarkar).

With a deft mixing of fact and fiction, using easily recognisable real characters with different names, Jambhale builds a case for the repeal of Article 370, with the vague theory that it will benefit the people of the state.

It is the official line, and obviously, a 160-minute film cannot go into the complexities of the issue. The mass audiences it caters to, couldn't care less, as long as they are getting their patriotic fix, which is what so many films these days use as a springboard.

The Opposition -- read Congress -- is blamed for the Kashmir mess, right from allowing Pakistan and China to occupy parts of Indian territory, to the sneaky elimination of a crucial clause from official documents that would allow the retraction of Article 370.

Zooni and a loyal military man Waseem (Skand Sanjeev Thakur), track down the original document, pretending to be researchers, when a government order would easily open doors to the restricted area of an archive in the J&K secretariat.

Yami Gautam Dhar (in dark trouser and jackets) and Priyamani (in elegant saris) have played committed career women. There are no romantic or family subplots, which is rare in Indian films, more so when there is a marked return to machismo in popular cinema.

Jambhale and his writers (including Dhar and Arjun Dhawan) have given the film enough rah-rah moments, both action and verbal, that would please audiences.

It does follow the government line but is not as crude as some of the openly propagandist films made in recent times.

It could at least open up a discussion on what is to be done to heal the wounds of the people of Kashmir, which years of shrieking TV debaters could not do.

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