There's a sequence in FILMISTAAN, towards the second half, when the septuagenarian haqim sahab, who migrated to Pakistan during the partition, reminisces about the pre-partition days in Amritsar [India], while the protagonist, an Indian, recalls his [now deceased] grandfather's desire, who was uprooted from his homeland, to visit his birthplace Lahore [Pakistan]. That moment, which the first-time director of FILMISTAAN [Nitin Kakkar] captures brilliantly on celluloid, is sure to make many Indians and Pakistanis moist-eyed, especially those who vividly recall the partition.
You connect with FILMISTAAN for several reasons...
Notwithstanding the violent partition, the strained relations between the two nations and the wars that the two nations have fought, when an Indian meets a Pakistani in a third country -- on foreign soil -- the topic, generally, veers towards the popularity of Indian films and movie stars in Pakistan [the game of cricket is another fav topic]. The Bachchans, Khans and Kapoors are loved and adored in the neighbouring country as well.
Bollywood continues to magnetize not just Indians, but Pakistanis too -- an aspect that FILMISTAAN integrates in its plot with remarkable ease and honesty.
In retrospect, FILMISTAAN may appear as yet another film that looks at the popularity of Hindi films in the neighbouring country, but scratch the surface and you realize that it highlights the bonding between an Indian and a Pakistani wonderfully, communicating strong signals of love, friendship and brotherhood between the two nationalities. Coincidentally, the timing appears most appropriate, since there's hope that the two nations are aiming to move forward, after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attended the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of India last week.
Concurrently, director Nitin Kakkar brings to the fore the thorny issue of terrorism and how the common man in Pakistan too desires peace and harmony. Steering clear of sermons and shunning jingoism, Kakkar presents a tale that's truly remarkable in every sense. FILMISTAAN has won accolades across the globe, besides winning the National Award for best feature film in Hindi, and you strongly feel, the praises, rave reviews and awards are most deserving in this case.
Let's enlighten you about the premise of FILMISTAAN. A Bollywood buff and wannabe-actor Sunny [Sharib Hashmi] goes with an American film crew to the remote areas of Rajasthan to work on a documentary film. One night, late after shoot, a terrorist group kidnaps him and takes him to Pakistan. When the leader of the terrorist group meets Sunny, he realizes that the inept terrorists have mistakenly kidnapped an Indian and taken him prisoner, instead of an American crew-member. With little choice, the terrorists decide to keep him hostage until they locate their original target. Sunny finds himself hostage in enemy land, amidst guns and terrorists.
The house Sunny is confined to belongs to Aftaab [Inaamulhaq], a Pakistani, who pirates Hindi films but, like Sunny, loves Indian films and the two of them bond over the pirated Bollywood films that play in the village. Soon, they become close friends and Aftaab promises to help Sunny escape and cross the border from Pakistan back into Rajasthan, India.
FILMISTAAN is one of those rare Hindi films that juxtaposes drama, humor and emotions seamlessly [screenplay: Nitin Kakkar]. An absorbing plotline is spread out splendidly into a 2-hour film and believe me, there's never a dull moment in the entire narrative. Although the film does highlight cross-border terrorism, it also sheds light on the love that people from both sides have for Bollywood. Additionally, while the Indian protagonist is held captive in a hamlet in Pakistan, the film doesn't come across as gloomy or dark. And despite the fact that he faces hardships/atrocities at the hands of his Pakistani captors, the director presents a picture of hope and optimism.
The only time FILMISTAAN falters is during the middle of the second hour, when a couple of episodes seem stretched, but these are passing clouds in an otherwise sunshine film. The penultimate moments, again, leave you mesmerized at the turn of events and you wonder, will the protagonist escape alive? Will he cross over to India?
The locations are delightfully captured by the DoP [Subhransu Das], while the background score [Arijit Datta] is effectual. Dialogue, penned by Sharib Hashmi, are well-worded and most appropriate.
FILMISTAAN stands tall thanks to its superior writing, besides benefiting tremendously from its strong casting. Both Sharib Hashmi and Inaamulhaq are a complete revelation, slipping into their respective parts with astonishing ease. Sharib holds you attentive from the commencement itself, when he impersonates a couple of Bollywood actors with flourish and maintains the sur right till the finale. Inaamulhaq too pitches in a fabulous performance, his performance and body language making you forget you're watching an actor emote.
Kumud Mishra revels in his solidly-written role and delivers a pitch-perfect, dynamic performance as the terrorist. Gopal Datt is another actor to watch out for. He's absolutely believable as Kumud's subordinate. Waseem Khan, portraying the part of Inaamulhaq's father, gets his part spot-on. Habib Azmi is first-rate as the haqim sahab. Sanjay Mehta, the leader of the extremist group, is appropriate. Tushar Jha, as Aftaab's younger brother, is okay. Manoj Bakshi, as the Indian cop, is efficient.
On the whole, FILMISTAAN walks the tightrope between offbeat and commercial with gusto. This is a massively entertaining film. A film that shouldn't be missed at all. Watch it. Now.