During the showcasing of LAMHAA at the recently held I.I.F.A. in Sri Lanka, I was compelled to ask director Rahul Dholakia about the catch line of the film: 'The untold story of Kashmir'. Obviously, I was curious. What was Dholakia going to narrate that we, the viewers, hadn't witnessed in films earlier or read in newspapers or watched on news channels? Dholakia gave a convincing response, justifying the catch line, but obviously not revealing much about the film.
As LAMHAA unfolds, you realize that Dholakia may've borrowed a few incidents from life, but as it moves forward, it comes across as a typical Bollywood enterprise that harps on being real, but ends up being a masala film that we have witnessed over and over again. The catch line, in my individualistic opinion, is quite misleading.
Dholakia seems to have researched extensively on the issue and LAMHAA does boast of some razor-sharp moments, but the viewer is keen to have an insider's viewpoint on Kashmir, something that we haven't read/seen [on news channels/films] earlier, which LAMHAA just doesn't provide.
Just one word for this film: Disappointing!
The Military Intelligence gets a whiff of a plot that is likely to disrupt and possibly paralyze Kashmir. Vikram [Sanjay Dutt] is sent to investigate this highly confidential mission and he assumes the identity of Gul Jehangir. The same day that he lands in the valley, Haji [Anupam Kher], a top separatist leader, survives a blast. Is there a connection between the blast and the operation?
To solve this conundrum, Vikram teams up with Aziza [Bipasha Basu], Haji's young, aggressive and outspoken protégé. The intensity of their beliefs and their will to survive against all odds creates a special bond between them. They embark together on a journey to uncover the truth.
First things first! LAMHAA has been filmed in Kashmir and you're awe-struck by its beauty, with DoP James Fowlds doing a splendid job in capturing the scenic locales on celluloid. The constant shaking of the camera also gives a real feel. Unfortunately, LAMHAA, though controversial in nature, merely touches the tip of the issue, instead of going all-out and narrating a story that offers reasons and perhaps, a solution to the crisis.
The problem clearly lies in its scripting, the written material [screenplay: Raghav Dhar, Rahul Dholakia]. Like I pointed out earlier, Dholakia should've stuck to realism, instead of trying to strike a balance between realism and make-believe. The viewer is told at the very outset, and also at regular intervals, that 'something big [read destructive] is going to occur'. But the entire conspiracy comes across as too trivial during the final moments of the film and therefore, the impact is missing.
Honestly, LAMHAA comes across as a disjointed effort, in terms of writing. It's more of a collage of several isolated incidents, which explains why the screenplay lacks the power to keep you engaged. Sure, a few sequences are attention grabbing, but showing the heroic side of Sanjay Dutt [rescuing Bipasha all the while - from the cops, from Rajesh Khera's henchmen, from a lecherous Yashpal Sharma] appears very filmy. Even the finale - Sanju busting the conspiracy - comes across as child's play.
One expects a lot from Dholakia, but he lets you down completely in LAMHAA. The politicians wanting a bigger piece of pie or children getting trained for jehad or their bodies being stuffed with bombs is not an eye-opener anymore. What one is keen to know is the mindset of Kashmiris, which, frankly, this film doesn't really project. In the end, if you recall the visuals, not the content, it means something is seriously wrong with the film and LAMHAA, sadly, is right intentions gone wrong. Even the dialogue [Sai Kabir, Ashwath Bhatt], like the screenplay writing, tries to strike a balance between real and filmy. Mithoon's music is easy on the ears, but acts as a speed breaker in the narrative.
Sanjay Dutt tries hard to look the character, but I just couldn't connect with it. The rugged look, the sunglasses and the trendy attire made me feel that Sanju had strolled into the sets from an ad film shoot. Bipasha, again, doesn't look her part, although I must add that she has put in a lot of effort to stay true to her character. The sequence when she's attacked by the women workers of Anupam Kher's political party is simply brilliant.
Kunal Kapoor is royally sidelined in the first hour, but has a few interesting scenes in the second half. His speech in the finale is flat and devoid of the required emotions. Anupam Kher is the lone actor who actually looks the character he has been assigned to portray.
Mahesh Manjrekar is wasted. Ditto for Yashpal Sharma. Vipin Sharma is effective. Jyoti Dogra stands out. Murli Sharma is perfect. Shernaz Patel is decent. Rajesh Khera, Yuri Suri, Vishwajeet Pradhan, Asif Basra, Denzil Smith and Ehsaan Khan are okay in their respective parts.
On the whole, LAMHAA just doesn't work.