Star Cast: Amba-Suhasini Katoch Jhala, Anand Kumar, Farooq Bilal Fazli, Gandharv Dewan, Hiba Qamar, Inder Salim & Lokesh Jain.
Director: Prabhash Chandra
What’s Good: It is almost a cry for help and someone holding a mirror against the atrocities we have turned a blind eye towards. It’s our heaven and the life of people living there is turned into nothing less than hell at this point.
What’s Bad: The creators expect a lot from the audience in terms of decoding the movie. Someone who is not geopolitically sound might lose track and understand nothing. Because all of it is closely interconnected.
Loo Break: These are 90 minutes of discomfort, not visually but even the idea of it is alarming. If you are at my emotional level you will at least need 1 break to process the darkness, doesn’t matter where you spend it.
Watch or Not?: You must. Because this is the fact of the matter without any ‘Files’ involved. You are smart otherwise.
Language: Hindi (with subtitles).
Available On: In The Festival Circuit Now!
Runtime: 96 Minutes.
Prabhash Chandra in his meta-documentary-fictional kind of movie takes you through the lanes of Kashmir that are haunted by the deepened atrocities faced by the land. Amid all this is Afeefa living a life of suffocation.
I’m Not The River Jhelum Movie Review: Script Analysis
Gar Firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, hami asto, hamin asto, hamin ast, are the words that described the beauty of a land labelled heaven, and rightfully so. But does it still stand true, or our greed and disputes have killed it all? Kashmir, a land hanging right on the cliff of uncertainty and doom, there is almost no hope, but still enough to keep the grind going. Prabhash Chandra in his feature film tries to capture the lifeless void on the road and the chaotic hope inside the houses and this is the meditation the land needs right now.
Over the past couple of years, cinema has been used as a tool to not just influence people but also spoon-feed the audience what they are supposed to do or even think for that matter. Of course, the latest example is the movie based in the same land, but naming and discussing its propaganda will only dilute the impact of the amazing film we are talking about right now. So, when a filmmaker sets out with his camera to show the world what their heaven now looks like and how lifeless everything is, you need to surrender and listen.
Prabhash Chandra who writes I’m Not The River Jhelum has the intent to show you life with his poetic vision and of course the lack of happiness or even the gest to live in the eyes of people suffering it all firsthand. It is not even an entire episode in the life of the people involved on the screen, but why Chandra shows you just a bit is to make you realise how gruesome and difficult it is to even spend a moment there.
Children are kept away from school, their fathers are constantly on the radar to be either taken away or killed, and no one knows where the next bomb will fall. It’s also a dystopian world where one can only think of death while alive. While the army is literally at the doorsteps, a father teaches his young daughter about Newton’s laws, the galaxies, and the black hole. This is a place where all that the youth knows is that they are doomed, the world outside is only about surviving and nothing else.
Chandra knows what he has set out to make. After the scrapping of article 370, Kashmir has been devoid of even basic amenities, but every Rajya Sabha hearing at least once mentions its name. Students protest in the capital but the focus is swiftly shifted towards something else. The movie is a bold alarm that the world is watching. It takes courage to talk about the distress without taking the refuge of ‘fiction’, Chandra certainly has that.
This is not the Kashmir of your films where only love blooms, it is one where love is fading and all we need to do is restore it.
I’m Not The River Jhelum Movie Review: Star Performance
Acting performances for the lack of a better word are haunting. Through his characters, Prabhash creates the trauma that is induced in them. Afeefa’s uncle is taken away and in a stage kind of voice-over narration, we understand the torture he has gone through. Similarly, Anand Kumar plays a police officer struggling with ultimate PTSD that has turned him into a mentally challenged person. His demeanour and doings are enough to tell you the trauma he has faced. In a haunting scene, he strips himself naked and imitates the torture. Can’t even imagine.
I’m Not The River Jhelum Movie Review: Direction, Music
Prabhash Chandra as a director combines chaos, poetry, meditation, violence, fear, and the curse to tell you his story. He never really writes or directs a scene leading to the next part of the story, rather he lets it all run wild and untamed. Because that is how the world runs there. With his DOPs Anuj Chopra and Pratiik D Bhalawala, he walks through the lanes with handheld cameras and inside the house with just enough light to let you see the void.
Together they create visuals that are both stunning and haunting. As a filmmaking technique, Chandra introduces actors performing monologues with voiceovers like on the stage and it works effectively. So does the poetries by various artists one of which is also Inder Salim, who also acts in the movie.
A lot of I’m Not The River Jhelum depends in the hands of editor Paresh Kaamdar who has a tough job streamlining this chaos. As said there is no structure to the storytelling because Chandra goes meta almost 60 percent of the times. There are no dialogues or a running fictional story in a very big chunk. Imagine weaving a documentary, with a fictional tale and then blending them, Kaamdar has tough shoes to fill and he does a very good job.
There are metaphors and things you must decode yourself. They are unsettling and highly moving. But there is also a point where a viewer not used to them or the geopolitical conflict of Kashmir might feel entirely alien.
I’m Not The River Jhelum Movie Review: The Last Word
This is not history, it is the real present that needs to be sorted first. The intent is not the make you chant slogans & fight, but to put ahead a point that is concrete and doesn’t need an entire propaganda machinery to validate it.
I’m Not The River Jhelum is produced by Sukriti Khurana, Rashi Mishra and Abhash Chandra.
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For more recommendations, read our Goodbye Movie Review here.