It is hard to dismiss Lamhaa as a bad movie. It is not jingoistic, and neither does it stray towards the ridiculous and trivialize the Kashmir issue. It does not have a black-and-white view of things. Still, what Lamhaa is as a whole, isn't enough for a movie.
Lamhaa might have been a blockbuster if the makers so wanted it to be, but the real question is this - as a film-watching generation, how many gritty, AK-47-laden Kashmir stories can we take?
So maybe, in this whole deal, Rahul Dholakia's biggest mistake was choosing the subject that he did. Because Lamhaa, unfortunately, is like a mail you get from the HR department - you're mentally prepared it's spam, and you'd open it only if there's something in it for you personally. Preferably spelt out in bold caps.
Lamhaa, though interesting, is happy being a documentary in a rush. Officer Vikram (Sanjay Dutt) is called for an undercover operation as Gul Jahangir, to unearth a possible conspiracy that is set to happen soon in J&K. The focus here is on a zealous separatist Haji (Anupam Kher), on whose life countless attempts have been made.
Haji has mentored a fierce warrior-like Aziza (Bipasha Basu), who Vikram/Gul befriends and protects from the enemies in her own camp. Then there is Atif (Kunal Kapoor), who, unlike Haji, is a "soft" separatist who seeks to unite Kashmiri Muslims as well as Hindu Pandits, and get their approval for Kashmir's freedom.
Political conspiracies, traitors in every camp, and crooked businessmen and army officers who sell their homelands' safety all abound in the script. There's not much by way of earth-shaking suspense or even surprise, but as a tale it is gripping enough. Of course, if politico-civil topics put you to sleep, then you're not going to fare very well.
Lamhaa is not a commentary as much as it is a collage of different sides of the turmoil that is Kashmir; it's a sum of interesting parts that don't make really up a whole.
The plot keeps zipping across locations and characters, almost in a smoking hurry to create an urgency that isn't needed. But then, thankfully, there's been an attempt at staying realistic, in terms of execution, and this prevents you from absolutely trashing the movie.
The strong star cast keeps the film moving. Sanjay Dutt mostly swaggers and mouths cliches, while Bipasha could have been given more lines and not made to wail so much in that horrendous scene where she gets beaten up. The actress stands a chance at this year's awards, though.
Kunal Kapoor's character might have done with some layers, but Anupam Kher, Murli Sharma and Mahesh Manjrekar as good as usual.
The movie is different in terms of how it shows the landscape - it features a Kashmir that is gritty and hard to admire, instead of the heart-breaking land-of-snowfall-and-houseboats that is so frequently used to sell these kinds of flicks. It's not pleasant, but what makes watching it actually unpleasant is the over-jerky camera that offers unflattering close-ups of everyone, and the faux low-quality visuals that are possibly a way to make it all seem like a "real" docu-drama.
The music is a good package, though, and the songs are new-age and zippy.
Well, Lamhaa has its strengths, but is not a fun watch; and neither is it recommended for kids. Watch it if those conditions don't upset you. And if Kashmir still interests you.