There is something about Kashmir - at rest or unrest, the virgin white slopes of Iqbaal's musings have never been able to do without a love story. At least in Hindi cinemadom. For the first 40 years after independence, the Valley served as a heaven for cinematographers to shoot their yahoo-tooting heroes, while the past decade spawned its own culture of K-movies with fire-spewing Sunny-Deol-fighting Pakistani desperados.
Amid the patriotic baloney, there have been a few movies like Maachis and Roja, which have given the insiders' story of the ground realities and the dynamics of the terror market. Yahaan does not belong to the either genre - neither providing a relieving outlet in the form of crass cracks on Pakistan's perfidy, nor attempting a turnkey solution to the problem. Yahaan is a clichéd story, yet told in a refreshingly lucid and believable manner.
The movie tells the story of an Indian Army officer, Capt. Aman (Jimmy Shergill), posted in Kashmir as a part of the 2nd Rashtriya Rifles. In his quest to rise above his colleagues' ignorance of human rights, Aman falls in love with Ada (Minissha Lamba).
In addition to being a bonny beauty, Ada is the sister of Shakeel (Yashpal Sharma), second-in-command of Al-Jihad, the leading terror-outfit of the Valley. But the lovers' problem is not Shakeel; it is the fact that they try to court a taboo alliance, between a Kashmiri girl and an Indian Army man.
The volatile situation forces Aman to be stripped of not only his stars, but also his love. He faces a court marshal for his alleged links with Shakeel via his heartthrob, Ada. Aman's love transforms Ada from a shy recluse to a fiery fighter who knocks at all doors, from the media to the power corridors, for justice. The movie ends with a hostage drama, sharply focusing on the ironic fix the localites have beguilingly driven themselves into.
Yahaan is yet another movie based on a land whose snow-decked slopes are streaked blood-red and olive-green. Yet it is not the rigmarole of terrorists hatching far-fetched plots and Indian patriots countering with feats that are farther removed from logic. The entire movie strives to present the status quo, or the current position - Yahaan.
Shooting, at times with a discreet camera, amid the markets, bylanes and creeps of the Valley, director Shoojit Sircar has been able to capture the essence of the local sentiments, which go quite unnoticed in other similar movies. The dry-eyed remorse, reflecting the dual pressure on the common Kashmiri from both the Indian Army and the factionists, is signatured all over the film.
Jimmy Shergil appears a bona fide army officer, down to his correct stars and insignia. Controlled, soft and confident, Aman is Jimmy's best act, of a career which has rowed across an unbelievable 11 years without creating any palpable ripples. Minissha Lamba makes a credible Ada, breathing timidity and passion into her character, and justifying director Sircar's faith in a debutante for his maiden film.
Yahaan has attempted to gauge the nuances of the present situation, without going verbose with dictums about what ought to be done. While touching upon almost all issues from the Kashmiri girl's lack of rights to the genesis of a jehadi, the movie does not burden you with blood-boiling emotions or invoke Pakistan-centered ribaldry.
Where it falters is in the music and the glamor arena. The lyrics by Gulzaar set to music by Shantanu Moitra, are not exciting or hummable, and most of the numbers are deliberately jettisoned into the story.
Yahaan has already bagged the Special Jury Award in the inaugural Indian Competition Section at the 7th Osian's-Cinefan Film Festival held at New Delhi. It remains to be seen whether a seamlessly dovetailed story and a plot based on an honest day's hard-work, will be able to make itself seen over more meaty options available to the cinebuffs.