Slow but effective, Harud starts with scenes that grasp the viewer and, even though one might find the film’s long silences heavy to watch, the eyes and the heart of art cinema lovers will wait patiently to see what brave story unfolds.
Rafiq (Shahnawaz Bhat), Harud’s main character, has an elder brother who has disappeared due to the tension in the Kashmir region. His mother and father have difficulty in dealing with this disappearance and the ambient violence, to the point that his father (veteran Iranian actor Reza Naji) starts slowly losing his mind to depression. Rafiq’s daily life unfolds listlessly until he finds his older brother’s camera and starts to use it, finding some respite from a grey existence.
A special mention goes to actors Mohammad Amir Naji (Rafiq's father), who is already known to be immensely talented, and to Mudessir Ahmed Khan, who despite being a starting actor, gives the film a tinge of joy or magic to each scene he takes part in. Equally strong applause goes to Nakul Kamte. As I was watching the film, I kept wondering how such guerrilla-style film making could achieve such quality in the sound department, and it was only after I saw his name in the credits that my mystery was solved.
Now let us go into the core of the film experience. Is hope in the autumn condemned to wait the hardships of a long winter to see the end of the tunnel? It takes time to understand the exact plot of Harud and all of its unsaid subtleties, especially for a foreigner who is largely unacquainted with the Kashmiri conflict. But as the story moves forward, events take clearer contours and symbolism stimulates the senses: the expressions on a mother’s face, the daily risk of going to work, the implication of specific events... Aamir Bashir makes a subtle but powerful statement of a region he knows well. Kashmir’s passing seasons, street honking, restaurants, business, singing with friends, praying or watching cable television is coloured by an unspoken fear. The unspoken fear of losing a loved one and how each person deals with that fear, the mistakes made in its name, and the dreams that never take off.
In that sense, Harud is about a place where passions and hope are held in suspense, some sort of limbo where no dreams are possible as daily events continue to unfold. Thinking of other internationally acclaimed films such as Brazilian City of God, where a boy from a violence stricken favela dreams of becoming a photographer and finally attains his dream, Harud shows us common people who are in such a confusing and complex situation that they cannot make a dream even take-off in their minds and can only see moving out of Kashmir as an option to bring those dreams, whichever they are, to existence.
In the midst of it all, we see people however being briefly hopeful due to the opening of Kashmir to mobile phone technology in 2003. Long queues line up outside BSNL headquarters to be able to communicate with loved ones for basic security reasons. A journalist from another part of India covers the story and has a chance to understand the common Kashmiri inhabitants' daily predicament but somehow fails to grasp their reality.
Absence is another haunting theme in the film. People move away from the state of affairs, not necessarily through death, but also through absence of mind, by moving to a different state or by mysteriously disappearing, leaving behind pure silence. Those who are left behind, are also absent to themselves in some way or another until their time comes to go. When it is through death, they become the leaves of autumn who go on a free fall from the tree of life despite their internal fight to bravely keep feeding the flame of life within themselves.
Visit the HARUD official website
Visit HARUD on Facebook
Directed by: Ammir Bashir
Produced by: Aamir Bashir & Shanker Raman
Screenplay: Aamir Bashir, Shanker Raman, Mahmood Farooqi
Cast: Mohammad Amir Naji (Reza Naji), Shahnawaz Bhat, Shamim Basharat, Salma Ashai, Mudessir Ahmed Khan, Rajes Mohiuddin
Sound design: Nakul Kamte
Photography: Shanker Raman