"Kashmir is a company where people spend crores of rupees everyday to keep it burning". A film that dares to articulate such a bold thought explicitly aught to have packed a harder punch than Rahul Dholakia's Lamhaa. More so, given the director's earlier film Parzania, which chronicled the human tragedy of the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat so poignantly. Something seems horribly amiss in Lamhaa. Certainly the jerky, supposedly gritty, but essentially just irritating hand-held camerawork, for a start.
Far too much time is spent introducing the various players in the game -- an undercover intelligence officer (Sanjay Dutt), a radical Muslim leader (Anupam Kher), a gutsy 'freedom fighter' (Bipasha Basu), an idealistic politician (Kunal Kapoor), a ruthless power broker (Yashpal Sharma) and so on. Problem is, none of them seems real enough for us to care. Which obviously eats into the credibility of the plot. Besides, the sheer verbosity of the narrative distracts from its import. The film rambles aimlessly even as it tries to string together several pertinent ideas.
Violence in Kashmir is being orchestrated by various elements with vested interests -- politicians, militants and the military, apart from assorted other free-wheelers. While everyone wants to realise their dream of Kashmir, ordinary citizens, both Hindus and Muslims, continue to fall prey to bullets and bomb blasts. Young boys are being trained for jihad at camps in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, politicians, both local and national, are negotiating deals for their own personal gains, invisible voices are calling the shots from foreign shores and thousands of Kashmiris are languishing in prisons around the country, or are being harassed by the army.
Dholakia needed a gripping screenplay to create an impact with his explosive, obviously well-researched material. No agency emerges unscathed from his indictment and perhaps that isn't far from the truth. Sadly, Lamhaa gets reduced to a semi-serious thriller of little significance instead of becoming the definitive film about the Kashmir cauldron.