Review Hindi

Karim Mohammed review: Despite lacking finesse, this film will resonate for its timely setting and idealism

Cinestaan Rating

Release Date: 19 May 2018 / Rated: U / 01hr 39min

Prateek Rawat

The film focusses on Kashmir’s Bakarwal community and their daily struggles within the terrorism fraught nomadic way of life.

Director Pawan Kumar Sharma, who earned critical acclaim for his Himachali feature Brina in 2016, showcased his latest feature Karim Mohammed at the 13th Habitat Film Festival on 19 May. The film focusses on Kashmir’s Bakarwal community and their daily struggles within the terrorism fraught nomadic way of life.

The protagonist is a young, bright and extremely curious boy, Karim Mohammed, whose point-of-view forms the lens for most of the film. The issues of adult self-preservation wrestle it out throughout the film’s narrative through the complexities of truth and the child's innocence.

Commenting on the narrative of his film, Sharma says, “This film tries to show the life of the Bakarwals through the eyes of a child. Communities who live in the borderlands often end up harboring terrorists out of fear for their lives and to ensure the safety of their families. However, when these terrorists loot them off their food, clothing, and family members, the question that comes to the front is the importance of ‘zameer’ [integrity] in our ways of life.”

Karim Mohammed attempts to explore the possibilities of keeping up with one's zameer in the turbulent times through a melodramatic style and a series of often typified characters.

The first half of the film reveals the idyllic relationship of a family with their ecosystem and other members of the community, as their nomadic lifestyle is played out. The film, however, was not shot on location in Kashmir, but in the unexplored, non-touristic remote lands of the Mandi district in Himachal Pradesh.

The nomadic movement of its characters and their sheep-rearing is captured through impressive landscape sequences in a series of wide-angle, over-head, and almost documentary-style shots. These are accompanied by up-tempo songs expressing the many ideologies of the film.

Multiple episodes of filial bonding of the Bakarwals and the terrorists interrupting their idyll by looting or assaulting the community members along their travels make the focus of the film.

The filmmaker has avoided onscreen violence to get a 'U' certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification. Therefore, to keep the point-of-view of it's protagonist, the soundscape is developed to imply a violent rupture of the serenity of the landscape and the lifestyle of its members.

The teachings of the father on loyalty, nationalism and zameer along with anecdotes of brave saints infuse Karim with ideals and ideas, while the pragmatism of the mother provides reality checks on these flights of fancy, every now and then.

However, this serenity of existence soon meets an irrevocable dramatic tragedy that pronounces a clash of ideologies within the community and forces Karim to make some uncomfortable choices.

Sharma’s film is exemplary in its take on parallel cinema and becomes an example of the narrative voices now possible in cinema through digital filmmaking. However, the film’s narrative — albeit exhortative and replete with ideals of self-respect and personhood — does indeed belie the contrived nature of this idealism.

Commenting on the genre of the film, Sharma says, “This is parallel cinema and we have tried to get it mainstream attention. The wonderful thing is that with digital filmmaking accessible to us, we can follow our passion of telling non-mainstream stories and asking tough questions without financial constraints.”

Within the current political developments in the country and the rampant Islamophobia worldwide, the narrative often appears isolated
from ideologies like state-sponsored violence and domestic terrorism.

A narrative that wishes to tackle the sensitive topicality of being a Muslim in a heavily Islamophobic world, especially within areas of conflict and struggles across India, would need further explication of actions and motivations, and the concept of truth beyond an often-reductive reliance on the idea of zameer.

Karim Mohammed has been screened at many film festivals and won the Best Child Actor award at the Delhi International Film Festival, along with Best Director at Haryana International Film Festival.

The filmmaker is attempting to crowdfund for the film to be commercially released in India. Th idea is to disseminate its ideas to a wider public that is rarely exposed to such non-commercial content.

Despite the lack of finesse in direction and acting, the film will resonate with viewers across the country for its timely setting, authentic voices, and idealism. However, the naivete of this idealism lets its sentimentalism and the insistence on childlike innocence shroud the blood-stained reality of conflict zones. This can work against understanding the nuances of the relationship between state, terrorism and the communities, who are constantly negotiating their lives in these violent frontiers.

Related topics

Habitat Film Festival

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