Panjim, 01 Dec 2018 9:00 IST
Director Pampally uses the backdrop of the 2014 Sinjar massacre in Iraq to place his characters Fida and Suhara.
Sinjar is a treat to the senses, a visual masterpiece. Shot by director of photography Sanjay Harris, the film captures the island of Lakshadweep at its alluring best.
Aquamarine, azure, cerulean, cyan, teal, turquoise, ultramarine, electric, Copenhagen, heliotrope are some of the names used for the colour blue and its shades. Harris captures these and more fantastically in Sinjar, directed by Pampally.
It is ironic that the state of the characters’ mind is also blue.
The film is in Lakshadweep’s Jasari language — a local mixture of Tamil and Malayalam — and won Best Film (Jasari) and Best Debut Director at the 65th National awards in 2017.
Sinjar is a city in Iraq that was infamously captured by terrorists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who massacred thousands of men and took more than 6,000 Yazidi women hostage to be employed as slaves. The 2014 genocide came to be known as the Sinjar massacre.
Director Pampally uses this backdrop to place his characters Fida (Srinda Arhaan) and Suhara (Mythili) in the conflict zone. Best friends and to-be sisters-in-law, Fida and Suhara are inseparable. Suhara persuades her fisherman brother Ansar (Musthafa) to let her go to Iraq to work as a housemaid, and seeks permission for Fida too, who is betrothed to Ansar. They hope to return soon, so Ansar and Fida can get married without any financial difficulty.
Tragedy strikes when the women are taken as sex slaves along with the Yazidis. Ansar, who speaks little, fights his own battle as he blames himself for the plight of his sister and fiancée. Pampally wonderfully brings this out through interesting camera angles.
The love story that runs parallel to the main story takes prominence as the film progresses and highlights the ethical war raging inside Ansar, without the use of much dialogue. Sinjar becomes a story of a poor Kavaratti fisherman whose life is thrown out of gear by an international act of violence.
Fida and Suhara manage to escape the terrorists, but what awaits them in their conservative island home is worse than the scars they carry from Iraq.
The film is paced slowly, but the treatment is quite mainstream. Specific music defines the relationships Ansar shares with the women in his life.
The story is universal and could have been set in any part of India. The backdrop of the bewitching Lakshadweep is an ornamental addition. But this is not a complaint. The panoramas of the sea, drone shots of rusty vessels, and focus on island life are truly mesmerizing. Minus the serious storyline, the film could easily work as a great promotional tool for tourism.
Lijo Paul’s editing is abrupt and denies the audience solitary moments with the characters, especially Ansar. The jump cuts don’t let you soak in the character’s tumult, and all you are left with is a palette of blues.
Artistes Musthafa, Srinda Arhaan and Mythili do a fabulous job of expressing their inner mayhem caused by an act of terrorism. Many supporting characters — the mother, friend, cycle shop-owner — contribute to making the narrative nuanced in their own small ways.
Sinjar is ethereally composed and shot. This rare-language film cannot be missed.
Sinjar was screened at the 49 International Film Festival of India in Goa on 24 November 2018.