With the Indian political arena heated up for the upcoming elections, the film fraternity is not holding back from making its own impression on the voters. Taking the lead is the film “Article 370,” a compelling piece that serves as an informative tool about the Indian Government’s Kashmir policy, which led to the revocation of the controversial constitutional provision on August 5, 2019.

“Article 370” hits theaters at a pivotal moment when the memories of that historic decision are still fresh in the minds of the citizenry. However, it seems the creators are keen to explain the justifications for the decision, detailing the events that led to the termination of Jammu & Kashmir’s special status before the ruling party gears up for the electoral challenge.

The film attempts to frame the abrogation as a decisive move, despite the long-term consequences of this action still unfolding. It doesn’t take long to recognize the urgency within the film to establish the narrative of the decision as a strategic triumph.

Structured like a polished multimedia presentation with an emphatic score, director Aditya Suhas Jambhale presents the complex nuances and consequences of the decision that are often overshadowed by the frenzy of news channel debates. Echoing the pattern established by Aditya Dhar’s “Uri” (2019) – which dramatized the surgical strikes following the Uri attack and also came out in an election year – “Article 370” presents itself at a similarly critical time. Dhar acts as a co-producer and co-writer, alongside Yami Gautam’s striking performance as intelligence officer Zooni Haksar, a Kashmiri Pandit bearing a personal vendetta against the political corruption in the state.

The screenplay subtly channels the current political discourse, exalting some historical partnerships while disregarding the implications of past alliances such as the coalition between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Jammu & Kashmir People’s Democratic Party. The film manages to avoid exaggeration of tone, smartly incorporating discussions on how outdated tactics of back-channel diplomacy are in dealing with separatists and double agents in Kashmir. It also delves into the economics of terrorism, thereby exposing the contentious role of the separatist movement and local political forces, though it avoids critical examination of Delhi’s part in this dynamic.

However, in its portrayal of Kashmiri leaders as the antagonists, the film inadvertently points a finger at their previous allies in Delhi, suggesting a preference for technical legalities over constitutional ethics. It touches upon the grim possibility of human rights abuses sanctioned by state officials. Yami’s character, Zooni, is asked what she might have done differently following an encounter with militant Burhan Wani. Her response, coupled with later actions, poses a compelling question: are the land and its integration more vital than the lives and welfare of its people?

Veteran actor Raj Zutshi conjures images of both Farooq and Omar Abdullah as a political figure with a sinister edge, while Divya Seth transforms Mehbooba Mufti into a silent yet manipulative character. Arun Govil returns to the screen with poise to portray the Prime Minister, and Kiran Karmarkar presents an impressive contrast as the Home Minister, countering Zutshi’s dramatic portrayal.

The film acknowledges the unchanged ‘ecosystem,’ despite shifts in power, itself adopting the mechanisms of the ‘system’ to convey its viewpoint. The narrative stands out for placing two women, Zooni and her deputy secretary played by Priyamani, at the helm of the emotional and political saga; both actresses deliver compelling performances, particularly Gautam, whose portrayal of Zooni morphs from purpose to disillusionment.

Yet, as the story proceeds, it becomes increasingly simplistic, transforming into a portrayal reminiscent of the one-man army trope often seen in Bollywood. It suggests that the filmmakers take a cinematic leap beyond the democratic ethos they represent.

“Article 370” is more than just a film; it is a cinematic statement currently showing in theaters, inviting audiences to revisit and evaluate one of the most impactful decisions in recent Indian history.

By IPL Agent

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