INDIA 2010 Directed by: Rahul Dholakia Written by: Rahul Dholakia Produced by: Bunty Walia, Jaspreet Singh Walia Cinematography: James Fowlds Editing by: Ashmith Kunder Music by: Mithoon Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Bipasha Basu, Anupam Kher, Kunal Kapoor, Vipin Sharma, Yashpal Sharma, Shernaz Patel, Tejaskumar Shah, Yuri Suri, Shalini Soni, Vishwajeet Pradhan
LAMHAA is a film about an army officer on a mission in Kashmir, and that’s pretty much defining the pace of this relentless action flick that has a lot on the agenda. Most movies would decide early on if they are a) an action flick playing in Kashmir, or b) a movie about Kashmir in sheep’s clothing. Most movies would pick a straw, but LAMHAA either shies away from making a decision, or makes a conscious decision to indeed be both and follow through with it.
It would have been easier for LAMHAA to concentrate on one objective only, but maybe that would have been gutless. A short while into the movie it becomes crystal clear that Mr. Dholakia is really behind what he is trying to do here: to tell an untold story, in the most explosive way possible. Think Bruckheimer with brains (I know it’s unimaginable, but it just crossed my mind), or something an ageing action star would undertake to compensate for a life full of meaningless filmmaking.
From the beginning, LAMHAA dives right into the conflict zone, into a reality shaped by suicide bombers and hails of bullets swirling around ordinary citizen’s heads. This is a place absolutely comparable to Iraq or Afghanistan, albeit with a more complex history some might argue. Mr. Dholakia uses Vikram’s character to cover the fundamentals of the conflict, as well as to refer to many real events, revealing increasingly more detail about how things work in Kashmir, and why they don’t work in the first place.
I do not believe that LAMHAA’s intention is to “explain” the conflict, or to pretend that it knows something others don’t, or to claim a truth that wouldn’t be as cloudy as anyone else’s. That is why it’s best to see the LAMHAA as an observer providing a fragmented look at Kashmir’s problems, leveraging on the scenario to propel itself to the no-holds-barred action fest that it is. Critics may say that LAMHAA would have been better off taking the easy road, but then it wouldn’t need Kashmir, would it?
LAMHAA is too complex at times, or too crammed with details, but it is also rich and rewarding, fast and furious, and never superficial. LAMHAA is authentic and realistic enough to earn all the controversy that followed its release. Was it worth the effort? Definitely. LAMHAA stands out and stands tall, having very little in common with Bollywood romance or Hollywood gadgetry.
The one thing that I wish was different is the hectic, zoomy and shaky camerawork that adds nothing but distraction from what’s going on. As the film is already very fast, jumpy and overly detailed Mr. Dholakia should have chosen a different approach, especially keeping in mind that the visual chaos lasts for more than two hours. It probably reflects Kashmir’s tensions adequately, as much as it visually interprets the anxiety you can feel on those dusty streets, but LAMHAA goes overboard here, drowning us in increasingly random visualization. And you thought CLOVERFIELD made you feel nauseous.
LAMHAA is contemporary Indian cinema at its best, far more evolved than the kitsch of the old days and far smarter than most of the big blockbusters. Throw in some Compazine (or whatever you have at hand) and enjoy one of the most challenging rides of the year.
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