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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Review: Salam Kashmir, a disappointing fare

If a piece of art is meant to be an aesthetic manifestation of life, it should be. And convincingly too. If it doesn’t arrest senses or conform to the sensibilities of a viewer it would not only be coming under the blade of criticism but also be committing the cardinal sin of deceiving the audience. Salam Kashmir, directed by Joshiy, is an example.

As you recover from the spell of watching the film, you may figure out it was actually meant to be a mega cinematic project in Malayalam with astounding suspense, thrilling actions and exciting moments of cosmic measure. Of course, the casting reeled in the backdrop of a galaxy with spinning balls of equal sizes representing heavenly bodies.

Soon after some colourful glimpses of Kashmir, during the title cast, we land in a remote hamlet in Kerala shrouded by beautiful mist. We meet Sreekumar (Jayaram), a homemaker caught in the mesh of household chores, while his wife Suja (Mia George) is a ‘no-nonsense’ bank professional who takes care of the bills and their easy living. A major chunk of the film is devoted to showing Sreekumar sending their daughter to her school, cooking food and taking it to his wife in the bank and receiving wows from his wife’s peers, giving cookery classes to young girls, etc, etc. He also gives befitting answer to those who deride his homemaker status. All these, which were meant to be lavish fodder for comedy, will soon put you to stupor.

Even as everyone wait for the place the title of film suggests, there is Sreekumar still going about his business. He unwittingly leaves a crack in the marriage of his neighbour Roy (Lalu Alex) in a drunken state on the day of their wedding anniversary and then has to deal with its fall-outs. Things take an ugly turn with the entry of Tommy (Suresh Gopi), a 'Kanjirappally' army officer, whose phone call is a nightmare to Sreekumar. Of course we are forced to ask later, if he knew Tommy well, what was the need to despise him initially. But for the sake of the story and the whole drama, it is needed. Minutes later, things get clearer and we are off to the ultimate destination – Kashmir.

An intelligent officer, who is a cyber blah blah blah, develops a blah blah blah computer programme to equip the army with an intelligence arsenal to spot terrorists' hideouts. Things fall in place accordingly thereafter. Officers are kidnapped and are asked to develop the same programme for the terrorists. The patriotic officer declines and torture follows. In a brief gap, the intelligent officer also manages a plot to nail down the traitor in the accompanying officer (Krishna Kumar). It's now time the senior officer to barge into the den and carry out the rescue operation, almost single-handedly. Pitched battle (in a room) is over as the bad guy is finished off. Justice is done and everything falls back to normal. A class four student would have set a better plot for a computer game. 

The sole comic respites were in the scenes where the oldies are seen struggling to hide behind their skin to belie their the age while trying to woo women (it was not intended that way, in fact). The barracks, the terrorists and above all the colourful Kashmir, which is briefly screened, are made to look like a set  for preschool skit. To top it all off, the gunshots, fights or grenade blasts towards the end produce not a whiff of trepidation.

Jayaram and Mia have tried their best to salvage the whole wreck and so have Lalu Alex, Krishna Kumar and Vijayaraghavan and the rest of the cast. The script by Sethu is rendered weak by senseless and amateur sequences. The dialogues too sound naive through out. Even Jayachandran's music does not offer anything outstanding. Anyway, Manoj Pillai's brilliant camera work remains submerged in the whole mess. 

Without blowing the lid off the 'suspense' let’s try a few trivial questions. Was Sreekumar planning to live the rest of his life the way he had been living? Uniforms and salutes - is that all one needs to make it to the army? Can an army officer hide away from his duty for five years and then rejoin at his will, no procedures? Is there only one army unit in Kashmir and one intelligence official in the whole country. Are there only eight people in Kashmir? 

With the excess of Kanjirapally slang in the Kashmir valley one would only wonder whither has gone the rubber estates. Still bent on it? Then, don't forget to pocket the earphones before you leave home.

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