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Sheen Review

Sheen Review
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Cast:
Raj Babbar, Anoop Soni, introducing Sheen and Tarun Arora
Direction:
Ashok Pandit
Production:
Ashok Pandit
Music:
Nadeem Shravan

Sheen

IndiaGlitz [Saturday, May 8, 2004 • Hindi] Comments

Unlike other films on the mindless brutality of the separatist movement in Jammu and Kashmir, "Sheen" is not a pretext for Pakistan-baiting. Nor does it turn terrorism into a formula.

Rather, Ashok Pandit's film goes into a grim and hitherto-neglected aspect of militancy in the Kashmir Valley -- the plight of Kashmiri Hindus or Pandits who were made homeless refugees in their own state by self-styled jehadis, who called themselves the liberators of Kashmir.

Sadly, the film is not an in-depth exploration of the political aspects of the issue.

In telling the horrific tale of Pandit Amarnath (Raj Babbar) and his family's journey from a life of bliss to displaced damnation, Pandit resorts to several stock gimmicks of mainstream Hindi cinema, including a romance replete with a bevy of toneless love duets.

Unlike similar romances like Vidhu Vinod Chopra's "1942: A love Story", Anil Sharma's "Gadar", Chandraprakash Diwedi's "Pinjar" or Suhail Tatari's fine but neglected TV series "Kashmeer", "Sheen" has neither the raw material nor the talent and infrastructure to create a compelling portrait of an emotionally surcharged landscape scorched by clannish outrage and patriotic pride.

What "Sheen" has on its side is plenty of sincerity. The director's heart bleeds for a non-violent community rendered homeless by its non-aggressive stand and the hope that one day it can return to the valley of its dreams.

Raman Kumar's screenplay infuses poignant bits into the flawed narrative. At the refugee camp, Pandit Amarnath's wife (Kiran Joneja) keeps washing the keys to their home every morning.

"This is my way of assuring myself that we'll be back home some day," she asserts.

When Pandit Amarnath is about to leave his home in Kashmir Valley with his family, his daughter hides in the favorite corner of the house and refuses to move out.

The sequence is directly inspired by one of the finest celluloid documents on communal-political tension -- M.S. Sathyu's "Garam Hawaa" -- where the reluctant Indian Muslim migrant Balraj Sahni's old mother hides in the kitchen when the family is about to migrate to Pakistan.

The poignancy of the family in "Sheen" migrating within their own country could have been far more intense.

But somehow the impact of Pandit's hard-hitting film is blunted by the sheer humbug that creeps willy-nilly into the narrative. The central romance between the debutant pair is decimated by their inexperience and lack of screen presence.

For a large part of the narrative, Tarun Arora is kidnapped by militants and kept out of celluloid range.

Only Raj Babbar and Anoop Soni, playing the militant villain, struggle to infuse a semblance of credibility to their roles. But Babbar's Kashmiri accent leaves much to be desired.

If "Sheen" manages to strike a chord in the viewers' heart it's because of the poignancy of the true-life material that forms the core of Pandit's film.

The incidents, such as Pandit Amarnath's young son being killed by militants, appear to be straight out of newspaper headlines. To that extent, they provide the plot with urgency. However that imminence never acquires an intimacy.

The characters don't connect with viewers because they're often played in a stage-like manner. The background music by Tauseef Akhtar and cinematography by Nadeem Khan do not lend the much-needed sense of credulity to the progressively melodramatic content.

Scenes of rioting and mob violence, so essential to showing the dehumanization of a civilized society, make do with meagre crowds who form a scattered emblem of dissent rather than an assimilated fulcrum of drama and tension.

Budgetary constraints diminish much of the director's heartfelt pain. So do the performances.

In its fantasy conclusion, the film shows the broken but still hopeful Kashmiri Brahmin addressing a conference on the

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