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Article 370 Review: Yami Gautam’s Film Revolves Around Incidents Happened In Kashmir Since 2016

The 2019 general elections had Uri: The Surgical Strike. Cometh the hour again, we have Article 370.

The first film’s director and producer, Aditya Dhar, has distinguished between the two, stating that the second is a “political” picture and the first was a “war drama.” It’s fortunate that he clarified it himself because Article 370 is, in the politics it openly supports, political.

Article 370 presents the current government’s decision to remove Jammu and Kashmir’s special status as a masterclass in statecraft, blending fact and fiction, including some convenient untruths, and delving into the right-wing narrative of Jawaharlal Nehru’s “blunders” in Kashmir and Maharaja Hari Singh’s “inclination” towards India. The bending of Constitutional obligations along the way is just a necessary evil.

This side is made up of dedicated military personnel and intelligence operatives, diligent bureaucrats, and an occasional Great Leader-style prophet in the form of Prime Minister Arun Govil, of Ram renown. On the other side are deluded militants, avaricious and naive Kashmiri politicians, and “paid” stoners who receive their orders from an Islamabad that is powerless against Delhi’s depravity.

By the time August 5, 2019, and the repeal of Article 370 arrive, the movie has cleared the air about former J&K governor Jagmohan, cast a positive light on incidents like an Army officer tying someone to the front of a jeep, and established demonetisation as a fact that “cuts off the money trail of militants.”

Like Uri, Article 370 is a highly professional production, which makes everything run more easily. Its action scenes are especially amazing, its dialogue is devoid of melodrama, and its acting is effective (director Jambhale has won praise from critics).

Yami, a Kashmiri Pandit intelligence agent, does a commendable job balancing the film’s emotional and professional weight. She is dutifully positioned at the centre of the historic legislation, together with Priyamani, as a well-groomed senior bureaucrat in the PMO, thanks to Article 370.

With a flourish, Article 370 concludes as well, pacing the abrogation day build-up as a race against time that is being played out simultaneously in Delhi and Srinagar.

However, Article 370 only provides one viewpoint on a problem that continues to defy easy solutions, as evidenced by the encounter of Burhan Wani (possibly the only person identified by his real name), the Pulwama attack, the Balakot strike, the mocking of human rights, the journalists (one TV anchor in particular, you will know who) who are just self-serving careerists, and the mass arrests and security clampdown that continued for months after August 5, 2019.

One old guy embodies the common Kashmiri, stating that he is fed up with watching his children forced into militancy and “begging” the current Valley leadership for favours. Not only does the movie skip over Ladakh and Jammu, but they are important components of the puzzle.

The politicians from J&K who fare the worst are Seth’s portrayal of Mehbooba Mufti and Zutshi’s impersonation of Farooq Abdullah. During the Rajya Sabha debate on the Abrogation Bill, even Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Leader of the Opposition, is a shoo-in. However, he is granted a new identity that is neither Muslim nor native to J&K, maybe because of his present good ties with the administration.

Karmarkar, the Home Minister who resembles Amit Shah, doesn’t fare much better, mainly observing the surroundings. But when it comes time for him to introduce the Bill in the House, Karmakar makes amends.

The only character with some complexity to him in the film is Khawar Ali (Arjun), the local Intelligence Department chief in Srinagar, who runs covert operations as these were run once, with a few concessions here, a few favours there. But working in the grey area in a movie that loves contrasts between black and white does not work out well for him.

Zooni Haksar, played by Yami, whose father’s death is explained away as a direct result of the J&K Bank scam (in which the Abdullahs are under investigation), gets to make a lengthy and impassioned speech in which she claims that Article 370 is the source of all evils, including the lack of recognition for SCs, the forced exile of Pandits from the Valley, and the denial of women’s rights.

The house also claps. And the authorities are made aware.

How is Josh doing now? Undoubtedly unflagging. Main Atal Hoon has just passed, but there are still two months till the elections, thus films like Accident or Conspiracy are still being worked on. Bastar: The Story of the Naxals, Godhra, Swatantrya Veer Savarkar…

In the meantime, 370 has taken on a new meaning — it is now the BJP’s target seat for 2024 and no longer an Article in the Constitution.

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