Hamid: Exploring grief, fractured lives through the story of an unlikely friendship in Kashmir

Anandamayee Singh

Nov 10, 2018 12:04:29 IST

“Allah bahut khoobsoorat hain. Allah bahut taakatvar hain, aur Allah accha gaatein bhi hain. (Allah is very beautiful. He is very strong, and he sings really well)," claims Aijaz Khan’s central character Hamid in his new film of the same name. It is the story of a serendipitous friendship between a little Kashmiri boy looking for Allah, and a CRPF jawan called Abhay, trying to shed the burden of violence that is his duty to the State. The film, produced by Yoodlee Films and Saregama, is Khan’s fourth, and was nominated for Oxfam’s Best Film on Gender Equality Award 2018 at the Jio MAMI 20th Mumbai Film Festival.

Hamid was inspired by a play Khan’s friend watched in Kashmir called 786 — a number that features prominently in the film as well. As Hamid’s teacher explains in the film, 786 is 'Allah’s number'. Hamid (played by Talha Arshad Reshi) dials the number 786 in the hope of receiving the affection and attention he is lacking at home. It isn’t Allah who answers though, as on the other side of the call is CRPF jawan Abhay (played by Vikas Kumar). Over the course of their phone calls, both Abhay and Hamid help each other heal in a beautiful story that Khan describes as one about "fractured souls".

Hamid: Exploring grief, fractured lives through the story of an unlikely friendship in Kashmir

Stills from Hamid. Facebook/Jazkhan

Hamid also stars Rasika Dugal as Ishrat, the distraught and distant mother, and Sumit Kaul as Hamid’s missing poet father. The relationship between Ishrat and Hamid is marred by grief, as Dugal explains, “The relationship between a mother and child, which is normally unconditional, is changed because of the grief that they hold after the father goes missing.” What carries Ishrat through is fighting for the hope that her husband will return, but that very hope makes her completely incapable of dealing with her grief and moving on. Ishrat is simply human, instead of a trope, and in being human, she fails to live up to the burdens of motherhood in a way that is honest and feminist.

Khan made a conscious effort to make the characters in his story as honest as he could. Both Kaul and Reshi are from Kashmir, because Khan wanted the Kashmiri characters to retain the nuances of the dialect from Srinagar as closely as possible. Dugal stayed in Srinagar for two weeks before the shoot could begin to understand the dialect, and Kumar, who plays the role of Abhay, a jawan from Bihar, is originally Bihari.

It was also important for Khan to find a boy who would be able to shape Hamid, “so instead of making the boy act as Hamid, I decided to find a boy who would make Hamid the character.” After going to seven different schools in Srinagar, he finally settled on Reshi because of his big, expressive eyes. Reshi claims that Hamid is completely different from him, but the childlike honesty and inability to hide one’s pain that anchors all the characters in the film is something perhaps a professional actor would find difficult to do.

The film itself was shot at breakneck speed, with actors getting less than two weeks to prepare for the role. Sumit Kaul, who plays the role of Rahmat, Hamid’s father, also felt like his background as a Kashmiri helped him in playing his role. “I feel the pain of the struggle. I didn’t have to go to another place to understand that character. On some level, I am that character.” Kaul went on to explain that the movie was shot very quickly, and a few interactions seen on the screen between him as Rahmat and Reshi as Hamid were spontaneous moments captured on film. Perhaps the spontaneity was intentional on Khan’s part, as he “didn’t want to create dramatised characters, but find characters in people from the place, and make it a real story.” Or perhaps in his search for realness, Khan managed to create relationships on screen, which invokes that deep longing to feel and see love between each other.

Despite being set in perpetually politicised Kashmir, Hamid doesn’t attempt to paint any of the its characters as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This is in part because, as Kumar explains, “people from the CRPF and locals worked in the film, so there was no picking sides.” In part, it is also because Khan traces deeply personal stories of grief and pain in a conflict that is consistently politicised, overlooking the humanity that is hurt in its vehemence.

Hamid poses as a promising endeavour at showing a Kashmir bound, above all, with the ache of hope that tides us all from one day to another. We can all see ourselves in the characters, hurting and trying to cope with the absence that festers when parts of your life and being are snatched from you. The friendship between Hamid and Abhay is unlikely and magical, because it makes believable that rare moment when we allow ourselves to honour each other’s pain, and heal.

Updated Date: Nov 10, 2018 12:10:21 IST