What is true evil? The trouble I had with the post-Dark Knight tom-toming of the Joker as a representation of True Evil is this vision of villainy as something larger-than-life, the work of a single man terrorising a whole city. Schindler's List ends with with Oskar Schindler delivering an impassioned speech to Nazi soldiers to go back home to their families. As with everything Spielberg, it promotes a sugarcoated vision of benevolent humanity - slightly led astray by the provocations of that epitome of True Evil, Herr Hitler. And yet, evil as I and most of us know it is banal and mundane - mostly a result of being trapped in the status quo - the evil of conformity and unquestioning acceptance.
There are several reasons why I think that Harud (trailer) might be the best political film to come out of India in quite some time. But the one reason on the top of my mind is this - it gets the nature of villainy right. In its repeated shots of rifle butts ominously hovering over Kashmir's everyday life it captures the humiliation that every Kashmiri must face without relief.
There are other things Harud gets right - its deliberate eschewing of historical explanations, and equally its safe distance from Bollywood's hyper-real aesthetic. The strength of Harud is in its lack of melodrama, its aesthetic restraint that mirrors the interiority of the characters - so that when the father breaks down mid-prayer or the mother grieves her dead son, it strikes home with an intensity that those long bouts of suppressed emotion withheld. It equally draws power from a carefully constructed sound design - the crackle of police radios, the wail of a siren, the clanging of a bicycle, and that final cathartic burst of music (which left me silent).
The film is in theatres for at least a week - if you're lucky enough to be in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore or Ahmedabad - so catch it while there's still time.
Dir.: Aamir Bashir
Prod.: Aamir Bashir, Shanker Raman
Screenplay: Aamir Bashir, Shanker Raman, Mahmood Farooqui
Shot by: Shanker Raman
Edit: Shan Mohammed
Sound: Nakul Kamte
Cast: Shahnawaz Bhat, Reza Naji, Shamim Basharat, Salma Ashai, Umar Bhat, Showkat Magray