A freezing town. Missing men. Half widows who make rounds to the police stations every day to find out if there is any news of their husbands returning. Grieving families making rounds at the local morgue to identify missing members of the family, just to bring some closure. Young kids waiting for their fathers to return. Protesting public. Armymen on duty. Militants ready to attack. Frustrated youngsters who have resorted to stone pelting. Military deployed outside mosques while namaz is offered. Pheran-clad children rowing pretty boats and wandering aimlessly. Another set of belligerent kids ready to take on the Army. Chants of azaadi. Men in the neighbourhood preying on these gullible kids to radicalise them, as early as possible. Amidst all these chaos, there are also those who harbour hopes of a better tomorrow.
That is the searing picture of Kashmir that Aijaz Khan paints in his film Hamid. We see each of these aspects through the eyes of a bright, plucky five-year-old, Hamid (Talha Arshad Reshi) and sometimes through the eyes of his mother, Ishrat (Rasika Dugal).
Both are in pain. Their lives have upturned. Hamid’s father, Rehmat (Sumit Kaul), a poetic carpenter, gave in to the young boy’s demand one night and ventured out to get batteries so that his son could play the radio. Little did his son know that his father would never return. No one knows what happened to Rehmat in those dark lanes of Kashmir. Ishrat has been consumed by grief ever since, paying little or no attention to her son. And Hamid, feeling responsible for what has happened, has posed many questions to whoever he could turn to, to find out his father’s whereabouts. The response has been variations of “he is with God”. Someone tells him his father is with Allah for some repair work. Hamid believes it.
How many shades can be added to a story that emerges out of pain? Many, it appears. Khan’s masterfully crafted film has hues of innocence, humour, guilt, humanity, inter-dependence and a lot more—even when things are mostly grim.
The best way, Hamid realises, to find his father is by getting in touch with Allah. 786 is his number, he is told. In his pursuit to touch base with the god, he tries a couple of permutations and combinations of the three numeric, till the phone rings.
Surprisingly, it is answered, too. On the other side of the phone is Abhay (Vikas Kumar), a para-military officer, who we have seen before. Abhay, after unintentionally killing a kid, is reeling under guilt. There is a lot of anger in him as well, which at times comes out on the youngsters protesting for freedom in the state. On the personal front, he is longing to meet his eight-month-old daughter who he hasn’t even seen. Duty comes first after all.
Abhay, when he is addressed as Allah, is quick to rescind Hamid’s call. But the young boy’s intent is stronger. He tries till the time Abhay starts understanding the plight of the kid. He turns softer, and a relationship of hope is built between the two. While the uproar in the state continues, Hamid has found an anchor in Abhay. But the truth has to be told. Even at the cost of breaking the kid’s heart, Abhay does that. What follows is a poignant moment of acceptance.
In an earlier segment of the film, Rehmat is seen going to drop off his son till the school bus, when men pass with a funeral bier. Hamid is curious. Why are the dead buried, he asks. Rehmat, a man of better understanding, doesn’t want to inculcate delusional religious concepts. “So that we can forget them,” the father tells him. Hamid doesn’t have his father’s body, which he can bury to move on. He has his belongings though.
The melancholy of Hamid is in these quiet moments. Whether it is the time when Ishrat breaks down during a silent march for the missing, or Hamid’s maturity to handle the truth. The experience is only elevated with the superlative performances of each actor. Dugal, who is having a really good run on screen over the last few months, seems to have internalised Ishrat – not just the physical and verbal aspects of a Kashmiri woman, but also her pain, which is measured and effective. Vikas’s portrayal of a RPF jawan reflects the contradictions and emotional turmoil the jawans go through. But it is Reshi’s innocence that wins you over.
Adapted from Amin Bhat’s play 'Phone No. 786' by Khan and Ravinder Randhawa, Hamid is a tale of love, longing and loss. It doesn’t take sides, neither does it judge anyone’s intention. But it encapsulates the thought process of everyone, crafting a tale which is balanced and emotional at the core.
Director: Aijaz Khan
Starring: Talha Arshad Reshi, Rasika Dugal, Vikas Kumar