A seven-year-old Kashmiri boy’s father goes missing. As he searches for answers, the adults around him are unable to provide any logical explanations. The only consistent answer he receives is that Allah knows everything. So he calls Allah up to find out for himself.
Bapsi Sidhwa’s Ice Candy Man (which was adapted into the film Earth) showed us the partition through the eyes of a little girl. Hamid adapts the same style, and shows us the world through a young boy’s eyes.
How do you explain war and enmity to a child? How do you teach values to a child who sees hatred and violence everyday? And more importantly, how does the child see this world, and make sense of it? These are some of the complex questions that the film ponders upon, using the uncomplicated perspective of a child.
Hamid’s mother Ishrat, played by Rasika Dugal, is portrayed with a great sensitivity. She is somewhere between having a complete family, and being a widowed single mother. Without using words, she expresses the burden of not knowing what happened to her beloved husband. She is seen carrying the missing person’s file to the police station as a routine, waiting in queue with other families, and receiving no answer. She and Hamid do have each other, but Ishrat is unable to pay attention or connect with her son anymore, except to reprimand him when he isn’t obedient. She even blames his bad behaviour for his father’s disappearance once, in a fit of rage.
Hamid, who we see as being very close to his father, is lost as well. He becomes lonely and isolated, as his mother isn’t herself anymore. A resilient and resourceful boy, he figures out Allah’s phone number, and starts having conversations with him. It is only during these calls that he expresses his feelings, wishes and desires. Allah listens with a kind and patient ear, and helps out as much as he can. But he fails to send back Hamid’s father.
we get a glimpse of just how vulnerable young children, especially boys, can be in an environment of unrest.
‘Allah’, as it turns out, is a CRPF jawan. Agitated with demands for independence from Kashmiris and frustrated at not being able to get leave to visit his family and infant daughter, Abhay Kumar too lives a life of great loneliness. His annoyance at being called by a child wishing to speak to Allah turns to bemused indulgence as he realises the child genuinely believes he is god. They have many tender and heartwarming talks, as each fills up some of the void in the other’s life.
To the filmmaker’s credit, he has portrayed both sides with great empathy. The families trapped with the presence of the armed forces; the army men trapped serving a political conflict, with no end in sight. Even as the locals and jawans go about their daily life, the conflict is omnipresent. So entrenched is this unrest that it’s hardly noticeable anymore. Some subtle statements on the conflict are highlighted in the film. Hamid’s father gets stopped by the law enforcement and reprimanded for his poetry that suggests unrest. The boy finds himself being pulled into what seems like an indoctrination of young boys towards terrorism. While this is a simplistic portrayal, we get a glimpse of just how vulnerable young children, especially boys, can be in such an environment.
Hamid’s father gets stopped by the law enforcement and reprimanded for his poetry that suggests unrest.
When Hamid finds out that ‘Allah’ is his enemy in the mortal world, he is betrayed. He realises his father is probably never coming back. Ishrat on the other hand, attends a peaceful protest by families of ‘missing’ persons. It is in this gathering where tears are forbidden, that we see her cry and express her grief for the first time.
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Hamid and Ishrat find some sort of closure through different means. They feel united by the loss that previously estranged them, and hold each other for support. In the closing scene, the mother and son are seen rowing away in a red shikara. This is the same boat that Hamid’s father had started building, which he completes, and paints it with the colour his father loved. The end provides closure to the viewers as well: a moment of peace. It also leaves a sense of being unfinished, with more troubles to come, and conflicts to face. Perhaps, a comment on the status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Hamid is one of the nine films shortlisted for the Oxfam Best Film on Gender Equality Award 2018 at the MAMI Film Festival.
Featured Image Source: The Indian Express