Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s powerful tale about Kashmiri Pandits is a beautiful tribute to humanity. It is an ode to human perseverance and the strength of love and community to rise above adversity and chaos. Mistreated, traumatised and forgotten, hope continues to bind them to a better tomorrow to grow, rebuild and return to their homeland – like a fragile Shikara staying afloat on choppy waters.
The movie vividly shows the loathing, greed, racism and inhumanity that pushed the Hindu community out of the valley. It shows how hatred can evaporate empathy in a matter of days, crumbling bonds built over generations and reducing the vast identity of a people to ‘unholy’ and ‘sub-human’. Using the backdrop of the exodus, the movie explores the sweeping chaos of life that challenges all of our hopes and aspirations, yet presents two choices – to master it with our noble perseverance or succumb to it locked in hatred and fear.
Shikara shows how the Kashmiri Pandits had each other to sustain their faith in harmony and bear the strife, while the untethered, wounded and unloved picked up arms, adopting the hatred that slowly claimed their lives. The movie shows how some of those who picked up the gun were stained by the anger of personal loss, and loneliness armed them to take revenge against the world, blind fury slowly hollowing them towards death. On the other hand, the Pandit couple bear the same loss and scars, embrace each other’s love and harness the strength of their families and communities to forge ahead for a better life. Such is the enduring love in the protagonists’ hearts that they continue to teach the power of unity not only to children in the squalor of refugee camps, but even to children in the valley who grow up in the cycle of violence. The Pandits and militants show two different tales emanating from the same strife. One side lead long & fulfilling lives embracing love and hope while others die a poor death consumed by hatred.
Beyond the self, our sense of community holds great power to keep our own darkness at bay and nourish the will to live beyond the cruelty of an unfair world. That love inspires true courage and is one of the powerful qualities that elevates our species above its origins. Civil Rights leader Coretta Scott King once said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” Shikara details an untold story about conflict and grave injustice, but has a greater message of how love inspires faith, and faith inspires unity to rise above and endure life’s unending struggle, strengthening our humanity.
The tale teaches us to build our own Shikaras in life, shape them, mend them and choose the ones who will help us row forward and keep it afloat in the changing waves. Despair offers a powerful test to empower bonds, allowing us to overcome the storms of life with hope to embrace and love to share.