Identity Card – Ek Lifeline: Strong on positivity but lacks tension

Film: Identity Card – Ek Lifeline

Cast: Tia Bajpai, Furqan Merchant, Manini Mishra, Shoib Kazmi, Prashantt Guptha, Raghuveer Yadav, Brijendra Kala, Sourabh Shukla

Director: Rahat Kazmi

This may not be a powerful film but it certainly has its fair share of engaging moments. The main story is centred around Kashmir and the extra-judicial killings by the Special Task Force entrusted with the task of ending militancy in the valley. Human Rights reports indicate that as many as 1500 plus extrajudicial killings are committed in India every year and it’s not indicative of the situation in strife torn Kashmir alone.

Predicated on that theory is this story about three youngsters in their mid twenties, who set out to recce for probable sights to shoot a documentary and end up as suspected militants, captured for interrogation by the STF. Since, Identity cards are essential while travelling within Kashmir, this story has one of the characters, a sloppy journalist hoping to prove a point, Naazia Siddiqui (Tia Bajpai) losing it in a road-block scuffle and thereny becoming party to the interrogation by the STF SP Samuel (Vipin Sharma) and his three sub-ordinates Dogra (Pra-shantt Kumar), Ghulam Nabi (Saurab Shukla) and Hakim Din(Brijendra Kala) . The other two captives are Naazia’s facebook acquaintance-turned-friend Ajay ( Furqan Merchant) and her guide, Raju (Shoib Kazmi).

The drama is basically played out in an independent home-jail where the STF are stationed. While the captivity sequences are integral to the plotting and quite realistic in nature, the personal gripes of the officers and their innumerable quirks end up being given a major chunk of the run time making room for unnecessary, ribald humour that is bad taste. The tension is thus frittered away in the puerile attempt to fashion a quasi-comedy out of a serious issue. This uneven tone and petty meanderings into subjective areas dissolves the resonance that the story could have picked up given the Human rights angle that it hoped to highlight.

The screenplay is not cinematic enough and appears to have been written for theatre and then adapted in slap-dash fashion for the cinemas. And it shows in the narrative- especially in the manner in which the characters evolve. There is a distinct artificiality to the drama even though a majority of the performances are true to form, and the structure of the narrative – non-linear enough to add the requisite complexity.

In their attempt to make the film non-controversial and emblematic rather than realistic, the filmmakers adopt a token approach in the character selection and this dilutes the effect of the story. That inability to face facts and tell it as it is, makes the experience just a little suspect and disallows complete involvement. There are of course moments in the film designed to appeal to your sentiments, including some unnecessary passages of sermonizing meant to highlight the way forward to an administration that has so far shown itself as clueless and ham-handed in their efforts to secure peace.

Noble intentions no doubt but it does nothing to make the filmed experience more endearing or interesting. Saurabh Shukla, Brijendra Kala, Vipin Sharma are excellent as always. Prashantt Kumar does a  studied turn as one of the STF cops while Shoib Kazmi is bang-on as the guy who ends up as a

potential militant undergoing torture at the hands of the STF.

The end credits though are the highlight of the film- providing a mini-history lesson on the Valley and it’s many conflicts that date way back to centuries before India received her Independence from the British. That in fact was the most interesting part of a film that preferred to engage in artifice instead of pungent unassailable realism!

Johnson Thomas

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