Hold this film tight. There is an utterly moving sequence towards the end of this lovely parable on cross-border amity where Sunny (Sharib Hashmi), who has strayed into Pakistan, confesses to Aftaab (Innamulhaq) that he is obsessed with Bollywood and wants to be a hero, though he knows he doesn't have it in him. "Mera asli hero toh tu hi hai," Aftaab tells Sunny sincerely.
For me, that moment sums up the mood of this big-little film.
Made at a shoestring budget by fringe talent, the film shows us
that true heroes can be found in most unexpected places. Try this
hamlet in the back of the beyond in Pakistan where our Bollywood
struggler is locked up by militants who actually wanted to kidnap
Americans for ...errrm...negotiations.
And look what they dragged in!
Filmistaan would have been an
outrageously funny film were it not for the profoundly moving
underbelly that it secretes with such fluency and spontaneity. The
film could have become a gallery of cliches about Indo-Pak harmony.
A sort of Veer-Zara turned into a Veru and Zara-uddin who
become friends in Pakistani soil while guns boom all around
Sachindra Vats edits the scenes down to the minimum when
required. But generally he lets the charactes develop naturally
even if the process takes some time. The film is shot in authentic
locations by cinematographer Subhransu Das who brings to the table
an enticing aura of believability.
The dialogues written by the film's lead Sharib Hashmi never
become top-heavy with message-mongering, nor does the going get
excessively verbose as it did in the recent cross-border film
Kya Dilli Kya Lahore.
It's astonishing how director Nitin Kakkar averts all the corny
cliches of brotherhood across the barbed wire. By simply using
Bollywood as the binding factor between the two countries, Kakkar
emerges with a plot that is high on emotions and low on tripe and
The two actors who play the Indian and Pakistan do the rest. So
effortlesstly do they express the oneness of a cultural kinship
that we are left looking at two individuals who transcend borders
to become two Every mans. Sharib Hashmi and Innamulhaq are striven
by their sense of absolute abandon that comes only to artistes who
have nothing to lose except their anonymity. They are phenomenally
in character, not slipping up even once in their interactive
Bollywood does the rest. There is a longish homage to Sooraj
Barjatya's Maine Pyar Kiya where we see the whole
Pakistani village glued to a community television set watching
Salman Khan and Bhagyashree love story. Here, as in many similar
scenes showing mutual Bollywood-inspired solidarity between the two
warring nations, Kakkar constructs a case for cross-border
friendship without tripping over in an emotional slush.
My favourite sequence shows the captured Indian protagonist
sitting in solitude in a darkened room when the sound of Reshma's
song 'Ve main chori chori' wafts in. Sunny joins in with Lata
Mangeshkar's 'Yaara sili sili' which is the Indian avtar of the
An entire thesis can be written in the way the film utilizes
Bollwood songs on the rich soundtrack brimming over with the sounds
of two cultures peering anxiously but affectionately at one
The storytelling never pounds out a pro-Pakistani message merely
to try to tilt the socio-political balance between the two
Filmistaan is neither for or against either country.
It's blissfully pro-Bollywood. So what happens when a struggling
assistant director from India bonds with a CD pirate of Bollywood
films in Pakistan? We find out with the same thrill of discovery
that the director feels as he lets the two protagonists sort out
This quirky charmer from first-time director Kakkar is fresh in vision and enchanting in execution. The only happy outcome of the cross-border divide is a heartwarming film such as this. As we often say about the Wagah border, this you gotta see.