A walk down memory lane will reveal that not so long ago (a half-century or so), Kashmir was the preferred location for – and synonymous with – Hindi romantic films. Shammi Kapoor’s Junglee, Kashmir Ki Kali, Jaanwar, and younger brother Shashi’s Jab Jab Phool Khile are some of the films that come immediately to mind. Three decades after Junglee (1961) hit the screens, Roja (1992) was made with the backdrop of terrorism. A slew of films on terrorism and military followed: Dil Se, Mission Kashmir, Sikander, etc.

A quarter century thence, Imran Khan – attempting to reverse the trend – has made Sargoshiyan, a film ‘on Kashmir and the Kashmiris’ naivety’. Producer / director / writer Khan plays Imran Dar – a representative of the Jammu & Kashmir Bank (which has been gratefully acknowledged in the opening credits). Aryan Raina (Hasan Zaidi) has a nasty, authoritarian father who derides him for even the smallest act. He is packed off to Kashmir for a mission. Photographer Vikram Roy (Indraneil Sengupta) is married to Ragini (Aparna Kumar) – a rancorous and materialistic woman with a laughter a horse would envy. She revels in making life difficult for her husband. He too seeks solace in Kashmir, but with the perennial camera around his neck – J&K Bank has commissioned him to exploit the natural scenic locales of Kashmir for their annual calendar. Vikram and Aryan meet, and are joined by Sheena Oberoi (Sara Khan) – a gregarious lady from the UK who wonders aloud at the bonding between the two guys.

Thus begins the adventure of the Fab Four, during which they seek shelter in the house of Rahima (Farida Jalal), whose son went missing 15 years ago. Aryan meets Pandit Raina (Alok Nath), a Kashmiri respected by both communities. His connection with Aryan, Sheena’s bonding with Vikram, and the guide Hamza’s (Shahbaz Khan) touching sub-plot vis-à-vis his daughter are supposed to be the mainstays of Sargoshiyan (meaning ‘whispers’).

The title seems a misfit to begin with. Sheena’s over-gregarious demeanour, Aryan’s perpetual sleep-deprived look, and Imran’s over-the-top acting (what is a senior rep of J&K Bank doing, running chores and errands for the three?) do not seem to work in the film’s favour. Also, Srinagar could have been captured more gorgeously and the Lamha Lamha song popping up every few minutes distracts from the movie’s main motive, viz. to showcase the allure of Kashmir and its people. Mercifully, terrorism is eschewed; but overall, it’s an opportunity lost.

Aparna Kumar as the shrewish wife is credible, Tom Alter as photo-journalist Alan Alter barely has a role to show his talent, and the others are lacklustre.

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