Cool Kabootar Story!
Not very often do you come across a bi-lingual movie that seamlessly moves from Canada to Punjab and back again, telling the story of human trafficking without making misery the hero or making violence the teller of the tale.
If a person sports 'Surkhaab ke par', it describes their aspirations to 'fly too high', 'dream too big'. This movie tells us a story of a girl who dreams a dream and beyond all hope makes it work.
A 'kabootar' is a person who enters a country on a tourist visa and then chooses to live illegally long after the visa expires.
This movie is about a young woman from Punjab who sneaks into Kaneda with an illegally obtained passport, escapes from traffickers, deals with smugglers, rescues her brother and makes us the audience a part of her story. She's not your traditional heroine, but you take an instant liking to her. We understand her story, we understand her motives and although we might be horrified at the exploitation of emigrants at the hands of agents, you are never forced to avert your eyes by scenes of torture or misery.
We have seen many tales of migration in the news that are epic tragedies, many movies that make tales of human misery their central theme.
The heroine is not your usual Bollywood heroine. She's a spunky Punjabi kudi who quietly makes her point and we like her from the moment she takes the baddie in front of his dad.
We sort of guess the story it unfolds, and sometimes the pace slows down so much we want to shake her and say things like, 'Stop talking so much, just open the stupid bag!' But at no point do we lose empathy for the girl. We might facepalm when we hear, 'I always come here when I need calm,' because they need to use the adrenaline generated by the event instead of calm.
The baddies are believable, and so are the good guys. You sort of wonder why they are smuggling from India to Canada, but then that thought just vanishes because we want the heroine to get the better of the bad guys.
The heroine surprises you at every turn by her presence of mind and you begin to enjoy her smarts. And you just like her more for her resourcefulness.
What is really interesting about this movie is the seamless back and forth movement from Punjab to Canada, the past and the present, and how well it tells us her story, explains her need to get away from home, her dreams and aspirations. It's a cinematic task not so easy. And here, it is a very neat story-telling device.
Yes, the story drags a bit and the end is too 'nice', but you don't hate the movie at any point.
I am giving it two stars, one for the casting of the heroine Barkha Madan, and the second to the style of telling of the tale.