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IFFM-2021: Ghar Ka Pata (Home Address), English, Kashmiri, Hindi - Anyone who is displaced will try to reconnect...

MELBOURNE, 30 August 2021: On the last day of the IFFM-2021 Online film festival, I saw 'Ghar Ka Pata'(Home address) which has dialogues in English, Kashmiri, and Hindi. It's emotional, human, and very personal. The daughter of Pran and Nancy Jalali, Madhulika Jalali has made this documentary trying to search and reconnect to their lost home in Srinagar's Rainawari area. The Jalali's fled Kashmir at the height of Kashmir's separatist insurgency fearing for their life. Madhulika was then six years old and now after 24 years she and her family are here searching for their lost home. Lots of research, visits to Srinagar, and talking to relatives took four years.

There were many unanswered questions, beautiful nostalgic memories, lost friends, and neighbors. Visits to Srinagar become revealing. With her mother, Madhulika is able to trace the Rainawari area and the camera takes us to the Muslim neighbor who was her father's good friend. Even a local shopkeeper remembers the Jalali family. The emotional meeting with the neighbor reflects how strong human bonds can be despite an adverse toxic ambiance. The scene of the neighbor's wife embracing Madhulika's mother and crying is heart-breaking. "Your husband (Mr. Jalali) was my brother", she says sobbing.

Frame by frame the camera moves around casually as the mother and daughter are shown the area where their abandoned home was. The neighbor says, "This is your home and I always told your father to sell it to me if he desires." And, is saddened to know his friend is no more. Humanity seems to erase politics and religion. Is it emotion or years of exile have healed the wounds?

The documentary uses family photographs and interviews with relatives who talk of their past in Kashmir. People are now spread out in India, Canada, and England. Madhulika has a photograph that shows a part of the home she was looking for. No doubt, anyone who sees this film will feel the humanness of people separated by politics and faith. But the love for one's land remains strong. The fact human-made barriers come to naught is evident in the film.

'Ghar Ka Pata' is Madhulika and the Jalali family's personal space. But can we separate ourselves from this story? Madhulika makes us think and think. This was one of the best I saw at the IFFM-2021.I give this film 4 and a half stars out of 5.

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