When a movie can prove that you need not know the language to understand the grief embedded within the person in front of you, that’s when I say it has transcended the limits of being an entertainment medium and escalated to a whole new level. To me, watching Marc Foster’s onscreen adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling novel “The Kite Runner” has been such a proof. Who would have thought that a movie with completely unknown faces, languages switching from Russian to Dari to Pashtu to English, and two kids with the most innocent eyes could steal the show? And please, let us not even attempt to compare it with the written work. The barometer which tries to measure a film’s ability to completely adapt each page of a book would always say that the movie fell short on many aspects. The Kite Runner is no exception to that. But the story comes through with as flying colors as the Kite of Amir Jan and the sincere spirit of Hassan, his Kite Runner.
The Story: I am one of those who haven’t read the book. And for me, what was shown was what I got, and not something for which I expected. Without giving much away (although, I believe millions must have already either read the book or seen the film), the story revolves around Amir , born to a rich family in pre-Soviet Kabul and how he comes in terms to get rid of his guilt of not having helped his best friend-Hassan. The story begins in the Late 70’s Kabul where Hassan and Amir spend their childhood as best pals, competing in Kite Flying festivals and Hassan serves as Amir’s Kite Runner. Hassan gets bullied by a group who sexually assault him as he is a Hazara and should not be in the company of someone like Amir. Amir witnesses the event but cannot defend Hassan. He even distances himself from Hassan by accusing him of theft. The Hazara family leaves the Khan family, and even the Khan family have to leave their grand haveli due to the Soviet invasion. They flee to Pakistan, and then eventually to California, America. Years later, Amir still strives to pursue a career in writing and marries the daughter of General Taheri, Soraya. Amir’s father passes away due to ill-health, while Amir manages to get his first book published. He receives a call from Rahim Khan at Peshawar who wants him to come back for a reason. Amir is convinced to do so as Rahim Khan is the only family member that is left. Surprisingly, Rahim tells him that Hassan is dead, and that Hassan is actually his step-brother. Hassan has a son,Sohrab who is most probably in Taliban captivated Kabul. Amir realises that this is his only chance of atonement and takes up the task of rescuing Sohrab from Kabul. He is assisted by a driver Farid in this mission, which after many difficulties, he eventually succeeds. Sohrab is brought to California to live with Amir and they live happily as a family.
I have read some reviews and yes, perhaps there are certain complaints as to why the movie didn’t explore the atrocities of Taliban as graphically as each and every page of the book. To that, I’d like to mention that it is best when it is left for the viewer’s perception. How can one show more brutality when you have already shown a land where people sell their own body parts, where orphans are being treated as sex-dolls, where women are being pelted with stone to death in a stadium, all in the name of justice and bringing back the law. I think it doesn’t get more graphic, unless the intention is to glorify the gore as many filmmakers intend to do in all the wannabe snuff horror flicks. Another complaint that I have read is about the depiction of the rape of Hassan. I do not think there is enough explanation required to support that it needed to be shown so. Pages describing the pain and stigma that Hassan carries have rightfully condensed into the one scene where Hassan limps and blood spills on the snow.
The music of the movie is a breathe of fresh air. It uplifts your soul as you just get cozy with the opening titles. The Kite Flying contest is a pleasure to watch. Much of it is done with modern day special effects but the sound effects give you the thrill that you’d normally experience in one of those aircraft combat action scene. The cinematography is impeccable. The 1978’s Afghanistan has been created in China, and makes you believe that you are there. The hills, the rocks, the rooftops and the blue sky are radiate colors that you would either like to take a screenshot and paste it as your wallpaper or may be keep staring on. All these change into Warzone Afghanistan under the Taliban rule. And again, the hue setting is just perfect to the last inch. The barren lands and the muddy water holes are as uninviting and creepy as the staring gunmen in the Jeeps. Peshawar’s Afghan Market is also being portrayed with intense detail. The butcher’s shops, the crowded marketplace with taxis and hardly a place to walk and the entrance of the Mosque are breathtaking visuals which you’d like to rewind and watch again. The narration however does leave some potholes. As in, it leaves Amir’s difficulties in getting his book published, and also doesn’t describe his troubled marital life when he and Soraya can’t conceive a baby. The narrative isn’t as crisp and easy , but the story overcomes all these flaws.
But the real hero of the movie is young actor Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada as young Hassan. The twinkle in his eyes and the sincerity in his smile makes you believe in Hassan’s feelings as the tormented Hazara, but who’d not give up on Amir Jan at any cost. His eternal struggle to be loyal to Amir is heart wrenching. If you see the scene where Amir throws a pomegranate at Hassan and says that he is a coward and challenges him to hit him back. Hassan walks up to Amir and picks up a pomegranate himself, only to hit his own face with it. It still makes me stand up and applaud that young actor to have performed that scene. Look at the screenshots below and you have to watch the scene to believe my words.
The next big hero of the movie is Homayoun Ershadi as Baba, Amir’s father. There is a pure Afghani in this actor. He plays the role of the aristocrat Kabuli with intense credibility. But more than that, when he refuses treatment from a Russian doctor, that simple push made it. Young Amir-Zekeria Ebrahimi also does wonders in making me feel so disgusted of a young child’s silly mistakes which eventually makes other people pay for it. For Director Marc Foster I’d say,a brilliant addition to his resume which already contains “Monster’s Ball”, “Finding Neverland” and “Stranger than Fiction”. He has again brought out the best from the child actors as he did in “Finding Neverland”. “The Kite Runner” is surely a tear jerker for me and one which breaks out of the mold of Hollywood War movie clichés. It maintains a figurative way of showing the desolation and hope of the country mixed of course with contradictory elements such as cutting string and blessed artificial legs and serves as a metaphor of a country torn by war and which is still hopeful to be redeemed , just like Amir jan. It ends with Amir Jan running as the Kite Runner for Sohrab, Hassan’s son saying what Hassan used to say for Amir “For you a thousand times”. And we see hope in the eyes of Sohrab, who realises the feeling of acceptance and family. Bravo! WATCH IT.