“There is a way to be good again…”

kitejacket190_65.jpgThe kite runner movie is all set to be released. Touted as the “most anticipated movie of the year”, it certainly has high expectations to live up to. Personally, I think it would take a Herculean effort to portray the simple poignancy of Khaled Hosseini’s soul-searching novel into a three-hour film. To shorten the broken dreams of a whole nation into 180 minutes is quite a task. But then, there’s no reason why Marc Forster shouldn’t do it beautifully. After all, he has brilliant movies like ‘Finding Neverland’ and ‘Monsters Ball’ to his credit. The cast includes Khalid Abdalla (of United 93 fame) as Amir, Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada as Hassan, and Homayoun Ershadi as ‘baba’.

For all those who haven’t read the book, The Kite Runner is the story of a young Afghanistan boy Amir and the journey of his life against the backdrop of the 1979 Soviet invasion of

Afghanistan. The first novel to be written in English by an Afghan author, the book traces the continuously evolving landscape and mindscape of a country as it first struggles against Russian attack and later falls into the clutches of the Taliban. Hosseini, being the gifted storyteller that he is, takes the reader onto an unforgettable journey into the heart of a wounded and scarred nation, a nation that has suffered much and in the process lost its quintessential integrity, a nation so far relegated to being simply a spot on the world map. Twelve-year old Amir belongs to a rich Pashtun family who struggles to live up to his father’s expectations of a son by aiming to win the local kite-fighting tournament. He is aided by his ever-faithful companion Hassan, a low-caste Hazara servant boy who has grown up together with Amir and whose undying devotion to Amir is unwavering… “ For you, a thousand times over” he says. It is this silent sacrificial love that Hassan showers on Amir, which he knows he can’t reciprocate however hard he tries, and Amir’s secret jealousy of the place Hassan holds in his father’s heart that leads to the fatal incident that changes both their lives on the afternoon of the kite-flying tournament. Amir blatantly betrays his faithful friend. This secret hangs heavy in his heart as he grows up, long after Hassan and his father leave their household. “I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years….” After the Russians invade, Amir and his father flee to

America, a country without “ghosts”, “sins” and “memories”, and attempt to rebuild their lives. It is not until the phone call from Rahim Khan, their old family friend, that stirs half-hidden sin in Amir’s mind and he realizes that he has to go back to

Afghanistan to find Hassan’s son and bring him back. That was the one way of redressing his wrongs to Hassan, the one way, as Rahim Khan put it, to be “good” again. The story subsequently follows Amir’s journey back to his native land in search of Sohrab, Hassan’s son, and delves into the history of a nation torn apart by Taliban rule. But in fact, it is a story that transgresses all social and political contexts. It is essentially a story of friendship and courage, of guilt and redemption, of a flawed ‘hero’ struggling to come to terms with his past. It’s the age-old story of good versus evil, as it exists in one’s own self. As Amir puts it “I had been the entitled half, the society-approved, legitimate half, the unwitting embodiment of Baba’s guilt. I looked at Hassan…Baba’s other half. The unentitled, under-privileged half. The half who had inherited what had been pure and noble in Baba. The half that, maybe, in the most secret recesses of his heart, Baba had thought of as his true son.” How many times have we, if we look closely enough, stood there helpless, doing nothing, like Amir peeking into that deserted alleyway on that day of the tournament? How many times have we kept silent just because we were afraid to speak out? There lives an Amir and a Hassan in each of us and the essential point of the story is that redemption is never too late to gain, if only one is brave enough to face it. There’s always a way “to be good again”, even in this far-from-perfect world. There’s always the spirit of a Hassan to guide us there. Khaled Hosseini’s masterful crafting of characters and his haunting imagery only brings to life this essential fact. Let’s sincerely hope that the film also encompasses these subtleties as well as the book does. Well, for that we have to wait and watch. And for all those who still haven’t read ‘The Kite Runner’ this would definitely be a good time to try it. Sohini Pal