Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 20th Mar ‘09
Time : 101 minutes
Director & Co-writer : Nandita Das; Co-Writer : Shuchi Kothari; Music : Rajat Dholakia, Piyush Kanojia
Starring : Shahana Goswami, Naseeruddin Shah, Tisca Chopra, Deepti Naval, Paresh Rawal, Sanjay Suri, Raghuvir Yadav, Mohammad Samad

Firaaq, as its opening screen says, is a work of fiction, inspired by a thousand true stories.

Rather than focus on the actual riots (the Hindu-Muslim carnage in Gujarat in 2002), it depicts, sometimes in gruesome detail, the impact & aftermath approx one month later on different people across all income classes. It shows how very few people are left unscarred, how one woman (Shahana Goswami) begins to view her best friend with suspicion. How a middle class housewife (Deepti Naval) is haunted by her failure to give sanctuary to someone fleeing from a mob.

How a ‘mixed’ couple (Tisca Chopra as the Hindu wife and Sanjay Suri as the Muslim husband) is packing up and leaving for Delhi after their store is ransacked during the violence. How a handful of Muslims are plotting revenge. How an elderly Muslim music teacher (Naseeruddin Shah) is shielded from the horrors happening around him by his faithful servant (Raghuvir Yadav), but then reality slowly dawns on him. How the entire state / govt machinery seems to be anti-Muslim during this period. And how a young, endearing Muslim boy (Mohammad Samad in a heart rending performance), with his big innocent eyes, has seen more horrors in two months than we would wish anyone, young or old, to have seen in a whole lifetime.

I sometimes also wonder why only such films, which showcase violence or poverty or project an unflattering view of India are the ones which win awards in foreign festivals ? But then, as I walk the streets of Kolkotta from one pub to another, where the average price of a pint of beer is higher than what 800 million of my fellow country men earn in a day, and I see the signs of poverty all around me (people sleeping on the streets, pulling rickshaws, bathing on the pavement or in filthy pools etc), I realize maybe these are the films which, unlike the glam world of Bollywood, actually represent the true India, and the world I live in is the superficial one.
After all, which is the city in India which can claim to never have suffered from communal violence ? Or not have very poor people within its limits ? And as over-educated, born-with-a-silver-spoon, idiots like Varun Gandhi have demonstrated recently, this has still not stopped political parties from attempting to whip up communal frenzy / hatred.

I guess we should be glad that our media is free, that we are allowed to create, air and view such films. I sometimes wonder what is the point of such films ? But then maybe that is the point of such films, to simply remind us that there is a point, that if it can make even one person reject this cycle of communal hatred, religiously cultivated (pun intended) by political parties for narrow minded short term gains, then its worth it.

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