Directed by Nandita Das
Written by Nandita Das and Suchi Kothari
Let us make one thing clear at the outset. The movie is about the aftermath of the Gujarat riots. In a riot you can only have one party in the receiving-end; innocent people. In this case we can say with adequate confidence that it was the Muslim community (minority) thanks to the information that we can gather from different civil society institutions working in Gujarat. It also something the Central Government does not deny.
The movie is about ‘separation and anxiety’ (Firaaq). As a string of stories that depict that struggles faced by individuals and their identities in a humanitarian crisis, the movie is a beautiful attempt at capturing an aspect of such a crisis. An aspect that often goes missing from public opinion. Social catastrophes only widen the differing interests of communities. This is better understood after we realize the relation between communalism and identities. Whether it is the Mumbai attacks (2008), Sri Lankan Tamil genocide (that is taking place as we speak), or the Sikh riots (1984), they all have a section of the population that is innocent but pays the price for the violence. We know with certainty that violence (war, ‘terrorist area’ cleansing, riots, etc.) can never be a solution to differences between communities. They only deepen such differences threatening a pluralistic society which allows for differing opinions of its public. There is no better way of making this point then a thought provoking movie with cinematic bliss; Firaaq.
Nandita Das’s intelligent use of camera angles and sets ensure the audience feel the presence of violence lurking around the corner throughout the movie. But not for once does violence lift its ugly head and shows its appalling face. Many felt this to be a weak point of the movie. But it was done deliberately as in this manner Das is cleverly able to overcome the film-makers dilemma of ‘how to talk of violence with showing any?’ Sensitivity with which the movie unfolds brings out more from the silences between characters than from their conversations. Das’s mastery of the film-media makes her one the most talented personalities in the Bollywood scene.
The gifted actors that include greats like Naseerudin Shah and Paresh Rawal, along with the young guns like Shahana Gowsami, Sanjay Suri and Tisca Chopra only add to the well scripted movie. In their own ways they are able to bring to life perfectly-etched out characters. It is on the strength of their performances that the movie holds its audience’s attention.
The movie is relevant, insightful and heart-rending. On the whole it’s a cinematic experience that is rare and intelligible for an Indian film (something many of us have been waiting for!). A big thumbs-up all the way to Nandita Das!