After showing her acting prowess in films like Fire, Earth, Bawander, Nandita Das brings to us her directorial venture which has won accolades at film festivals abroad,the film Firaaq. Firaaq means quest and separation at the same time. The movie is set one month after the horrific Gujarat riots in 2002 which deeply polarised the society. Firaaq begins by a pile of bodies being dumped in the graveyard and it shows us the sign of the things to come. Unlike Parzania, there are no explicit violent scenes but one could almost feel the tension and fear that victims have in their minds waging a mental battle more frightening than the physical bloodbath.
It consists of many stories linked together with each other by the riots. A mentally tormented wife (Deepti Naval) plagued by the guilt of not helping a mob victim at her doorstep inflicts pain on her self while her husband (Paresh Rawal), a Muslim basher is an accomplice in the riots. A seven year old boy (Mohammad Samad) whose family is butchered in front of his own eyes is in quest of his father. Another one is about a Hindu Muslim couple Anuradha and Sameer (Tisca Chopra and Sanjay Suri) struggling to come to terms after Sameer and his partner's store was looted, a mehndiwalli (Shahana Goswami ) coming to terms with life and struggling to maintain her friendship with her Hindu friend, a music teacher (Naseerudin Shah) who is not aware of the troubled conditions and finally a gang of Muslim men who are planning to revenge. With such veteran actors, performances are par excellence. Ravi K Chandran's photography is splendid and beautifully captures the city. The music though very little of it and that too background fits the film. The film though drags at places but Nandita, no doubt has done an excellent job.
The film is a very disturbing and haunting film. It made me ask certain questions which I am struggling to find answers to. The images of the refugee camp remain etched in mind after the film is over. There are certain scenes which have a universal appeal. The notion of all Muslims as terrorists or Pakistanis, the role of the State administration in abetting riots, the difficulties in a inter religion marriage, the communal divide depicted make you think. In one particular scene, when Munira comes back and sees her house burnt down, how would you feel if your house was burnt down? The boy Mohsin says "Aurton ke kapde utar kar unhe jalaya, aadmiyon ke nahi utare". Sameer in one scene says that he has to think twice before praising a Pakistani cricketer, has to hang his head in shame for some jehadi's acts. Anuradha saya to her friend "Did you blame the entire community when your maid ran away with the valuables?".The most beautiful line was by Naseeruddin Shah " Saat suron me aisi takat kahan, jo aisi nafrat ka samna kar sake". There are a number of troubling scenes that make you question about life and wonder about the brutality of human nature. If you care about good quality cinema that evokes your conscience, watch Firaaq- Based on a 1000 true stories.
I have never been a Modi supporter and probably hate him even more after this. People say he had no role in the riots and it is just English-media-saying-We-hate Narendra-Modi syndrome but how can anyone defend him after the speeches he made berating Muslims in his Mia style during election campaigns. Muslims were butchered post Godhra, how can we run away from truth? Why do all people have to face the consequences of a few rotten apples? I am not a fan of Congress or the Left either who are pseudo secularists and consider secularism as minority appeasement. Every one criticises Hindu fundamentalists when they threaten MF Hussain but no one has the guts to speak against those Muslim fundamentalists who issue fatwas against Taslima Nasreen. The idea of India is in danger if we continue to do this. We have to stand against the fanatics irrespective of religion. And we can make a start by not allowing Varun Gandhi to get off so easily.