Cinematography: Ravi K. Chandran
Editing: Sreekar Prasad
Art Direction: Gautam Sen
Screenplay: Nandita Das, Shuchi Kothari
Story Writer: Nandita Das, Shuchi Kothari
Director: Nandita Das
Shocking, disturbing and thought-provoking, Nandita Das’s movie Firaaq touches a raw nerve.
Admittedly a work of fiction claimed to be inspired from thousands of true stories, ‘Firaaq’ (meaning quest, or separation) mirrors the gruesome reality of the Gujarat riots in which many Muslims and Hindus were slaughtered.
provides us a peek into the after effects of the riots by taking us into the minds of the characters that populate its parallel stories. The gravity of the subject is established in the opening reel when a truckload of dead bodies are dumped into a mass grave.
A homeless boy Mohsin wanders the streets in search of his Abu. A middle-class housewife Aarti ( Deepti Naval ) battles her guilt of having shut the door on a desperate Muslim woman pleading for life. A Muslim-Hindu couple, Sameer and Anu, ( Sanjay Suri and Tisca Chopra ) grapple with the altered reality of their surroundings and plan to leave the city. A group of Muslim men gang up to take revenge. An ageing musician Khan Saheb ( Naseeruddin Shah ) is unable to comprehend the senseless violence and massacre. Two sahelis, Munira and Jyoti ( Shahana Goswami and Amruta Subhash) manage to stick together in the environment of communal hate and suspicion.
With calculated restraint, sensitivity and subtlety, ‘Firaaq’ tells the story of these characters in a bid to rattle the conscience of the viewers and make them realize the horrendous crimes that took place in the Gujarat of 2002.
However, it needs to be said that some might find the film one-sided because it repeatedly portrays the victimization of Muslims – be it a cop telling a Sameer Shaikh (Sanjay Suri) to buzz off to Pakistan, or a local resident dropping a heavy stone slab on a man’s head just because he is a Muslim.
But all in all, Nandita Das does a fairly decent job of telling a multi-layered story with seamless clarity. The performances are top notch, particularly by Deepti Naval, Shahana Goswami, Naseeruddin Shah and Paresh Rawal , who plays a middle-class, anti-Muslim Gujarati trying to cover up the rape committed by his young brother.
Looking beyond the film’s theme, ‘Firaaq’ is a cinematic gem with excellent cinematography (Ravi Chandran), well-penned screenplay (Nandita and Shuchi Kothari) and evocative background score.
Despite its somewhat narrow perspective, it’s a film made with conscience and noble intention, as reflected in a scene in which Raghuvir Yadav (a domestic help) tells Naseer that Muslims are being killed. Naseer replies: “Insaan Insaan ko maar raha hai, gham toh iss baat ka hai. A statement that entreats us to see humans beyond their religions, it pretty much encapsulates the soul of ‘Firaaq’.
Definitely worth a watch.