Firaaq is a heart wrenching movie set one month after the Gujarat carnage of 2002. It captures the repercussions of the riots for people across different religious and economic boundaries. The film, as it asserts, is a work of fiction based on a thousand true stories. It is co-written and directed by Nandita Das. I have admired Nandita for her portrayal of strong and meaningful characters in Fire, Earth, I am and Bawandar but it is her directorial venture Firaaq , that affected me the most.
Being politically correct is the last thing that this movie is concerned about. It does not shy away from pointing towards the participation of the state in the riots but at the same time isn’t about the blame-game. It quite simply states the facts and captures the aftermath. One of the distinctive and most impressive feature is that there is hardly any violence depicted in the movie, yet there is a lingering sense of fear. In the opening scene we see a graveyard where a truck drops off a load of bodies in front of the diggers, who cry helplessly as they bury them. This scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie. At one point a character says “Inssan, Insaan ko maar raha hai iss baat ka gham hai” and this is exactly what you feel throughout the movie. The movie does not end on a hopeful note and does not want us to feel as if everything is going to be okay in the world again. Sadly, the movie finds its relevance even today.
The film cuts through different narratives and consists of a highly eminent ensemble cast. The gist of different story-lines is given below:
Arati and Sanjay (Deepti Naval and Paresh Rawal): Arati lives in the guilt of having denied shelter to a Muslim lady who came knocking at her door. Her guilt only increases on hearing about the slaughter of Muslim women through news channels. Ironically, her brother-in-law was involved in gang-raping of a Muslim woman and robbing stores and her husband is trying to prevent his arrest. I found this to be the most chilling story-line. We see Sanjay complaining about how media never adequately reports about Hindu deaths and defending his brother’s action by stating how can you dishonour someone who has no honour. He also asks his brother if he enjoyed “the taste of the fruit”. Deepti Naval’s performance is my personal favourite in this film. She single handedly depicts the guilt of a large section of the society for being the silent spectator.
Muneera and Hanif (Shahana Goswami and Nawazuddin Siddiqui): Muneera and Hanif return to their home from their hiding only to find it ransacked and burnt. Hanif sets out to take revenge along with his friends while Muneera struggles to trust her friend Jyoti’s innocence. The Muneera-Jyoti story line is extremely well written and played out very well by Shahana Goswami.
Khan Saab and His Servant(Naseeruddin Shah and Raghubir Yadav): Khan saab is an elderly music teacher who is an optimist and is almost in denial of the gravitas of the current state of affairs while his servant keeps informing him about the mishaps. Khaan saab realizes the magnitude of hatred perpetuated only when he comes to know about the overnight destruction of Wali Gujarati’s shrine. He accepts defeat to his servant and says “sirf saath suron me itni kaabiliyat khaan ki aisi nafrat ka saamna kar sake“
Anuradha Desai and Sameer Shaikh (Tisca Chopra and Sanjay Suri): Anuradha and Sameer are an inter-religious couple who decide to move out of Ahmedabad for a peaceful living. During a conversation with their friends Sameer opens up about the insecurities that he has to live with due to his religion and his anger at not being able to proudly proclaim his religion in public. I personally feel that this sub plot had a lot of potential but it couldn’t be tapped mostly due to weak dialogues.
Lastly there is the little kid Moshin who is orphaned during the riots and witnesses violence as his character cuts across the sub plots. In the end, we see Moshin stare at us deeply after being robbed of his childhood innocence.
Despite its few short comings Firaaq is an honest film that manages to hold a mirror to the impact of the carnage. It forces us to question the actions of our fellow citizens and deliberate about the times that we live in and the society that we are leaving behind for the future generations. The film consists of some exceptional performances and manages to trigger all the emotions that it aimed to. As we debate about tolerance even today this movie reminds us about the most heinous acts carried out due to intolerance in the past.
This movie is freely available on Youtube!