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Friday, July 01, 2022

Movie Review: Firaaq

This is a fine ensemble. The little boy,played unfalteringly by Mohammad Samad,is a heartbreaker.

Written by Shubhra Gupta | New Delhi |
March 20, 2009 4:19:00 pm

Cast: Naseeruddin Shah,Paresh Rawal,Raghubir Yadav,Sanjay Suri,Deepti Naval,Tisca Chopra,Shahana Goswami,Mohammad Samad.

Director: Nandita Das

Actors do not usually make good directors,because they are incapable of seeing the bigger picture. Nandita Das has managed an exemplary switch with her debut feature : ‘Firaaq’ is a nuanced,moving exploration of life and loss.

The plot is deceptively simple,told with effective simplicity. It is just another day in the life of a handful of characters struggling to come to terms with the horror of the Gujarat genocide. Old ‘ustaad’ Khan Saheb ( Naseer),and his faithful companion Karim ( Raghubir) wonder if the sound of a ‘raag’ will ever reverberate again in their house. Sanjay ( Paresh) is an unapologetic defender of the Hindu right,getting off ,in equal measure,on looting shops and slapping his wife ( Deepti). Half-and-half Sameer Shaikh ( Sanjay) is on the verge of fleeing to Delhi,where he thinks his mixed parentage won’t cause him as much grief. An auto-rickshaw driver and his wife ( Shahana) come back to their tiny room,to find it vandalized. And a little child wanders through the dark night,looking for his lost father : the rest of his family was slain during the riots.

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The real strength of the film lies in the way the director manages to say it like it is. Das pulls no punches as she lays out her characters,and articulates their points of view without descending into mawkishness or melodrama. Khan Saheb sings a dirge for times past,and points out the distressing disconnect of today’s ‘Musalmaan’ with ‘mausiki’. Sanjay’s corrosive mutterings,directed at the hated other,is reflective not only of individual bigotry,but of the accumulation of the collective venom in the social fabric of a city which allows rioters and rapists to roam free,and the police to chase a terrified resident and lead him to his death. And we all know people like the conflicted Sameer,whose supportive wife ( Tisca) is as anguished as he is about his feeling neutered : ‘Mera naam Sameer Desai hai’,he tells a couple of ‘chanda’-collecting saffronites,using his wife’s surname as a shield.

This is a fine ensemble. The little boy,played unfalteringly by Mohammad Samad,is a heartbreaker. Naseer and Paresh and Raghubir inhabit their characters with an ease only the really good ones exhibit. Deepti Naval,always such a pleasure to watch in her rare appearances on screen these days,holds her own in her small but pivotal part : her continual subservience and her final rebellion feels achingly real. And fittingly signals the rise of a new day,and perhaps,a new way.

Gentle viewers,listen up : a director is born.

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