Updated: February 12, 2022 9:00:37 am
It is rare to see a Muslim hero in a Tamil movie. And director Manu Anand’s FIR is one of those rare movies. It’s a good thing. But, if only good intentions could make great movies, a bad movie would become a rarity. The main theme of this spy thriller, starring Vishnu Vishal in the lead role, is the rampant prevalence of islamophobia.
It’s a matter of great shame that people frequently needed reminding from popular artistes that there are Muslim terrorists but not all Muslims are terrorists. This universal fact was addressed in the surprisingly poignant Karan Johar directorial My Name is Khan. In the movie, Shah Rukh Khan‘s Rizwan sets out to tell the world, which is reeling under immense fear in the wake of the twin tower attack in New York, that his surname is Khan and he’s not a terrorist. And about 12 years later, we have FIR sending out the same message sans any nuance or informed thinking.
The Tamil movie has fallen short of addressing this stunted growth of our civilization in a more comprehensive manner. And it comfortably settles down to the bottom line separating good Muslims from bad Muslims. In the severely unevolved cop movie Sooryavanshi, director Rohit Shetty tried to do the same thing. Rohit had used the ‘good Muslim/bad Muslim’ trope as a shield to mask the casual bigotry of the movie.
In a scene, Akshay Kumar’s Sooryavanshi’s cites an example of a retired police officer and his son, who is also an officer, to enlighten a radical preacher about the idea of true Indian Muslims. And the image the scene paints is of people who are willing to make ultimate sacrifices to prove their love for the country. When we put people on such a great pedestal, even small faults from them evoke a harsh reaction. Filmmakers have to bring out the more grounded image of people from various communities and act as an intermediary of cultural exchange. Malayalam filmmakers are doing some solid work in that respect (Sudani from Nigeria, Halal Love Story to name a few). People should be shown that life of people on the other side of the aisle is not very different from their own. They all share the same fears, aspirations, desires and emotions.
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Kamal Haasan had played the role of Wizam Ahmad Kashmiri in his 2013 espionage thriller Vishwaroopam. And not once, he had stressed that he’s a true Indian Muslim patriot because he’s risking his life to keep people in his country safe. Never for once, the film stoops to the melodrama of highlighting his selflessness. Just because he’s a battle-hardened spy that doesn’t mean his heart is stone-cold. He has his own regrets and sins, if any, to deal with. But, not one of them would be getting offended by other people’s bigotry. Wizam is too evolved and he knows that he has bigger fishes to fry than instilling sense into an undeveloped fellow human.
Kamal’s film showed us that there are plenty of people from different cultural and religious backgrounds, who are working round the clock to keep us all safe. And the message was resoundingly loud and clear – not all Khans are terrorists.
FIR lacks the maturity of Vishwaroopam. The lack of nuance in properly establishing the islamophobia, misunderstanding suffered by different communities and politics behind intensifying polarization have been left out from the movie for the convenience of the narration. Manu has not shown the will to have difficult conversations on issues that plague our society.
The writing in the first half is shaky as the scenes and the functioning of the country’s top security agencies plays out like an uninformed melodrama. We have an inspector-ranking officer in the NIA, who thinks the coded message that he managed to secure from a terrorist would somehow make him a laughing stock at the office and keeps it to himself. We have a girl, who is not allowed to ask too many questions. Her only job is to book flight tickets at the orders of her seniors. We have a surveillance expert who stands so close to the people he follows that they could hear him breathe. And then we have a clownish YouTuber, who is also an expert computer hacker. He has been trusted with the responsibility of keeping tabs on a communication network used by terror groups. And he loses some life-saving information because he was too busy eating his burger in his underwear at the library of the NIA office.
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