‘ Firaaq’: Hope Amidst a Storm

‘Firaaq’ is the critically acclaimed movie directed by actress turned director Nandita Das. It has won awards at prestigious film festivals across the globe before hitting the screens nationwide in March,2009. It is a 101 minute movie which depicts six narratives based on the aftermath of the Gujarat riots of 2002 over a twenty four hour period. These six stories are intertwined and are stories of human lives ripped apart by violence and distrust, and how humanity is the saviour at the end of the day.

‘Firaaq’ is an Urdu word which means ‘quest’. The protagonists of the movie have a questto rebuild their lives amidst an atmosphere rife with suspicion. Two best friends face the true test of their friendship amidst destruction. A group of Muslim underdogs seek revenge for the slaughter of their brothers. A Hindu housewife is haunted by images of the Muslim girl she could not help. A married couple is on the brink of leaving their hometown and all that they love to start life afresh in an alien city, as society suddenly seems up in arms against their inter community bond. A music teacher waits for his students to come again and fill his house with music, little knowing that they may never come back. A little boy is in desperate search of his missing father, having seen all his other relatives being killed in the gruesome carnage. The story is also one of hope and shows all the protagonists working towards a new beginning and trying to make amends for the mistakes people have committed.

The script is excellent and there is an undercurrent of tension which is felt in every frame of the film. The cinematography and camerawork capture Gujarat as it was; the fanaticism and hatred in stark contrast to the dim light of hope and love. Full justice has been done to the script by some brilliant performances by an ensemble cast. Naseeruddin Shah, Raghubir Yadav, Shahana Goswami, Deepti Naval, Paresh Rawal, Sanjay Suri and Tisca Chopra give soul stirring performances which leave an impact on the viewers long after they has left the theatre. The scenes have been directed skillfully and with panache, such that the viewer can identify with the characters and their emotional turmoil.

The movie tends to drag in some parts and could do with some crisp editing. Also, this film depicts only one side of the carnage and does not tell of the plight of the Hindus during the riots. Nevertheless, debutante director Nandita Das, known for her fiery performances on screen, has managed to squeeze out the best from her cast and told us a story with all the facts in place. It is a story well told and manages to leave a sense of hope that humans do have love and tolerance within them which keeps humanity alive amidst all brutality and mindless fanaticism. Devoid of all the usual fanfare that surrounds most Hindi movies, ‘Firaaq’ is a movie which depicts life as it is and where the real hero and saviour is humanity and human bonding.

Shreya Bhattacharya

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