Parzania is an exemplary piece of what we call “Reflective Cinema”. Based on the Godhra train carnage in Gujarat, that took place in 2002, this movie depicts the aftermath of a callous and cold massacre. The movie portrays the inherent revengeful nature that resides in human beings.
Cyrus (Nasserudin Shah) and Shernaz (Sarika) along with their son Parzan (Parzan Dastur) and daughter Dilshat (Pearl Barsiwala) form a happy Parsi family living in a Muslim area. The movie begins with the cheerful description of the Parsi family, whose lives turn topsy-turvy during the violent attacks on Muslims by the Hindus. Allan is an American who has come to India to research Gandhi. Allan is a disillusioned American who is dissatisfied with life. What is ironical is that he comes to Gujarat – the birth place of Gandhi, the ambassador of peace, just to witness this violence and turbulence which has rendered men so cruel that they get no pangs of conscience in burning alive a woman. Allan is witness to a few such instances.
Coming back to the Parsi family, we see the helpless Shernaz trying to shield herself along with her two children. Among all the shrieks and bloodshed, Parzan gets lost and it is then that the movie starts giving the audience a silent yet piercing message.
The frantic search for Parzan on the part of the parents, an attempt that every individual tries to make, is heartbreaking. There are some scenes where pity wells up and overflows in the form of tears. Seeing a father,Cyrus, searching for his Parzan among heaps of dead bodies which are dumped so casually, it is hard to reconcile oneself to the fact that dead humans should receive such imprudent and reckless treatment.
The two hour movie reaches its peak and is penultimate in the last twenty minutes when the victims are presented in front of the inquiry commission. These twenty minutes form a crust of what the movie actually aims at.
In no uncertain terms we are told that the Gujarat riots in 2002 were “State sponsored violence”, we are also made aware of the fact that police officers were silent spectators in this naked dance of violence. Also, the viewers realize that during such a crisis the helpless and the vulnerable are the ones that get entangled in the grip of hatred and corruption.
With Nasserudin Shah around , you know that there is no room for flaws. Cyrus is so natural, so painful and so real that you’ll come away awestruck from the theater. As far as Sarika is concerned, again we have an extra-ordinary actor at her best. Watch her speaking in front of the inquiry commission – so perfect and flawless. Corin Nemec, too, is matchless in the role of Allan. Even Parzan Dastur and Pearl Barsiwala fit easily within this group of faultless actors.
Director Rahul Dholakia has created a heart-rending story with excellent narration. The vehement and acute sounds (sound designer Manoj Sikka) and the berserk and frenzied death images (cameraman Robert Eras) deserve applause for giving us this piece of art. The only drawback to the movie is its language. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that a milkman speaks in English in India. Had the movie been made in Gujarati or Hindi, it would have touched the mass audience.
But when all’s said and done, this movie celebrates humanism in a barbaric world. The movie is titled “Parzania” because that is the dream world of Parzan, his imaginary utopia with mountains made up of ice-creams and a world that has nothing but cricket in it – in short a world where everyone is happy and contented.
The movie ends with the mention of Azhar who is still missing after the Gujarat riots and whose parents still have hopes of his coming back. The search continues for the parents and for the world also, a world still in search of its Parzan , its peace and its placidity.