The 2008 hard-hitting drama, Firaaq, talks about the aftermath of the 2002 Godhra riots and the impact it had on the lives of people. The film follows the life of 4 different families and how their lives have been affected by post the Godhra carnage.
Khan Sahab (Naseeruddin Shah), an impecunious musician, believes that good still exists around us. He doesn’t believe when Karim his caretaker (Raghubir Yadav) tells him that there is widespread hatred between Hindus and Muslims, until the day he finds out that the dargah which he used to visit quite often has been demolished in the riots.
The affluent business class couple Sameer Shaikh (Sanjay Suri) and Anuradha Desai (Tisca Chopra), are taking the big step of moving to another city since their shop had been vandalized as it was owned by a Muslim. And they cannot shape their lives around such terror and hate.
A traumatized wife Arti ( Deepti Naval), still hears the cries of people asking for help, and just can’t seem to get over the trauma. She lives with her misogynistic husband Sanjay (Paresh Rawal) and brother in law Deven (Dilip Joshi), who was an active participant in the rape of a Muslim girl during the riots. He seemed to take a lot of pride in devouring the pride of the already dishonored according to him.
And an absconding Muslim couple who cones back to their home after the riots to find their house had been burnt to ashes.
Firaaq marked the directorial debut of Nandita Das. There are very few creators who, while making a film can leave the commercial allurements aside and just hit the bullseye when it comes to the subject matter and make something that resonates with their inner calling in an unbridled fashion. Nandita does so in an unabashed and fearless manner.
In one of the scenes, Khan Sahab is asked by Karim that doesn’t it bother him that Hindus are killing Muslims and are being molested to which he replies
“It bothers me that PEOPLE are killing PEOPLE and nothing else”
Khan Sahab wants the people to see that religion has just become a tool to create enmity between people, by the ill-willed political class. They are taking advantage of the fact that there is a cultural diversity that exists in India and fuelling the totally false and irrational notion of cultural supremacy. But Khan Sahab knows that he is just an inconspicuous part of the whole power frenzy puzzle. He says
“Mere suro me itni taakat kaha ki iss nafrat ko rok paaye”
(my music doesn’t wield the power to harness this hatred into something good)
Nandita Das has abstained from taking a biased approach as she has shown well-educated people like Anuradha Desai, who understand the real motive behind the dirty game and possess the ability to see beyond. Thank God WhatsApp university wasn’t there at that time otherwise even the educated would have sown the seeds of communalism.
Though the film was made on a retrospective event, it amazes me how relevant it is in contemporary times too.
I am fully aware that many would not be able to take this blunt viewpoint of Nandita Das. I don’t think she can even make such a film today. Many would throw expletives at her for being anti-national. Some would curse the intellectuals that so-called budhijeevis for being minority pleasers. Some would draw our attention to how botched up middle eastern countries are and how we still uphold the secular fabric. Some would still celebrate when a religious site is demolished, some will take pride in it, some will strategize their PR in a way to brainwash the youths, someone will tell us what to eat and what not to eat, someone will tell us which animal to love, what to speak and what to think. But no one will ask that when a Hindu fundamentalist kills someone, nobody has to be embarrassed but when a jihadi blasts a bomb every Muslim has to cover their heads in shame.
Firaaq an Arabic word means separation and quest. And the quest still continues. The film is streaming on Zee5
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