Firaaq Movie Review
Firaaq (separation) is a docu-drama of the immediate aftermath of 2002 Gujarat riots. We are taken into the lives of a multitude of characters, both rich and poor, and shown how the riots impact their lives. The movie, despite it being a docu-drama, moves at an even clip and makes you feel in a way a documentary never can. The accusations against this film, that it does not show the other side are true enough, but I agree with the director Nandita Das when she says that there is no other side. How can there be an “other” side when it comes to the slaughter of innocent people? There is never any sane reason to set upon innocent people is there! In a way Das makes a very powerful statement by not showing the “other side.” This is her vision as a director and I laud her for it.
The movie has some powerful actors like Naseerudin Shah, Paresh Rawal and Deepti Nawal. There is something starkly dramatic about the performances of these three. Shah plays an old man (musician) who does not want to see the ugly side of the Hindu Muslim divide, living as he does in the past. Paresh Rawal plays the role of a middle class Gujarati man who has been involved in the riots, and plays the character with subtle aplomb. What is disturbing is the way the director depicts the relationship between Paresh Rawal and Deepti Nawal who are husband and wife. The man is shown to be dominating and cruel, treating his wife almost like a slave. I think this is an important point because when it comes to murder and mayhem, rape and looting, good people are not drawn into it. Those who participate in riots have an evil side and their family members are often at the receiving end. They can beat and abuse their family members behind closed doors, secure in the belief that they will never be found out. It is the same with rioters. They are secure in the belief that they will never be found out and as shown in this movie, the police are in on it too and protect the evil-doers.
There are other important characters in the movie, like Muneera (Shahana Goswami of Rock On fame), an autorickshaw driver’s wife who is devastated when she realises that her little home with its new sofa has been burnt to a cinder. Her desperate attempt to find the answer to Who and Why almost make her turn on her best friend, Jyoti (Amruta Subhash). Shubhash’s acting is good too. A central character in the movie is a little boy called Mohsin, whose family has been killed in the riots. His life intertwines with the life of other characters.
Ravi K Chandran’s cinematography adds to the charged atmosphere and so does the clever editing which takes us from one story to another without any jerks.
This movie is not just about the aftermath of the Gujarat riots, it’s about people. As the movie progresses one forgets that one is watching a film that has something to do with Hindus and Muslims. It is a story about human beings. There is a character that all of us can identify with and the movie ends with hope.
Firaaq is good cinema. A serious dark film no doubt but it has its lessons for each one of us. A great effort by Das. And it’s just her first film as a director.
(Photo is from Rediff)