Friday, October 3, 2014

Firaaq- A thought provoking, disturbing and impactful movie.

Recently I attended the screening of Hindi movie 'Firaaq' directed by very talented and widely acclaimed actress Nandita Das at Yale University. I watched this movie before but I was interested in knowing directors views on this movie and reasons behind making it. I was also interested in how internationally diverse audience at Yale reacts to this very disturbing but very powerful movie. The movie tries to capture events in lives of some people one month after the 2002 Godhra riots. One should watch the movie to know the actual plot and understand the characters so I am not going to discuss that. Every character in this movie is very well written and brilliantly portrayed by all actors.

The post is not about Nandita Das or the movie itself but the impact it had on me. I am interested to discuss three characters, Aarti, Sameer and Mohsin who stayed with me after watched the movie. I was touched by trauma of Aarti (character brilliantly portrayed by Deepti Naval), may be because I have seen many people who  face such dilemma and trauma. There are many people who want to fight the injustice happening in front of them but can not do it for various reasons. Some can't raise their voice because they don't know how to do it or they don't know they have a voice and it really means some thing. Some don't do this because  they think it is not their job, or it is against their culture or it will be a disrespect to people against whom they have to stand. These people keep silent because of so many reasons (few of them I listed above) and suffer quietly from inside. They blame themselves for their failure not to help others when they had an opportunity. I always wondered are these people guilty of not doing their duty? Can we blame them for not standing up when they saw injustice being done right in front of them? Can we call bystander who just witness the crime happening in front of their eyes without taking any action against it? Or shall we try to understand their problems? their inability to gather the courage to oppose the age old traditions, patriarchal or feudal culture which they are taught to respect and preserve? This conflict is very real and Deepti Naval portrayed this character very well.

Other character is that of Sameer Shaikh (played by another talented actor, Sanjay Suri), his first name doesn't denote his religious identity as this name is common among both Muslims and Hindus in India. So wherever possible he prefers to tell only his first name as he is worried that people might judge him differently if they know his religion. Because of this many people around him don't know his religion, they all assume that he is a Hindu. He is married to a Hindu girl so that makes this disguise even easy for him. It is quite possible that many people from minority groups living in very hostile social environment can easily associate with this character. It is not only about religious minority groups but also people from lower caste also can also easily understand his dilemma and helplessness. They all do this because they feel people in society will look at them differently if they know about their religion or caste. Sameer's character is like a big slam on stereotyped mindset of our society where we look at people from particular religion or caste or gender with lot of prejudice and bias.

The last character is of that little boy Mohsin who lost his both parents during the riots but he only knows about death of his mom as he saw it but don't know about his dad's death, no one close to him dare to tell him this truth. He is desperately in search of his dad as he don't want to live in the camp shelter made for riot victims. During his search for his father he gets exposed to harsh realities of our society at that young age, he learns to hide his identity by changing his real name to some Hindu name (Mohan) just to escape from further scrutiny or trouble. He looks like another Sameer in making who is taught that his religion means something to hide from others, something others around him who are different from him (Hindus) don't like. He hates Hindus without even knowing who they are, he only knows them as his mom's killers. This all makes him to loose interest in all childhood activities, when kids of his age invite him to play he don't want to play. The question his character put in front of us are very serious and disturbing questions; what kind of world are you offering to me? Why I can't tell my real name without worrying about what will happen to me after I tell it? Why do some people kill others for no reason? Why people hate each other? What was my mom's fault that she was murdered? His character in movie is too young to ask these questions and also to understand the answers if at all someone bothers to answer them but when he stares in our eyes at the end of the movie his eyes ask these questions.

I guess as a society or individuals if we can solve Aarti's problems by offering her required strength to stand up whenever required, or remove Sameer's fears associated with his religious identity and at least create friendly atmosphere for kids like Mohsin who don't grow up with hatred about certain community in their mind I can say that we all did our job. Until them we all need to work hard so that there won't be another Sameer who is forced to hide his religious identity or another Mohsin who is wondering what kind of world he is living in. This movie doesn't entertain you, it is not supposed to entertain but it engages its audience successfully with its characters. Firaaq throws many questions right at our face, it stirs our consciousness to its core. We can choose to answer these questions, work hard towards solving the problems associated with these questions or we can also choose to ignore them, look the other way as if nothing has happened and move on, after all choice is ours.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]


  1. Sounds like a film to cross off my list.

    1. sure...please do not every one has capacity and capability to understand this type of cinema.

    2. You dont have to be so bitter and twisted about my comment.

    3. bitter...twisted??? what makes you to think that?? and for that matter, you dont have to be so dismissive about any type of cinema..if you don't like it just don't watch and then don't comment without watching...and if you comment on any public forum then be ready to face some replies to it...don't get offended so easily.

  2. story is good. but film is not well directed. characters are good, acting also. but somehow film does not make good world cinema. direction appears more filmy than real. better direction might have brought out the issues more pointedly. no doubt issues portrayed are nice. but overall doesnt appeal. - jay

    1. Thanks a lot for sharing your views Jay. I was more impressed by story and the various characters of it as I could relate with many of them...may be direction was not perfect but for me the characters portrayed in movie were the real stars of the movie. This was a first movie as a director for Nandita, definitely it was not a bad start according to me. There is another movie based on same subject 'Paezania' may be you will like that.

    2. I assume these films you like are pampering the muslims no doubt. Make them the victims and release it world wide to show what a great director you are and feed on the glory you might get. Same old tricks, same old trash and same old stories.

      Then we have the dumb critics who are obliged to glorify the films as well and ride on its fame and hopefully to make a name for themsleves.... same old tricks, same old trash and same old stories.

      Blog writers are trying to look cool by decalring this is their favourite films --same old tricks, same old trash and same old stories.

      Now I'll get some reply from some of you with the same old tricks, same old trash and same old stories.

    3. some super clever people come and comment about the film without even watching it, they feel everyone who doesn't agree with them is trying to pamper some community or dumb or trying to be cool..hahaha...same old tricks, same old trash and same old stories....and funny part is that they never learn even after that...

    4. I agree with Anonymous though not fully.

      The film has a nice story but average direction. May be that's because it was Nandita's first film as director. But once you see the film entirely, you tend to feel as if the film is trying to portray only one side of the story - the Muslim side. I ain't aginst any community. But when you call it a film based on true incidents you should be honest and not partial. The film should have shown both sides of the story. All incidents one after the other show the Muslim community as having suffered heavily. Are we to infer that the Hindus were well off?

      Samir - Character is nicely portrayed. He is a Muslim trapped for no fault of his.

      Mohsin - Another character nicely portrayed.

      Munira (which someone has misnamed as Zubeda) - Brilliant portrayal. She likes her Hindu friend but at the same time believes that her friend knows who has done harm to her house and that she would not reveal the name. All throughout we can see the disbelief and suspicion in Munira which is shown nicely.

      Hindu friend of Munira - Her character has not been given much justice. All throughout it seems as if she might be behind all this. All her excuses given to Munira that she was not present there on that fateful day hardly seem convincing. I can't say the acting was bad as Amruta Subhash who has played this role is a great actor in her own right. So it only seems that the director deliberately wanted to keep her character shaky. Yet some attempt has been made to solidify her character - when she applies bindi to Munira's forehead to protect her from being troubled by Hindu cops and when the doubt that the ornament found at Munira's house belongs to her friend is resolved in favour of the friend. But overall the character has been kept in doubt.

      Arti - She is affected by things around. But she leaves her house after being hit by her wife-beating husband. So her leaving the house does not seem to be the direct result of the riots. It is more of a domestic affair than a communal one.

      So, somehow only the Muslim characters seem to be well sketched. The Hindu ones do not seem to be given their space. The film portrays the problems faced by the Muslim community (which is shown well) but what about the Hindu side? Is it that the Hindus did not lose anything? Somehow the film tends to point towards this which seems quite disturbing and unconvincing.

      - Anand

    5. Thanks a lot Anand for sharing your views...actually your comment is the type of comment which takes discussion forward in right direction rather than engaging some useless verbal duels. I am glad that you shared your views here. I totally agree with you that many of these films tend to show only one side of the story but I think that is the limitation of this medium. One can not tough each and every aspect of such a complicated issue in 2 hrs of time and do justice to each and every aspect. I guess that is the reason writers and directors decide to focus of the aspect which they believe needs to be told. I believe as the movie was based one month after the riots it focused on the situation of community which suffered most during those riots, I might be wrong but this is my observation. During the screening Nandita said that there can be different views about this incident and one can disagree with her movie but these stories appealed her so much that she felt it necessary to share them.

      Whole Godhra incident including the burning of train and riots after that were really shameful and disgusting. There are some people who justify these events by using some skewed logic. According to me any loss of human life in this manure is very tragic and sad event. Everyone involved in such acts should be punished so that these things don't happen again.

      Thanks again for sharing your views.

  3. The persons of the Mohan, Samir and Arti are nice and also of the Zubeda (I am not sure of name. She is the girl who go to put mehendi in wedding and whose house is destroyed.) Incident of Samir Shek and Samir Desai is nice and also the Mohsin to Mohan and also the girlfriend put bindi on head of the Zebuda to show she is Hindu was good shown. But I did not understand why Arti (Dipti Anval) goes away in ricksha. Where she going? Does she have home? It is not shown. And Samir is not a person who can take decision. He is one time let's go to Delhi, one time no. So he is not sure. Then suddenly how come his is daring to speak policeman in rude way?


    1. Thanks a lot Subhash for sharing your views. I also found character of that Muslim girl who looses her house in riot very interesting, she is always doubting her close friend. Movie doesn't throw any light on who actually burned her house but she seems to be constantly doubting her friend and thinks that she knows who did it.

      I guess Aarti's departure from her house is a symbolic act to show that finally she mustered the courage to stand against injustice happening to her. She always knew that there are many wrong things happening around her but never had any courage to oppose them or to even protest against them. So I guess the director wanted to show that finally she stood for herself by moving out of that house. Such type of movies rarely present any conclusive end, most of the time they leave it to audience to decide., that's why we are discussing the characters and possible reasons of their actions here.