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Firaaq – movie review

An ensemble film, that follows multiple narratives of victims as well as perpetrators


Firaaq, movie review

Most films about riots are full of violence that they set out to critique. Actress Nandita Das has her debut in direction with Firaaq, which explores the fierce and delicate emotions of fear, anxiety, prejudice and ambivalence in human relationships during the riots.

Firaaq is an Urdu word that means both separation and quest. The film is a work of fiction, based on a thousand stories.The story is set over a 24-hour period, one month after a carnage that took place in Gujarat, India, in 2002. It traces the emotional journeys of ordinary people – some who were victims, some perpetrators and some who chose to watch silently. As an ensemble film, it follows multiple narratives that are at times interconnected and at times discreet, yet all are united by their spatial and emotional context.

A middle-class housewife Aarti (Deepti Naval) closes the door on a woman desperately seeking refuge, and then struggles to overcome her guilt. The loyalty of two best friends is challenged in times with fear and suspicion. Muneera (Shahana Goswami), a young Muslim woman whose house has been burnt suspects her friend’s (Amruta Subhash) husband to be behind it.

A group of victimized young men seek revenge as a way out of their helplessness and anger. A modern day Hindu-Muslim couple Sameer (Sanjay Suri) and Anu (Tisca Chopra) struggle between the survival instinct to hide their true identities and the desire to assert them. A boy having lost most of his family in the riots, wanders through the streets searching for his missing father. A saintly musician Khan Sahab (Naseeruddin Shah) clings to his idealism until an evidence of civil strife shakes his faith.

The characters in Firaaq are briefly interconnected and are involved in each others lives which been affected.

Through these characters we trace the ways in which violence impacts both inner and outer lives. Violence spares nobody. Yet in the midst of this madness, some find it in their hearts to sing hopeful songs for better times.

In the end, the movie Firaaq finishes with a dramatic warning with the face of the young boy who had been wandering the city. His innocent face fills the screen. The innocent child’s eyes had seen so much violence.

One would wonder what type of a man this child will be when he grows up?
Then the screen goes black.

Firaaq leaves people of one community with the feeling that they had been discriminated, challenged and are unwelcome anywhere. All throughout the feeling is that of disbelief and mistrust in the communities. The mature viewer would appreciate this effort which the opposite type would feel that communal disharmony is exploited. It is for the wise viewer to decide whether the glass is half full or half empty.

Cast of Firaaq:
Khan Saheb – Naseeruddin Shah
Muneera – Shahana Goswami
Sameer Shaikh – Sanjay Suri
Anuradha Desai – Tisca Chopra
Arati – Deepti Naval
Sanjay – Paresh Rawal
Hanif – Nowaz
Mohsin – Mohammad Samad
Raghuveer Yadav
Dilip Joshi
Sucheta Trivedi
Sumeet Raghavan
Amruta Subhash
Vicky Ahuja
Masood Akhtar
Arun Kumar
Special Appearance – Nasser

Credits & Crew of Firaaq:
Producer – Percept Picture Company
Director – Nandita Das
Director of Photography – Ravi K. Chandran (ISC)
Editor – Sreekar Prasad
Music Composers – Rajat Dholakia, Piyush Kanojia
Sound Designer – Manas Choudhury
Art Director – Gautam Sen
Story & Screenplay – Nandita Das, Shuchi Kothari
Firaaq, movie review