Firaaq (2010) Hindi Movie Review starring Naseeruddin Shah, Deepti Naval

November 21, 2010 (Calcutta Tube): FIRAAQ is a 2010 Hindi film directed by Nandita Das starring Naseeruddin Shah, Deepti Naval, Shahana Goswami, Paresh Rawal, and others. Enjoy the critical analyses of the film by critic Usman Khawaja.

Cast and Crew:

  • Directed by: Nandita Das
  • Written by: Nandita Das & Suchi Kothari
  • Starring Naseeruddin Shah, Deepti Naval, Shahana Goswami, Paresh Rawal, Raghuvir Yadav, Tisca Chopra
  • Review by: Usman Khawaja



The opening montage reveals the theme in grandiose horror, where dilapidated corporation lorries are dumping mounds of butchered corpses in a Muslim cemetery in the spring of 2002 in Gujarat, as the two fatigued grave diggers bury them in mass graves, one spots a female corpse with a Hindu icon and starts to hit her in a spontaneous rage while the other tries to restrain his visceral rage on an already dead human being.

Nandita Das has populated her inherently complex theme of religious strife and genocide in overt and subtle overtures where her ambiguous characters mingle in a relative time frame torn with strife.

She observes this nightmare from the eyes of a seven year old orphaned Muslim boy who awaits the incipient return of his beloved father butchered in the carnage.

The boy is both a mascot of hope and a bitter reminder of the fragile bond that binds the two nations in the same homeland as he observes the atrocities with his vacuous dazed stare which is the hallmark of great cinema as it is neither a sentimental tearjerker or a sermon on morality but an observation of a bleak truth in anticipation of no optimistic relief.

Das has written the script flawlessly mingling her two communities in the immediate aftermath where a largely guilty Hindu majority is sympathetic yet afraid to overtly express their disapproval of the state sponsored genocide.

Deepti Naval is haunted by the face and pleas of a Muslim woman who begged her to let her in to escape the marauding mob but She did not have the courage to perform a simple deed but it haunts her as a nightmare, in lieu she takes in the young Muslim boy as a servant and pretends he is a Hindu lad which is an impersonation as bleak as the battered landscape of gutted homes and deserted streets, and so powerful in its truth as to describe the whole essence of the tragedy.

Yet we have Mugheera, played by an excellent Shahana Goswami, a married Muslim woman with a child who had gone into hiding during the horrific riots and returns to find a gutted home and deep mistrust of her Hindu neighbours, the idea of segregation is introduced by her scepticism of living with life-long friends who she now blames for the ruins of her homestead.

Sanjay Suri plays a professional upper class Muslim married to a Hindu lady of means who as a couple are debating to leave Gujarat for Delhi but is their identity going to change with the venue.

This debate is intensely  insane and that is the crux of the circumstances created out of a sordid political scam which has changed the life of these human beings irrespective of their beliefs forever, and further crowned by Naseeruddin Shah playing a great Muslim vocal musician living in a Hindu majority area who is in denial of the riots and blames the whole thing on a ruined economy, as he awaits his Muslim disciples to arrive he ponders on the illusion of musical instruments and the exigency of divinity ,and his ultimate pessimistic observation of the destruction of a Muslim shrine in the vicinity is emotionally devastating as he tries to find the beloved  building which has been obliterated.

Das has for once immensely reversed the Bollywood sentimentality of the religious strife and passed it from the world of entertainment to grey shades of reality entrenched in art.

The performances aside, the sparse music and absence of songs packed in 101 minutes of tumultuous drama which sheds a new light on the contemporary Indian social structure where an icon like a Bindi can be a life-saver is an iconoclastic classic in itself.

The child here is the future of the state that is left without any security and is destined to become a slum dweller to the detriment of the community itself.

As she observes the terrorised Muslim community trying to escape or trying to attempt some form of revenge she is both sensitive and serene but never sentimental as her vision is immersed in the reality of the time frame which is created immaculately by a very committed team work.

The taunting army officers who ask Suri to take her Hindu wife and immigrate to Pakistan is the truth she wants us to dwell upon and she succeeds in every moment of the precious stock used.

A horrendous and spellbinding debut by a fecund intelligent female mind who redeems the mediocrity of Bollywood by her anguish ridden Muslim protagonists and the equally guilty yet reluctant Hindu inhabitants, this fuses the tragedy of the event without indulging in any protest but in doing so becomes a lasting emancipation for humanity itself.

As suggested by the opulent Urdu title, this is a ballad of morose and melancholic poetic beauty that impresses your heart with a seal of turbulent emotional deluge yet it remains impassive simultaneously in it’s mourning of the symbolic communal separation as suggested by the metaphorical term itself.

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