Firaaq: A hard-hitting debut by Nandita Das

March 20, 2009

The camera moves breathlessly through the dark alleys, following the two men as one chases the other. An old man watches flickering images on television, his face revealing myriad emotions every second. A group of men argue in a dingy, ruined shop, even as a child watches wide-eyed.

These are some images from Nandita Das’ “Firaaq” which will stay with you long after you have left the theatre. These are images that have been shot with as much passion as skill, both of which come through on screen.

Das uses the technique of an ensemble film, centred on one major incident. Nishikant Kamat used it in “Mumbai Meri Jaan”. So did the Brad Pitt-starrer “Babel”. In this case, the connection is the aftermath of the Gujarat riots.

The entire film spans over a period of 24 hours or less, and provides a glimpse into five families, so to speak, each of whom are connected one way or other to the riots of 2002.

There is the scared housewife Aarti (played with élan by Deepti Naval) who finds the courage to stand up to her abusive husband (Paresh Rawal), the young couple who have overcome their fears (Tisca Chopra and Sanjay Suri), and Muneera who finds her friendship with a Hindu tested during those 24 hours.

There is also Naseeruddin Shah’s character, a musician who appears seemingly disjointed from reality, but finds solace in the end.

Das has a real affection for her characters and Ravi K. Chandran’s camera takes the film to another level. Also, each of the stories have their own compelling moments.

My only problem with “Firaaq” is that at the end, I didn’t come away with the feeling that I had watched an entire film — it seemed like too much of a disjointed effort to me, and this is a thin line that you tread while watching ensemble films like this one.

The subject of the film, I must say is a tough one to handle and Das does so with great maturity, rare for a first-time director. There is hardly any violence shown in the film, and yet it is conveyed really effectively. Also at a running time of two hours, this isn’t too long.

Watch “Firaaq” for some sensitive stories and get a sense of how communal riots affect people on the ground. After last week’s “Gulaal”, this is another hard-hitting film that will expose you to a reality you may not have known exists.


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Well done Nandita. You deserve all the praise for your maiden directorial venture. Wish you all success in your life

Posted by reddy | Report as abusive

the depth of a person’s feelings n emotion, the value of relation is remarkable in this movie…
hats off to u Nandita..

Posted by Lily | Report as abusive

I find Indian women very beautiful.

Posted by eltoro | Report as abusive

Congratulations to Nandita.

By the way What is the secret of this beauty of Indian women?

Posted by Chinthaka – Sri Lanka | Report as abusive

Where is the movie on the Hindu pilgrims burnt alive by muslims while in their train trying to get home?? 2002 riots is dry cow – how long are you going to keep milking it?

Posted by Ajay | Report as abusive

Wrong to say that it is a hard hitting debut… Proper would be to term it as “Cheap Opportunists Debut”. It is a film by a person whose life is in media world but has not been able to capture limelight of media. Film is desperate act to attract limelight by portraying one religion (Hindu Religion) as a bad religion. Nandita indulged in this act because Hindu Religion is tolerant and magnanimous. People like Nandita and their work stinks.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive

The film starts from nowhere, and ends nowhere. It just lists a handful of unrelated stories. And, as other readers have pointed out, it makes no mention of the original brutal train-burning incident that caused this violent backlash. The film doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know about the post-riots scenario; whether it is Godhra, or Mumbai’s 1993 riots, or Delhi’s anti-Sikh riots.

Paresh Rawal’s performance is acceptable. All other actors, most notably Naseeruddin Shah, have been grossly wasted in the film; their acting talents being of little or no significance to the script. I wonder, given the script, what made a sensible actor like Nandita Das to direct such a film ?

It is certainly a politically motivated film. If Congress can sponsor such a film, i think BJP can make a film on the anti-Sikh riots too, in which the Congress government was the chief perpetrator

Posted by Sameer | Report as abusive

To: Reuters

Please stop linking such ‘filmy’ blogs on your site. A film review is perfectly fine. But the above blog seems more suited to be printed in a film magazine that is intended for a rather dumb audience; certainly not the kind who’d be visiting Reuters..

Posted by Sameer | Report as abusive