This film is set in the backdrop of Hindu/Muslim riots aftermath Godhra incident in Gujarath. It has got five separate (some of them are interlinked) stories running together.
1. Munira (Shahana Goswami) and her husband (Nowaz) return from a vacation to find that their house is burnt during the riots. Munira’s husband suspects a Hindu neighbor to do this act and want to take revenge by shooting him. Munira has a good hearted Hindu friend who wants to help her out.
2. Khan (Naseeruddin Shah) is a musician who is passionate about teaching music to the people around. His disciples stop visiting him during the tumultuous period. He is assisted by a loyal servant (Raghuveer Yadav).
3. Sameer Sheik (Sanjay Suri) and Anuradha Desai (Tisca Chopra) are married. They want to relocate to Delhi as their electronic shop in Gujarath is ransacked during the riots.
4. Arti (Deepti Naval) is going through psychological problems since she could not help in saving a Muslim family who were burnt alive at her doorstep by Hindu fanatics. Her husband (Paresh Rawal) is an uncompassionate person.
5. Mohsin is a small kid whose family is killed in front of his eyes. He is in search for his Abu who was not among the people who were killed in his house.
Shahana Goswami is believable and is true to her character. One can see the fear and insecurity in her eyes. Naseeruddin Shah gave one of his profound performances in this film. Sanjay Suri is very good. Deepti Naval is very good as an elder woman going through a psychological problem. Paresh Rawal is good. The kid who did the role of Mohsin is adorable. Telugu actor Shafi did a small role and gave a commendable performance. Another south actor Nassar did a guest role and he is excellent.
Story - screenplay - direction: Actor Nandita Das who ventured into direction for the first time through this film has chosen a multiple stories and multiple layers concept which is in vogue in Hollywood and world cinema now. This kind of multiple story narration has come in Bollywood films like Life In a Metro, Salaam E Ishq and Mumbai Meri Jaan in the past. A film with similar content Parzania was made a couple of years back. Nandita Das gave a triumphing ending to each of the five stories –
1. Musician Khan resumes taking classing and a handful of Hindu disciples attend him.
2. Small boy Mohsin finally reaches Muslims rescue camp after going through struggles.
3. A docile housewife Arti emancipates from the clutches of her husband.
4. Samir Sheik wakes up to the reality and decides to stay back in Gujarath and face it instead of escaping to Delhi.
5. Muniraa comes out of her suspicion that her Hindu friend was present during her house burning scene.
The stories of this film are based on true incidents. Screenplay of the film is good. Direction is intense. This film does not show much violence and blood in the film, but it plays well at the psychological levels with disturbance the Gujarath riots unleashed. The following scenes are highly disturbing -
1. A truck full of dead bodies dumps them like stones.
2. A man from upstairs dropping a big stone to kill a Muslim.
3. Arti putting severely boiled oil on her wrist to divert her attention from the unforgettable incident.
Other technical departments: Cinematography by Ravi K Chandran is exemplary. He experimented with lighting to get a dark look to the movie. Dialogues in this film are strikingly realistic and intense. Music is good. Editing by Srikar Prasad is fine. This film is extensively shot in old city of Hyderabad and locations are realistic.
Analysis: Firaaq has two means in Urdu – quest and separation. This film beautifully captures the fear psychosis during the Gujarath communal riots in 2002. As this film is aimed at international market, it might project a wrong impression on India as a Hindu-fanatic country though there are four Hindu characters (doctor, Arti, Munira’s friend and Sameer’s wife) that are shown in a good light. However, endings of certain stories in this film are forced and do not have convincing narration. On a whole, Firaaq is a commendable film that deals with realism using highly disturbing content. This film is not for everybody.
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