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The piercing reality of racism: ‘Firaaq’

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In the last 25-30 years, the ghost of communal strife has taken over our Indian society.  Hindus and Muslims look at each other with suspicion.  Apart from Hindus and Muslims, elements like Brahmins, Marathas, and Dalits in Hindu society are also seeing each other in the water.  It is unfortunate that our society is falling prey to the machinations of politicians and the politics of votes.  What we have in front of us in the future is to go to God, Allah.  Anyway …

Any sensible person would be upset while watching the movie ‘Firaaq’.  The film is set against the backdrop of the 2002 Gujarat riots.  The film captures the after-effects of the riots on the riot victims, and effectively conveys the intensity of the riots, even without showing the riots, to people living in comfort zones like ours.  It is true that rioters cause riots for a variety of reasons, but riots have a profound and devastating effect on society.  Those who are killed in the riots escape in a sense, but the lives of those who survive the riots are worse than death.

This is not the story in this movie.  The film is a series of events that took place in the twenty-four hours after the 2002 Gujarat riots.  You see a horrible scene right at the beginning of this movie.  A large pit is dug to bury the bodies of those killed in the riots and the bodies are literally brought out of the truck.  Among a large number of Muslim corpses (the fact is that minorities die more in ethnic riots) also contain the corpses of some Hindu men.  A Muslim man disposing of corpses, anxiously, runs to kill the corpse of a Hindu woman (a Hindu with forehead kumkum).  The thought that racial disorder can cause a person to behave at a very low level is a thorn in our side.

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Aarti (Deepti Naval), the wife of Sanjay (Paresh Rawal), the husband of a Gujarati Hindu family, has gone into a deep pit of depression and guilt after the riots.  A sense of guilt is constantly present in her, as a Muslim woman seeks refuge in Aarti’s house to save herself from some rioters during the riots.  But Aarti does not give shelter to this Muslim woman for fear of her husband.  She cannot help even an innocent Muslim child out of fear of her husband.  Deepti Naval, a tight actress, has shown the involvement of this Hindu Gujarati woman with her beautiful acting.  

Sameer Arshad Sheikh (Sanjay Suri), a highly educated Muslim youth, has fallen in love with a Hindu girl, Anuradha Desai (Tisca Chopra).  The couple’s shop was looted and destroyed during the riots.  Disappointed, Sameer and Anuradha decide to leave Gujarat and go to Delhi.  Anuradha hides Sameer’s last name from the police because one does not know one’s caste or religion by name

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The house of Munira (Shabana Goswami), a Muslim woman, was set on fire during the riots.  Munira and her Hindu child friend Jyoti (Amrita Subhash) are lifelong Friends.  But Munira has doubts that ‘Jyoti’s husband has a hand in burning her house’.  In the fog of suspicion after the riots, the two become friends.  Religion stands in the way of years of friendship.

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An old Muslim musician and classical singer Khansaheb (Nasruddin Shah) is very sad and upset by the Hindu-Muslim riots, violence.  The role of this old singer has been played by Nasruddin Shah.  He spends his life serving music with a caretaker named Karimmiya (Raghuveer Yadav).  During the riots, Karimmiya asks the old Khansaheb, ‘Khansaheb, how come you are not saddened by the brutal killing of Muslims outside the riots?’  To which the old singer answers, ‘Karim Mian, some of our young Muslims are preparing to take revenge on their Hindu brothers, I have heard that!  Man is killing man, I am very sad about that! ‘  The film manages to convey a lot of meaning through small incidents and dialogues …

The film also tells the tragic story of a little boy named ‘Mohosin’ (Mohammad Samad).  Mohosin’s parents and relatives have been killed in the riots.  He wanders the streets looking for his parents with a frightened look.  No one pays attention to this poor Mohosin in such a large scale massacre.  It is heartbreaking to see Mohammed Samad’s performance.  At the end of the film, when you look at Mohosin’s eyes against the backdrop of the fiddle, you get a thorn in your side.  These Mohosin eyes keep asking us many questions, the answers to which we do not have.  Even after the film ends, we still remember Mohosin’s frightened face and compassionate eyes.  Forced to think.  Your brain keeps gnawing …

Produced by Percept Picture Company, Firaaq is directed by Nandita Das.  In fact, Nandita Das was initially known as a ‘good actress’.  He has acted in almost thirty-four films in various languages.  Among the milestones are Fire (1996), Earth (1998) and Tornado (2000).  Directed by Nandita Das in 2008, ‘Firaaq’ has won many awards.  The acting side of ‘Firaaq’ is the best due to the strong star cast, but it makes it easy and direct for the director to convey what he wants to say.

In the 2002 Gujarat riots, about 900 Muslims and over 300 Hindus were killed.  Thousands of Hindu-Muslim families became homeless.  The riots hit the Muslim community hard.  (It is a triune fact that minorities suffer the most at such times.) That is why only most of these characters are Muslims.  In some places, more Hindus have been killed in such communal riots.  If we think neutrally, the flames of riots do not fall on any Muslim or Hindu, but on the whole society.  Even in that, the poor run amok.

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The joke is that in Indian society, it is not only Hindu Muslims who have caste differences.  This faction seems to have formed extremely sharply even among the Hindu-Muslim sub-castes.  Paravachanch gives an example.  Once I got out of the car.  We turned left when the signal fell at a crossroads.  At that moment, a big Fortuner car stopped in front of me on the wrong side.  At first, we were both reluctant to back down.  A man with a thick, smelly forehead, thick gold necklace got out of the Fortuner car and started arguing.  After a while, Nilaja pulled me back.  Then Vijayanmada pushed the car forward and the man who looked like a hooligan said to me, ‘Baman na re tu?  As soon as your bananas are gone, it will be light ‘. 

I was shocked to see the disorder in his eyes.  I didn’t realize that the goon himself was breaking the traffic rules and shouting at me.  Not only was he shouting at me but he was cursing all the Brahmins.  (This householder was not a Muslim at all.) What did caste have to do with the incident that I did not understand?  (Who knows how that gangster knew that I am a Brahmin?) Neither by color nor by behavior.  A man like me, who looks like an ordinary four-legged man, can look like a Muslim only when he wears a Muslim-style hat, but when he smells, he looks like a Hindu.  In fact, I never do rituals or worship.  I am a complete atheist.  I try my best to live as a human being.  Unfortunately, in our Indian society, caste hatred has intensified.  This is the reason why people like me, who have a humanitarian vision beyond caste and religion, get upset after watching movies like ‘Firaaq’.

Written By Vikas Meshram, You can give him feedback on vikasmeshram04@gmail.com

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