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Makes for smooth and unfussy story-telling. In fact, it tells several stories in one film; all of them taking place a month after the Gujarat riots of '02

Starring: Naseeruddin Shah, Deepti Naval, Paresh Rawal, Shahana Goswami, Tisca Chopra, Sanjay Suri
Directed by Nandita Das
Rating: ***

Firaaq marks a hat-trick. It’s the third debut film by a woman filmmaker this year that shows a quiet confidence and competence. Like Zoya Akhtar’s Luck By Chance and Sooni Taraporevala’s Little Zizou, Nandita Das’s Firaaq makes for smooth and unfussy story-telling. In fact, Nandita tells several stories in one film; all of them taking place a month after the Gujarat riots of ’02. The stories are fictional but claim to have been inspired from thousands of true accounts. Even as the narrative moves back and forth from one strand to the other, the steady imagery of TV news plays on in the background.

The prologue sets the tone: truckloads of Muslim bodies being given a mass burial till one Hindu corpse gets dumped alongside. The stories that follow bring out varied human responses to the tragedy. Some of these tracks work better than others. Like the one about the Muslim auto driver who finds his house torched. Will his anger spill over to unleash more violence? Will his wife Munira’s (a wonderfully expressive Shahana Goswami) friendship with the Hindu neighbour Jyoti be able to stand firm in the face of lurking suspicions? It’s the oblique rather than obvious way of looking at the social fissures that makes her tale extremely affecting. Then there is the guilt of the Hindu hardliner’s (Paresh at his best) wife Arti (quietly effective Deepti Naval) who is haunted by the knock on the door. Will she forgive herself for not having helped a riot victim? Will she forgive the sins of her husband? In the middle of the turmoil there is the serenity and harmony of an old Muslim musician’s (Naseer) house, the sadness of a decent era passing us by reminiscent of Saeed Mirza’s Naseem.

The strand that disappoints is the one involving an educated Muslim (Sanjay Suri) grappling with identity issues and cruel discriminations. The tussle within him, though believable, does not reach out and touch. Perhaps because conversations get stilted and cheesy; perhaps because the narrative gets a tad too earnest and self-righteous. Mostly because, instead relying on the power of the oblique, the message gets too obvious.

High Fives


1. Dhoondte Reh Jaoge
2. Gulaal
3. Delhi 6
4. Jai Veeru
5. !3B


1. Race to Witch Mountain
2. Watchmen
3. The Last House on the Left
4. Taken
5. Madea Goes to Jail

Rap Tracks

1. Dead and Gone (T.I.)
2. Kiss me Thru the Phone (Soulja Boy)
3. Heatless (Kanye West)
4. Right Round (Flo Rida)
5. Ain’t I (Young L.A.)

Courtesy: Film Information

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