Monday, 22 June 2009

Movie Review: Parzania

My friend Anvika asked me, "I read your movie review about me about Firaaq, so why haven't you written the movie review of Parzania?" I replied, "I agree that both films were based in Gujarat about the communal violence but then, it is not mandatory that I should have watched Parzania." She refused to believe me, so I finally succumbed to Anvika's request and decided to watch the film all over again. Anvika, here's the review for that:

When I first heard the word, "Parzania", I wondered what it really meant. The answer to the question lay in the film itself. It's the name of an imaginary world that little Parzan creates for his sister and himself. Now, Parzania is not the greatest film I've seen and its not even the kind of movies I would keep watching till I die. Parzania is a film set in post-Godhra Gujarat, about an innocent Parsi family whose sanctity and peace is lost forever, after the horrifying communal riots. Based on a true incident, the film follows the story of a Parsi couple Cyrus and Shernaz Pithawala played by Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika, whose ten year old son goes missing in the riots. The film tracks the couple's repeated and continuing efforts to find their son who seems to have vanished without a trace.

The film also sheds light on the matter in which everyone from politicians to the police who exploited the climate for their own personal benefit. The thing about Parzania that it makes it so relevant is the fact that such a tragedy could strike anyone. Worse still is not entirely unjustified fear that we now live in a country where a situation like Godhra and riots that ensued could happen all over again. The part that I appreciate most about Dholakia's film is its completely balls-out approach to be as upfront, honest and factual as possible, without mincing words, without trying to sugarcoat and without trying to soft-peddle the truth. Having said that, its true that Rahul Dholakia steers clear of sensationalism and that whole beating-the-chest style of grabbing attention.

Rahul tells the story as it is, because the story in itself is so tragic that doesn't need to be dramatized for effect. Now there's no doubt that Parzania will throw up many questions about important issues like religious intolerance and communal polarisation, but sitting in the chair and watching the film unfold, is what you'll find drawn into is the heart-wrenching human story that forms the film's real core. Who cannot identify with the pain and suffering of a mother whose son is nowhere to be found? Who cannot relate to the helplessness of a man whose family is uprooted for no fault of theirs?

There's no doubt whatsoever that much of Parzania appeal lies in the superlative performances delivered by its protagonist pair. Naseeruddin Shah makes Cyrus Pithawala such a flesh-and-blood character that you can relate to his trauma completely. A desperate father looking for his son amidst a heap of corpses, pleading to the corrupt police officers, turning to faith to see him through the difficult times, Naseeruddin Shah plays the part with instinct, bringing the kind of believability that only great actors like him can strum up.

How I wish Smita Patil would have been alive to be act in a movie like say Firaaq or probably Parzania. Sarika, too, did a good job by infusing her character with a next-door-housewife kind of authenticity, and then she backs it up with such spontaneous passion as the angry mother unwilling to give up the search. It's a performance that stays with you long after the film is over. No wonder, she was bestowed the National Award for this movie.

I recommend Parzania because it documents a shameful chapter out of a past that cannot be erased. It's a film that must be watched because it's important to see what happens to innocent people when religious politics takes over. I am very impressed by Parzania because the film doesn't sermonize. Instead, the director Rahul Dholakia vents out his own feelings through the American student who hammers out diatribe after angry diatribe on his rusty typewriter, condemning the fanatical fuel fire fuelled by a selfish government.

Parzania is a film that must not be missed. It's a chilling story about real human loss in the face of communal violence. It's like that bolt of electricity that's soemtimes needed to shake you up and wake you up.

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