Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Raja Sen | December 16, 2005 18:06 IST (Rediff)

Filmmaking is about telling a story, but every now and then, the story is so strong that the telling isn't as important anymore.

Rahul Dholakia's Parzania is a wake-up call, a powerful eye-opener to the world so close to us, a pointer to the bloodlust lurking beneath the semblance of calm.

It is, quite simply, a film that should be seen.

Don't miss: Rediff pick: Parzania

Based on a true story, Parzania revolves around a Parsi family in Ahmedabad. Cyrus (Naseeruddin Shah) is the local film projectionist married to Shernaz (Sarika). Their kids, Parzan, 10, (Parzan Dastur) and Dilshad, 8, (Pearl Barsiwala) are an imaginative pair, and, as they cavort around the breakfast table, they are a credibly happy household.

Allan Webbings (Corin Nemec) is a disillusioned American, comfortably late with his dissertation and not giving a damn about most things. His tragic back-story is skillfully told, as he casually narrates it over glasses of cheap alcohol to Cyrus while he hangs his hand-washed laundry out to dry. Fascinated by an neighbour's Gandhian preachings (an old bald man with glasses, mind you), Allan is more than content drinking hooch and reading philosophy without necessarily having to believe in it.

And then there is an explosion. Heard only on the radio, it sounds very far away, but the repercussions are felt. Hard.

Godhra leads to bloodthirsty mobs rampaging indiscriminately for unreasonable revenge, the fanatical fire fuelled by a selfish government.

The tale is a painfully simple one. The Parsi family is caught in the midst of the religious madness, and suffers. Shernaz manages to heroically flee with Dilshad, but Parzan is nowhere to be found. Cyrus and the family are relatively unharmed, and Allan offers them room in his own ransacked house.

The American has witnessed a woman being burnt alive on the hood of his car even as he is trying frantically to back away from the scene, and the events in Gujarat open his eyes wider than he had ever expected.

The family waits for Parzan. For any news, because the uncertainty is heartbreaking. But there is no respite. Every lead is a false alarm, every day is an unending trial of their patience, of their resilience. The film is titled Parzania because that's what the jaunty Parzan had christened his world, his imaginary utopia with mountains of ice creams and nothing but cricket -- a world where everyone is happy.

But that is not the real world. The real world is what Allan is hammering out on his typewriter, through a diatribe fuelled by alcohol and loathing, disgust and defiance. The American, more profane than profound, describes the Gujarat riots with angry text, going far enough to make censor-pushing statements like: 'The Parishad is this country's equivalent of the KKK [Ku Klux Klan]'.

Which is why it is hard to believe Parzania will get a wide theatrical release, and which is what justifies the film being in English. While it is obviously unreal to see pillaging hordes saying 'Get off!' instead of something in the vernacular, this is a film that never expected to make it to Indian theatres, and the English is well suited to the narrative.

The fact that Allan is making the politically charged statements that Parzania believes in is a directorial masterstroke, because any Indian character in his place would face inevitable allegations of bias. Also, his expletive-laced speech helps in getting the point across.

The performances in the film are superlative. Sarika is amazing in the role of a lifetime, playing a mother pushed to the extreme. She is believable even when leaping balconies in self-preservation, and her soliloquy at the end is the clincher for the entire film.

Her warm chemistry with Naseer (who too, predictably, turns in a class performance) at the start of the film is great, as is her support to him when he is breaking down at the end.

The children (we've seen Parzan in commercials a million times, but Pearl is a fresh face) are real finds, as is Sheeba Chaddha, who plays Nikhat, a neighbour, with restrained magnificence. Corin Nemec, with a face like Heath Ledger, does quite well.

What Parzania has to be really applauded for is the fact that it strongly believes in itself, and is extremely direct in condemning the State-sponsored violence in Gujarat. The message is simple, angry, and sincere – and deserves to be heard.

As a film, there might be moments you don't agree with the way the film is made, or technically locate flaws in the director's approach, but Parzania wisely holds on tight to the reins of the story, and that automatically makes it a noble effort.

The film ends with a photograph of Azhar, a real boy still missing since the Gujarat riots, in the hope that the film may help his parents, the director's friends, get some news of him.

Parzania is a commendable film, one that needs to be talked about, discussed, recommended and watched.

It is also a film very hard to leave behind.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Asaduddin Owaisi MP Discussion regarding Communal Violence in different Parts of the Country in Parliament

ASADUDDIN OWAISI Mp (HYDERABAD) : Sir, at the outset I would like to compliment the hon. BJP Member for being the devil’s advocate. I happened to go to Vadodara on the 8th of this month. I have even gone to the place where this Dargah stood once. If the municipal authorities were doing a work, why was there a need for the Mayor and the concerned MLA to be there? Why was there a need that all of them had to clap, all of them had to raise religious slogans when this Dargah was demolished? I fail to understand that.I went to the Government SSG hospital to see the 24 injured patients. Out of them, 23 belonged to the minority community. All of them had bullet injuries above the waist. I even went to the houses of the deceased. I do not know whether any of the hon. BJP Members had gone or not. What crime did Mohammad Rafiq Vohra had committed that in front of his house he was first attacked by swords, killed and then burnt? When his family telephoned the local police, the police asked them to go to Pakistan. It is there on record on NDTV. What crime had Ashfaq Ahamed committed that he was shot in the head? He used to work in a night showroom. What crime did Mohammad Ayaz - a boy of 17 years, a brother of three sisters - had committed? All this clearly shows the complicity, connivance, conspiracy, and open support by the Gujarat Government. But for their active support, this incident would not have happened. In the name of development, minorities have been destroyed.Under the Central Wakf Act of 1995, all Muslim places of worship, mosques, dargahs and graveyards are protected. How can any Government go and eliminate a wakf property? Has the concerned State Government conducted any proceedings? Has any order been issued? Nothing has been issued.We are talking about Gujarat only here. At the same time, on April 14, a bomb blast took place in Jama Masjid. I have a complaint here with the Government also. So far, not even a single person has been caught. A bomb blast took place in Benaras. Within 48 hours two youths were killed in an encounter in Delhi and one person was killed in Uttar Pradesh. After 25-30 days’ time, Maulana Waliullah and his associates were caught. Whenever a majority place of worship is attacked, immediately within 48 hours or even ten days five to six Muslim youths are killed in encounters. It happens as if you have a buffer stock of Muslim youths who can be killed any time. When Jama Masjid bomb blast took place, why was this not done? Who is responsible for the bomb blast in Jama Masjid? Why did Delhi Police have to say that it was not a terrorist act when it was a terrorist act? It is not found out as to who was behind that act.The next point is about Uttar Pradesh. We are talking so much about secularism over here. Fifty Muslim youths were hit above the waist in Aligarh. The National Minorities Commission has demanded a judicial inquiry. What action is the Government going to take?I was hearing the hon. Member from Shiv Sena. The hon. Home Minister represents that area, Nanded area. On 6th of April, 2006, a bomb blast took place in the house of Laxman Rajpodwar. They are known Bajrang Dal activists. It was a single bomb blast. Later on, Surya Pratap Gupta the Inspector General of Police of that area said that they were manufacturing bombs. The police confiscated a live IED bomb with a timer attached to it. It was a timer similar to the one that is used in the Jama Masjid bomb. So, who is responsible? Those people are known Bajrang Dal activists. Why is the Maharashtra Government not imposing the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act? What is stopping the Maharashtra Government from imposing that Act on them? Why is the Government of Maharashtra not requesting for a CBI inquiry so that the truth comes out? I am very surprised. Who is going to pay the price? In Ghatkopar bomb blast, Gateway of India bomb blast, all the people have been exoneratedI am really surprised that some upper caste chocolate boys do the demonstration in Mumbai; police do lathi charge; and an inspector is suspended.What about Ghatgopar bomb blast incident? Accused were exonerated. What about Nanded bomb blast incident? How many police people have been suspended? It shows that there is no value for a Muslim life over here.The UPA Government was formed to stop the obscurantist forces. It was a verdict against the communal forces. My main grievance and grudge is with this Government. We know what RSS stands for? Maybe, the Sangh Parivar is celebrating the centenary celebrations of Golwarkar and to pay huge tribute to him, they are indulging in all these activities.In Mahasamud district of Chhattisgarh, on April 23, 2006, a mosque was demolished. In fact, burnt. Koran scriptures were burnt over there. Who is responsible? But for the Sikh community, nearly 20 families would have been killed over there.Not only that, in Rajasthan, in Pali Town, Saint Milad-Un-Nabi procession was attacked. On 11th of April, in Kandura in Madhya Pradesh, Milad-Un-Nabi procession was attaked. There is an end to it.I would like to bring it to the notice of the hon. Minister that in Karnataka, in Budkal, Jagannath Shetty Commission has come out with its Report. There is a huge tension over there. I am bringing this to the notice of the hon. Minister that the Government should take immediate steps to ensure that this tension does not lead to communal riots.I would demand from the Central Government that it should pay compensation to the victims of Baroda. This Government should immediately come to the rescue. I know that it is a State subject. But people are asking that when Sikhs were killed, three lakh rupees were given as compensation, why not to Muslims. What is stopping the Central Government in giving monetary compensation to the people? I think, it is a very important issue.Justice Srikrishna Report is there. Secular Government is there in Maharashtra. The same person who used to say that if Justice Srikrishna Commission Report is implemented, Mumbai would burn. That man is in your Congress Party. Why do you not implement the Justice Srikrishna Commission Report. Nanded incident led this Government to pressurise the State Government there. Let them ask for a CBI inquiry in the Nanded incident. Bajrang Dal activitists were involved. These same people have committed crimes in Parbani and Jalna. I had been to the mosque over there. Unless and until the lives and liberty of minorities are safeguarded, this country cannot progress. If the feeling of insecurity is there, Sir, it is very bad for the nation. I hope the Government will take some corrective action.