Wednesday, January 24, 2007


By Fr Cedric Prakash sj

Parzania is an ordinary story told in an extraordinary way.....

It is the story of Parzan, a ten year old who constantly escapes into his dream world filled with mountains of ice-cream and plenty of cricket; a world in which every one is happy and smiling and loving each other....Where all are at peace....Where hate and pain do not exist. To this dream world, he constantly transports himself and his eight year old sister Dilshad. It is in Parzania that the joy, beauty and innocence of childhood blossoms into feelings that touch ones heart. It is in Parzania that Parzan and Dilshad would always want to live and remain......until one day that world comes crashing down.

Parzania is a story about the Gujarat Carnage of 2002. Literally nothing unreal, utopian or make-belief. As one sees fanatical Hindutvadis roaming the streets and baying for blood. No-one is spared. Not even the women and children. The merciless butchering of innocent people very systematically orchestrated by the very powers (the Government and the Police) that are meant to protect lives and safeguard property.

Parzania is no fairytale but the sad story of a tragedy that destroyed not just one family but in fact the lives of thousands of people.

The essence of this story centers around a Parsi family living in Ahmedabad. Cyrus

(Naseeruddin Shah) is a film projectionist in a local theatre. He is married to Shernaz (Sarika). With their two little children Parzan (Parzan Dastur) and Dilshad (Pearl Barsiwala), they constitute a typical happy middle-class family: warm, sheltering, religious minded yet able to transcend the narrow confines of religion and bigotedness. Their friends are both Muslims and Hindus. Their problems are not about religion but about the simple, ordinary things of daily life. Friendship and bonding take place in the most natural way; in the gossipy confines of one’s kitchen or over a bottle of liquor clandestinely bought !

Allan Webbings (Corin Nemec) is a young American Scholar busy trying to research on Gandhi and on Indian Philosophy. Disillusionment seems to take its toll on the young scholar as he fritters away his time aimlessly; but his world is rudely shaken as he witnesses a women being burnt alive on the hood of his car by a fanatical mob. For him, the only escape is his typewriter as he hammers out page after page, telling the world of what is taking place in Gujarat. His role is of the typical commentator, a Social Activist, who just knows that what is happening is wrong and has to take a stand about it.

Parzania weaves into the lives of people, some building bridges, others destroying them. Some trying to build fortifications, others trying to surmount them.

When I saw Parzania at a special screening in Delhi on December 18th 2006, I was literally transported to the days of the violence that ruled Gujarat for so many weeks and months. It was no longer a film but a reliving of events that literally destroyed the foundation of all our beliefs and of our faith in humanity. The cries of help were not the cries of five years ago but the cries of hundreds and thousands of people who still live a marginalized life on the fringes of society without access to what they rightly deserve, as citizens of a secular and democratic country. It is the cry of thousands of people who still long for justice from a society which arrogates on itself the adjective “Vibrant”.

After seeing the film, I spent a long evening with Rahul Dholakia, the brilliant Film-maker who has directed Parzania. My first question to him was “What prompted you to make such a film?”. His answer was clear. The family concerned (the Modys – Dara, Rupa, Azhar and Binaifer), were his personal friends. When Azhar disappeared in the wake of the Gujarat Carnage from the Gulbarg Society, and when he had realized the tremendous hate and violence that was rampant all over, his conscience did not permit him to keep silent. He wanted to do something; to find where Azhar was and to tell the story of the Gujarat Carnage so that the terrible tragedy which has visited the Mody family and several others, would not visit anyone, anytime, anywhere. To make the film, Rahul Dholakia needed plenty of courage, very specially in facing the hostility of several, even from within his own family and circle of friends. However, after careful research and roping in some of the best in the field, Dholakia has been able to give the world a masterpiece which will surely be acclaimed by many while raising the hackles of some.

But those who object to the film MUST first listen to Rupa Mody.....the cries of a mother who lost her only son, in the Gujarat Carnage. She still does not know whether he is dead or alive. All that she can do, in pain, to wait in hope, really hoping that one day her Azhar will come back to her, to that very world which the lost boy Parzan creates in Parzania. Having known Rupa Mody in a personal way, one cannot but take a stand on the side of a mother who is still knocking at every possible door for her son’s return.

Parzania may never make it to the “Oscars”...that is not is a story of our reality: you and me. There are the fantasies, the world we would like to live in. There are the pains where are hopes are belied and our dreams are shattered. There is the brute reminder that like Parzan, hundreds and thousands are literally shut off into oblivion, thanks to the hate, callousness and violence that exist in our society.

Parzania is about taking a stand. Taking a stand for truth and justice. It is about exposing those who were responsible for killing innocent people. It is above all, taking a stand so that the Gujarat Carnage is never ever repeated.

Parzania is a MUST SEE for all who intend doing something about what is happening to the secular and democratic fabric of our country. It is a MUST SEE so that we can change, so that Parzania is no longer the fantasy of a little boy, but a reality which is built on justice, compassion and peace....!

This film will be released in several theatres across the country on January 26th 2007. Don’t miss Parzania !

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