November 3, 2010 at 9:15 AMNov (Cinema, Musings, Poetry, Soliloquy)

“Saath Suron Mein Itni Taaqat Kahaan Ke Itni Nafrat Ka Saamna Kar Sake?” (Where do the seven syllables hold the strength to fight this hatred?)

This self-suspicion of the age old singer (played by Nasseruddin Shah) in the movie FIRAAQ possibly could have been the major pre-occupation of the director Nandita Das too, while making her first film on life after the 2002 Gujarath genocide, as to how to capsule the trauma in 24 frames per second?!?

Its the same self-suspecion that has been stopping me from writing about the film, evenafter one week. But how to withhold the ripples created by the film?

FIRAAQ is not about the people who were killed, raped and burnt during the massacre. But its about those who continue to die everyday after the massacre, of those who are dying to make a living, its about the surviovrs and their struggle.

The hatred that N.Shah speaks of at the end on the film, starts unfolding from the very first scene of a mass burrial. This scene reminding one of the similar visuals from the Allain Resnais documentary NIGHT AND FOG on German concentration camp, reaches its height when the man burrying the dead bodies, on finding a dead body of ‘another’ religion lifts the spade to hit the dead body! The frustration of a man witnessing the massacre couldnt be depicted in a better way, it appears to me.

While one goes to hit the corpse, there are others who go and hit and damage the tomb/shrine. This is a refernce to the demolition of the tomb of Vali Gujarathi (1650-1707), a Sufi saint-poet who had writte:

Gujarath Ke Firaaq Se Hai Khaar Khaar Dil
Betaab Hai Seenay Mein Aatish Bahaar Dil
Marham Nahi Hai Iske Zakhm Ka Jahaan Mein
Shamsheer-E-Hijr Se Jo Hua Hai Figaar Dil

( My Heart Is Thorn-Filled With Separation From Gujarath
Restless, Frantic, Flam- Wrapped In The Spring
On The Earth There Exists No Balm For Its Wounds
My Heart Split Asunder By The Dagger Of Seapration)

Yes, it appears like there is no balm. Possibly that is the reason why the auto driver in the film when asked “Woh Tumhe Maar Daalte Toh?” (What if they had killed you?) answers “Iss se Wahi Achcha Hota” (That would have been better than this)

What is the ‘THIS’ that he is mentioning about? He himself answers in another dialogue after the police spill all the water collected in a container outside the house. He says “Hum Paani Bachaate Hai Aag Bujhaane Ke Liye, Aur Yeh Log…” (We save water to put off the unexpected fire and these people….) This is the ‘THIS’ he is speaking about- a state where the basic usage of water is not to drink but to extinguish fire!

What words could convey about this traumatic world? Deepti Naval is an epitome of this inability to speak and the silenet suffering in the film. She is contantly haunted by the cry of a lady who begged to save her during the massacre. But with a fascist minded husband there was nothing that she could do to help the lady. The only solution she finds is self-punishment by burning her hand with burning oil, till she finds a boy Mohsen whom she shelters at her home by renaming him as Mohan, to hide his religious identity from her husband.

Shakespeare would have probably rethought about one of his most quoted ‘What’s There In A Name?’ (Romeo and Juliet) if he were to witness the renaming of Mohsen to Mohan. A similar situation is of Sameer who is mistaken by everyone as a Hindu and he is thankful to his father for naming him Sameer and not any other  name which would reveal his religious identity.

Amongst all these sort of violence there is a wedding house where the bride says “The fun has been spoilt by these stupid riots” and there are people who sit in their balcony and show the police the direction in which the victims ran, there are also people who ask the men who raoed “How much did you enjoy?” who in return answer in a dissatisfied tone “What enjoyment are you talking about, when we had to share the enjoyment with others?”

“Some people can carry on as if nothing happened” says Sameer’s wife to which Sameer answers “Because they can.”

Not all can… like Deepthi Naval, in a scene, turns off the tv set unable to see the ripples of violence any more. But even after turning of the tv set, she is continued to be hanuted by the cry of the lady whom she could not save.

The film FIRAAQ similary, even after the title card flows and you walk out of the theatre, will continue to haunt…..

06 April 2009

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