Sunday, February 04, 2007


It is only political correctness that is prompting people to not dare to say anything against the current, the current which might pit them with 'fundamentalists' and the 'regressionists' and something which can cause them to be looked as uneducated louts or stone-hearted intelligentsia. But, the point is that art is for art's sake, and not for preaching or propaganda or an advertisement for missing. If you've got to indulge also in any of these pleasures, then package it with an ultrafine veneer, so that not even the keenest of critics cannot see through, and even if they can the film's power and beauty compels them to shut off.

This is where Parzania fails, terribly. Fine efforts by Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika go in vain - since there's nothing else. The love within the family and the easy relations between the different communities living in the same chawl - they are only being tried to be shown. For one thing, when you know that the dialogues would have been in a local language, it's difficult to digest English, especially for things such as sundry and trivial remarks. Otherwise, Americanise the film. It is only the American who is using the f__ word so many times, but do the Indians not speak it? Most of them, especially the Gujaratis, speak it even more (of course, the local language variants) - then why not? You have shown so many different people in the film, of all shades and hues, and yet somehow all are looking so subdued, so dazed and insensible, so much like amateurs in a debutante play.

The gist of the problem? The film does not touch you, anywhere. It still connected with me, somehow, since I have experienced the riots, the volatile situation, that was in Gujarat those days, and always haunts any Gujarat/Maharashtra city or town, village or hamlet. Maybe, why that is the case, more on that sometime later, on my personal blog. The child artistes are terrible - they are neither good actors nor sensitive ones, and nor charming ones. Now, in such a scenario, how does a film, whose sole premise is the tragedy of a lost child, connect? The director has probably even taken the wrong pains - Parzan's sister is shown gaily swinging in each frame of the film, even when she is getting up daily to chalk up the remaining days. Maybe, the director thought that this would bring out the youthfulness of the girl, the innocence of the girl - but believe me, it is looking so much terribly out of place (and besides, no child, except probably a retarded one, would behave so). And when you juxtapose with the later dialogue of Sarika that her daughter is terribly unhappy on the inside and she only does not show it - it really comes to being ridiculous.

It's not only the child artistes. All the characters except Shah and Sarika are totally out of place. Raj Zutshi as a Muslim itself is terrible casting - and that too one with an angst? The Gandhian, the supposed mentor of the American in the film, is looking a total hypocrite and is making look the whole Gandhism a terrible flip-flop. There is no intensity, no key on which the film operates. It's just a mess of saffron flags, the insufferable child artistes (the newspaper boy another one who adds to the agony), the totally out-of-place music by Zakir Hussain, and a beautiful-looking Sarika. In spite of Naseeruddin's acting, it is she who, for me, somehow props the film - but pity that she is given such sketchy and immature bits as delivering a lecture at the end of the film - very melodramatic and very, very film-destructive. The only wonder that how did the film-makers manage to put the name of Pande in? Really courageous - for PC Pande, the then Ahmedabad commissioner of police, was and is the one guilty of so many people's blood - he should be actually hanged, simply.

The real problem is the story of the film itself. The real picture is a very complex one in Gujarat, and to simplify or bias it is not only unfair, but also trying to put a spoke in a smoothly running wheel. The story might have been based on the real-life search for a Parsi boy, but this is a film. Show a Muslim family itself. And I would show the angst, the bias, the aggression that most Muslims in India suffer from - it is true that they celebrate Pakistan's victories, they are always on the lookout to poke fun at Hindu gods and ways of living, and that they do not share any patriotism whatsoever for India. It is true, very true! The problems are different, and mainly two. One, the usual one of generalisation. Just because someone is a Muslim, you do not classify that person as another one of those who try to undermine India. Exceptions are always there anywhere, and they are not rare, but many. Two, even if someone is a biased Muslim, how do you have the right to tell that person to move on to somewhere, or to injure him or his property? That person is a human being first of all, and all other things are created by us. Circumcision is not something based on which you classify humankind - the point is sorely missed by the film. Another thing - the violence in Gujarat was only facilitated, and probably provoked, by the state government. But, the Hindus of Gujarat, usually a very timid and cowardly lot, are very rabid fundamentalists - and the opportunity was perfect to indulge in some foreplay. (I call it foreplay, since Gujarat was and is only the so-called lab for the Sangh Parivar; they still hope to indulge in the bloodshed wherever they can, on a genocidal scale.)