Friday, February 23, 2007


Parzania is an ideal follow up to Black Friday, capturing the next big communal tragedy to fall upon the next big metropolis (and state) of western India. While Black Friday was all about the planning which goes behind a tragedy, Parzania is about the victim's, usually innocent bystanders, sufferings. In fact, Black Friday risked stereotyping of Muslims so much, what with the surnames and the locales of the culprits, that Anurag Kashyap had to possibly show the Babri Masjid demolition to negate it. Here, director Rahul Dholakia creates a true-blue pitch against the Hindu fundamentalists, who completely took over during a mad fortnight in Gujarat.
Dholakia is a Bollywood director, and it shows, especially in the first half when he is establishing his characters. His last movie was Kehta Hai Dil Baar Baar, a comedy starring Jimy Shergill and Kim Sharma, which no one bothered to see. He made Parzania because he was close friends of the Modys, on whose real-life travails the movie is based. So one gets all the caricatures of a happy middle-class family- doting on each other, always in a good playful mood, and have no telephone at home?! The family is Parsi - neither Hindu, nor Muslim - but no one seems to know the difference, or care. They are trapped in the middle of a State-led-&-planned communal carnage, unleashing Hindu fundamentalist forces on Muslim-dominated localities.
Parzania is a very low-budget film, in which the lead actors (Naseerudin Shah and Sarika being the famous names) apparently acted for free. Rajdeep Sardesai's CNN-IBN is the Media Partner of the movie. And why not, Rajdeep was the most famous journalist who reported on the riots with all his professional (and rather correct) biases for NDTV. To reach out to a larger global audience, the movie is in English, and I somehow thought it made it very artificial, more so when the vulgar happenings (like the police investigation) have to be captured in Hindi. I do not know how much sub-titling costs, but it would have achieved the desired impact much more realistically.
The most imaginative thing about Parzania is its title - an imaginary ideal world which the boy-protagonist, Parzan - used to dream and talk about to his sister. There is an outsider's perspective, in the form of a cynical perpetually-drunk American student, trying to find meaning in his own life by doing a research-thesis on Gandhi. He begins off saying that the USA has a higher homicide rate than India (is it because of better case registrations?); by the end he has kicked off his drinking habit, as he is one of the family. There is also a Gandhian hosting him, and he is at a total loss to explain the going-ons in Gandhi's birthplace.
Parzania comments on religion, and how we use it? So while the Hindu mob organizes itself under Shri Rama's banner, the Muslims want to avenge the rioting. The Parsis belief of living in harmony with nature (and their surroundings) is continuously reinforced. In fact, when all seems lost, Naseer does the navroz (the stringent fast observed by Parsis), in the faint hope maybe that will re-unite him with his son. This is the strongest statement - ever wondered why all religions, especially in Asia, ask you to observe such strict fasting (and maybe cleansing) rituals.
Out of the cast, while Naseer is good as ever in his umpteenth Parsi portrayal, it is Sarika who surprises. Her anguish at losing her son, and even taking the Bajrang Dal's (or some similar sounding organization) help in locating him, is aptly believable. Corin Nemec as the American is rather predictable. The two kids, Parzan Dastur (playing Parzan) and Sheeba Chadha are the cutesy types, the way they are expected to be. The guy who plays the CM is very effective in his cameo, his dire warnings on television to the Godhra perpetrators have been dramatised sufficiently to convey genuine menace.
I thought Govind Nihalani's Dev captured the essence of the communal riots, and the madness much better, especially as it also covered a cop's dilemma. However, in spite of all the cliches, where you can easily predict what is going to happen next, Parzania does make an impact. In the end, the photograph of the real boy, Azhar Mody, who has been missing since the riots, is displayed. It is an absolute shame that we still cannot find him.

1 comment:

svety said...

Parzania hit me hard. I was sold on Black Friday before entering the theatre. With Parzania I had resisted because I did not want to see a "serious negative" movie. 20 mins into the movie, the English jarred. 30mins into the movie, I was not even aware it was English.For me, Parzania was more than a movie abt communal carnage and a missing boy. It was about our essential need for escapism and the shelter we desire to find in and through religion and ideology. Every character in the movie was defining their own crutch. So true to what we do in real life. So the kids used imagination, the adults used gandhi, hindutwa, spiritual cleansing.
The riot scenes were cathartic and so so real. Put me off religion for good I think. Not that I gave much credence to it earlier.