I read in the papers yesterday that one of the purposes of art is to ‘make one see’. Without getting into a debate on ‘art for art’s sake’ and ‘a poem must not mean, but be’, let me add that I think one of the purposes of art (please note – ‘one of’) is to remind us of a reality we would rather ignore or forget about. It is this purpose that the film ‘Parzania’ succeeds in.
‘Parzania’ is not great cinema. Of course, there is some amazing acting – there could be no less given that Naseeruddin Shah essays the role of one of the main protagonists, but a few scenes are clichéd, almost amateurish. However, it is a very powerful movie, and undoubtedly a very brave one (Salaam to the maker Mr. Rahul Dholakia). It took two years for the censor board to clear ‘Parzania’, and after seeing the movie, am surprised (pleasantly so) that it was released in India at all. The film deserves a watch, both for some powerful performances and for the topic it deals with.
The movie tackles the Gujarat riots of 2002 - why they happened, how they were carried out, the complicity of the administrative system, the systematic ethnic cleansing of minority communities in some areas etc. It does this through the story of a Parsi family in Ahmedabad – their lives before the riots, the loss of their son during the riots and how they deal with that loss. And around this kernel are woven the threads of the larger story about the riots. (A few of which just seem to dangle needlessly in the wind, like the track about the American in search of Gandhi, I didn’t quite get it.)
The film-maker makes a lot of unequivocal judgements about the role of the police, government, right-wing Hindu parties etc. There is no fig-leaf for anyone to hide behind in the movie, no subtlety, no euphemisms either – the truth is stated quite plainly. Thankfully, some of the more gory acts of violence are mentioned, but not shown visually.
I think the movie is a must-watch. But don’t forget to take your handkerchief along, you will need it.
Zenobia D. Driver