Parzania - A genocidal loss
At last, after what seemed like an endless wait at the Censor Board, Rahul Dholakia’s “Parzania” opened on January 26, 2007, significantly coinciding with India’s Republic Day.
Dholakia had to face hassles, because “Parzania’ – though a story about a missing boy and his distraught parents – uses the 2002 Gujarat genocide (this is the term I would use for the so-called riots in which thousands were butchered and thousands lost their homes) as a backdrop. Based on the tragic experience of Dholakia’s own friend and his wife, who lost their 14-year-old son in Ahmedabad, the film punches power into what is seemingly a piece of invention.
Often, such fictionalised accounts of true incidents make a far greater impact on the mind than a documentary. Had Dholakia made one, I wonder if it could have been as effective.
“Parzania” uses the excellent ability of Naseeruddin Shah, a theatre projectionist, and his screen wife, Sarika, to build superb characters who live through the entire gamut of emotions: from joy to despair to grief and finally to a sense of resignation. There is an excellent scene where we see Naseer break down in the darkness of a burnt-out cinema, interestingly screening “Kabhi Kushi, Kabhi Gham”.
But this work clearly belongs to Sarika, whose performance is exceptional, reminding us of what a great actress she is and what a loss it was to Indian cinema when she was away in Chennai as wife and mother.
Through such outstanding portrayals, we come face-to-face with the enormity of the carnage that turned man into beast, and Dholakia packs most frames with the pain and sorrow of unimaginable loss. Unlike some others, he does not give us a lollipop end; rather, we come out of the auditorium not just wounded but terribly ashamed.
The picture could have done with some tighter editing though: the run-up to the blood and gore seems unnecessarily stretched, and “Parzania”, in parts, appears somewhat preachy. The attempts at rekindling Gandhian ideals distract us from the main thread of thought. There is also a distinctive effort to unite Hindus and Muslims, and however well Dholakia may mean, such an approach can be easily misread.
Finally, it may sound a little odd when the newspaper boy on the screen speaks English or the street-corner tea-wallah, but Dholakia would tells us that this is the only way to reach out to a pan-Indian, even a pan-global, audience. But, he forgets that in the bargain, he would lose out on India's nearly 70 per cent citizens who live outside urban areas. And they have a right to watch "Parzania" as much as anybody else.
Despite all this, I would say “Parzania” is one of the better celluloid creations I have seen in recent months.
(Posted on this website on January 26 2007)