In a country awash with bans and closed mindsets, making a religious film is a challenge in itself. Before one knows it, there are too many rules, too many perspectives on religion to let the visual medium depict history with a creative licence. Harinder Sikka’s ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’, a film based on Guru Nanak’s life and teachings, which has been courting controversy ever since its first screening at the Cannes Film Festival last year, finally released on Friday in Haryana and other states, even as its screening has been suspended for two months in Punjab as well as Chandigarh.
A moving picture for the diehard faithful as well as others, it has nothing objectionable or against Sikhism. The cast and crew deserve a pat on the back for pulling off a two-and-a-half-hour film depicting Guru Nanak through computer graphics. Despite censorship issues and the limited framework in which they had to work on the biopic, the output is a well-packaged film with impressive performances. The Guru’s preachings will stay etched on one’s memory, thanks to the imagery created via glowing silhouettes and ‘faceless’ side profiles.
The Guru’s journey
The film traces the Guru’s journey in India and beyond to spread the message of unity and Ek Onkar (There’s but one God). The viewer virtually travels with the Guru on his 25-year-long journey to various regions.
Arif Zakaria as Bhai Mardana, the chronicler of the Guru’s life and also the story’s narrator, delivers a standout performance. Besides depicting the role of the Guru’s long-time companion, Mardana also gives expression to the teachings of the founder of Sikhism. However, Puneet Sikka, who plays Guru Nanak’s elder sister Bebe Nanaki -- who recognised his divine qualities way before the others – is not able to make her presence felt.
The background score is captivating, thanks to Oscar winners AR Rahman and Resul Pookutty’s teamwork. The cinematography is glorious, while the locales are stunning. The shabads lend a mesmerising touch.
All in all, ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’, directed by Sartaj Singh Pannu, except for certain stretched scenes, is a must-watch for the sheer connect it makes with believers as well as non-believers and the sense of ‘oneness’ one takes back while leaving the cinema hall.