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Parzania makers hope for results

The makers of the film hope its release will help solve the real-life mystery at the heart of the film.

india Updated: Jan 25, 2007 17:48 IST

The makers of Parzania, a Bollywood movie set to the backdrop of 2002 communal riots in India's western state of Gujarat, hope its release will help solve the real-life mystery at the heart of the film.

Where is a child that went missing during some of the most brutal religious riots in India's post-independence history? The film is based on the true story of the disappearance of a couple's 13-year-old son, Azhar, and their five-year search for him after communal riots that left about 2,500 people, mostly Muslims, dead.

"One of the most important aims of the film is to help Dara and Rupa Mody find their son Azhar," director Rahul Dholakia, a Los Angeles-based film maker and a close friend of the Mody family, told Reuters from Mumbai.

The riots erupted after 59 Hindus travelling on a train died in the town of Godhra after a fire blamed by many people on a Muslim mob -- sparking widespread rioting against Muslims.

A photograph of Azhar, who was 13 when he went missing, is displayed at the end of the film. The young boy's family are Parsis, members of the Zoroastrian community in India, and were attacked by rioters even though they were not Muslims.

Much has been written about the riots, but it has mainly focused on the killings of Muslims. The film is the first to focus on the impact the violence had on India's small community of Parsis, a distinct religious group.

"I was holding my daughter Binaifer's fingers and she was holding Azhar's arm," said Azhar's 41-year-old mother, Rupa Mody.

"We were surrounded by fire in the kitchen and could not see anything. I rushed out with the kids and saw a mob. When I turned to pick up Azhar he was not there," she added.

The family has spent much of the last five years trying to find Azhar and has filed a court petition. On weekends they go around Ahmedabad looking for Azhar with a photograph.

"My heart doesn't believe that my son is not there with us," says Azhar's father Dara, who works as a movie projectionist.

"Watching the movie based on the tragedy of my own life does not disturb me, it has rather encouraged me to continue the hunt for my son," said Dara.

Dholakia, however, has found it hard to find distributors for Parzania in Gujarat and will be releasing the film himself in a few cinemas there. But he said the film's possibly controversial theme has little to do with this.

"Selling an English film of this kind is difficult ... But I feel language is immaterial as the subject holds universal appeal," Dholakia said. The film was critically acclaimed at its premiere at the 2005 International Film Festival of India in Goa but a few critics said that it focused too much on the agony of Muslims and not Hindus.

The director is optimistic that Indian audiences will see Parzania as a "pro-humanity" film. "I don't anticipate any trouble if people view it as a story about a family trapped in the riots and looking for their son, which is what the film is about," said Dholakia.

Parzania derives its name from a fantasy world in the film created by its 10-year-old protagonist Parzan. Dholakia says the attack on Parzan's family reveals the mob mentality of the attackers.

"I even know of Christians who were not spared. The attackers in this case were not Hindus, they were fundamentalists who do not belong to any faith," Dholakia said.

Parzania which stars arthouse cinema stars Naseeruddin Shah, Sarika and American actor Corin Nemec, had been cleared by India's Censor Board with minor cuts. According to media reports, it is a strong contender for the National Film Awards. The film, screened at film festivals around the globe, is slated for a mainstream release in Britain later this year.

"Please see the movie. You will know what a mother goes through after losing her child," said Rupa.

First Published: Jan 26, 2007 08:00 IST