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NRI filmmaker Rahul Dholakia?s film, Parzania, is the story of a middle class Parsi family affected by the Gujarat riots.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2005 14:59 IST

Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Corin Nemec, Sarika, Parzun Dastur, Sheeba Chaddha, Pear Barsiwala, Asif, Basra, Raj Zutshi, Pushpendra Saini, Ram Gopal Bajaj
Director: Rahul Dholakia

NRI filmmaker Rahul Dholakia’s film, Parzania, the story of a middle class Parsi family in Ahmedabad affected by the Gujarat riots, has triggered off a furore in Goa. But that isn’t why it deserves to be commended.

The film merits support for the very reason that it is a really gutsy cinematic essay set against the backdrop of the communal conflagration that engulfed Gujarat in early 2002 and left an indelible scar on the minds and hearts of people around the country and the world.

The emotional power that drives Parzania stems from the fact that it is the story of a friend of the director’s. “We were on a flight together on January 14, 2002. A month later life had changed beyond recognition,” says Dholakia. The personal anguish shines through the film and impacts it in a way that takes it well beyond the religious politics that it seems to be addressing.

The film narrates the tale of one couple – projectionist Cyrus and his beautiful wife Shernaz – who live in a Muslim majority colony with their two lovable children – ten-year-old Parzan and eight-year-old Dilshad. Their peace and happiness are shattered forever by the insanity that overruns their city.

NRI filmmaker Rahul Dholakia’s film, Parzania, the story of a middle class Parsi family in Ahmedabad affected by the Gujarat riots, has triggered off a furore in Goa.

The sensitive little boy who lives in his own imaginary paradise goes missing and the family is hit by the harsh reality of the human cost of hatred and intolerance

Watching the tragic turn of events from the outside is an American researcher, Allen Webbings, who is in India to explore the meaning of peace, both inner and worldly, through a study of Mahatma Gandhi’s social and political philosophy. What he stumbles upon instead is a society that seems to be coming apart at the seams.

Parzania draws much of its power from the superbly modulated interpretation of the character of Cyrus by Naseeruddin Shah. But equally effective are the performances that Dholakia extracts from the two child actors at his disposal.

Parzania dares to speak the truth without seeking to disinfect it for popular consumption. At the same time, he refrains from adopting an unduly hectoring tone to drive his point home.

“As a filmmaker who grew up in Gujarat, I had to make this film,” says Dholakia. “If I had chosen to turn away and keep quiet, I would have been as responsible for all that happened as the people who actually perpetrated the crimes on the streets.”

But did the heckling that a small section of the audience tried to subject him to particularly perturb him? “No, not at all,” the director asserts. “Only a couple of people in an audience of 800 were making all the noise, while every response of mine was greeted with applause. It is unfortunate that the actions of just two or three people are being projected by the media as the response of the entire audience.”

The producers of the Rs 3-crore Parzania, Dholakia is one of them, are currently in talks with potential Indian distributors. “At the moment, these are only talks,” says the director. “But I hope to have a deal in place before I return to the US.”

Parzania is armed and ready with a certificate from the Central Board of Certification. The process did take a while, but the film got cleared without too much difficulty. “It was screened for a revising committee of experts for final approval,” says Dholakia. “Parzania was cleared with minor sound cuts (these are believed to have pertained to direct references to specific political groups) and no visual deletions.”

So far so good. But the battle for Dholakia’s right to show the people of his own land seem to be far from over.

First Published: Dec 05, 2005 14:57 IST