“Sirf sat suroon mei itni kabiliyat kaha ki aisi nafrat ka samna kar kake (How can just seven musical notes have the strength to stand up against such hatred)”: The way Naseeruddin Shah spells his emotions with this statement is stirring. Nandita Das’s first movie, Firaaq (2008) opens a plethora of facts and truths to the audience. Stories of rampant killings in the communal riots of 2002 leave the audience disturbed and full of questions.
At first, I thought of writing a movie review but then my conscience wouldn’t allow it. People often ignore such articles and judge the book by its cover. Is there a particular reason why I chose this film? No, not at all. It’s not about the movie, there is a larger point to be made here.
We often criticise Bollywood for bringing us a platter of bummers in the name of ‘filmy content’ and prefer watching the Hollywood masala films. This is good because I acknowledge that Hollywood films have a great production value, are original and engaging to the audience. But this does not mean that Bollywood is not producing its own gems. We have stopped searching for the best. My maa always asserts that ‘dhundne par to bhagwan-ji bhi mil jate hai‘ (If you search for it, you can even find god). But the burden of searching can be real and we, as an audience, and especially the Indians, are too lazy to do it. The blame, therefore, shifts to television channels that are popular in reeling the same movie twice or even thrice a week. God knows how many times I have seen the same Thakur Bhanu Pratap (Amitabh Bachchan) puking blood after having the poisoned kheer. It’s us who are served with old malicious content, but we still keep gobbling it up.
Firaaq is not the only movie that deserves appreciation. There are many, for example, Naseeruddin Shah starrer Encounter Killing (2002), which might not have a very good setup or prominent actors, but still delivers a very strong message. Bollywood has not lost its charm of making entertaining movies but we have lost our taste by consuming malicious content. Such movies are available on OTT platforms (where I found them). But not everyone is able to afford the subscription.
We, as the audience, are always kept off track. Access to quality, thought-provoking content that helps us unlearn a few things to make space for new ideas is far from reality. We are conditioned to the regime of ignorance that continues to dominate our unsettled minds. Our brain is left to rot with less controversial cinema. We might like to criticise Bollywood but aren’t we also the ones who steer away from creative movies like Firaaq? Aren’t we the culprits? Aren’t we ignorant? Don’t we need to change for good?
Yash Annadate is a student at Ashoka University. Views are personal.