Nandita Das | India | 2008 | 101’ | Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu, English spoken, English subtitles
The communal riots in Gujarat, western India, in 2002, that left over 1,000 dead, a majority of them Muslims, convulsed India. Interestingly, only two feature films were made on this still simmering issue—one by a man, and one by a woman—Firaaq by Nandita Das. Not only is Firaaq a film of incredible courage—most of the perpetrators of the carnage roam free and silence their critics—but of great sophistication. It’s a woman’s view of a bloodbath: little in-your-face rioting, but with
a raw poignancy that gnaws at your heart. Firaaq, meaning both separation and quest in Urdu, is based on “a thousand true stories.” It looks at the aftermath of the riots, and the effects it had on ordinary people—perpetrators, victims and silent observers.
Mohsin, a young Muslim boy who has been orphaned in the riots, looks for his father. Aarti, a middleaged Hindu woman, punishes herself for refusing to shelter a Muslim woman hounded by the mobs and her own husband. Muneera, a young Muslim woman whose house has been burnt, suspects her Hindu friend Jyoti’s husband. As the burning mobs close in, the elderly, genteel classical musician Khan Saheb, withdraws even deeper into his music. A distilled meditation on the wages of violence.