ZIYA US SALAM
Rahul Dholakia's `Parzania,' centred on the 2002 Gujarat riots, is at last releasing this month.
"It is [a] pro-humanity film. It does not project any one community in a bad light, only the wrong elements."
Gujarat did not know he was covering the State's lasting shame for posterity. But unsung Rahul Dholakia, barely a-film-old director, was busy filming the State's worst violence in recent times. "It was a kind of guilt trip," says Dholakia, as he talks about `Parzania,' shot in 2003, and finally releasing this month. Nothing to do with the quality of the film, just the fact that market is still not receptive to a cinema that does not fall in the bracket of entertainment. "I started writing it in 2002. It took one and a half year of research, then followed four months of shooting and another six months of post-production work. But it has been waiting for release for a year and six months now."
Never gave up hopeNot that Dholakia ever gave up hope. "I never gave up but honestly releasing it has been much more difficult than making it. In many territories, including Mumbai, I am releasing it on my own. The film made it to international festivals and won acclaim. It was also said to have won national awards. The distributors liked the film but nobody bought [it]. Now PVR and Inox are helping out with the release in Bengaluru Delhi, Kolkata, Nizam and maybe Chennai. It is being released in Gujarat too."That must give a lot of satisfaction to Dholakia for he had to shoot the film virtually unknown, and preferably unseen. "Yes, it is. We got away with the shoot in the walled part of Ahmedabad city... I don't understand the psyche of people who disrupt film screenings or shooting... It is just a pro-humanity film. And why just `Parzania'? I have seen what people do to films without understanding the meaning. Films like `Fire,' `Water'... there are so many such cases. My film is not so much a Hindu-Muslim saga. It is about a family that suffered a trauma. "People allege that I made this film to win an award. Some say I made it to make money out of the tragedy... But my argument is simple: I made the film to portray a tragedy, which involves us all, be it Gujarat of 2002 or Bosnia or even Iraq... Films like this arouse awareness and evoke sympathy at the human level for the victims. When you kill one person, you don't kill him alone. You kill an entire family."`Parzania' is, incidentally, the real life story of one such family. That of a Parsi boy, Azar, who disappeared during the riots. And the consequent trauma of the family following the possible murder.Dholakia recalls, "Exactly five years ago, on January 14, we were sitting together in Ahmedabad and flying kites. [The two families, Dholakia and the victim's (Azar).] On February 28 on the heels of the burning of the train in Gujarat, and the violence that followed, Azar went missing when a mob plundered a (certain) locality where the Parsi family also lived. His family was attacked too. "As a Gujarati I felt somewhat responsible for it. I was doing a comedy, `Kehta Hai Dil Baar Baar,' at that time. I realised I did not come to cinema to do comedy alone. I told myself, `If I don't speak up at this time, I will be as responsible as anybody else'." The film might have been born in an hour of great distress, yet it should not surprise anybody that Dholakia finally made `Parzania' which revolves round the struggle of a victimised family in the Gujarat violence. Says the affable young man, who until `Kehta Hai... ' and `Parzania' had concentrated only on documentary films, "My father was involved in Quit India movement. The first martyr from Gujarat, Kinariwala, was with my father when a bullet hit him. My grandfather was a chairman of the state Hindu Mahasabha. His biggest opponent was a Muslim guy, whom he helped at a moment of crisis. Theirs were differences of ideology, not hatred. It was a mature society in Ahmedabad then and we have been so integral with Gujarat that when something like this happened, it would have been a travesty, a grave dereliction of duty if we had kept quiet. We have all along been a secular society, a tolerant [one]." And it is a message of lasting peace after hours of madness that Dholakia has tried to show in `Parzania' that stars Naseeruddin Shah, Sarika, Zakir Hussain besides being helped by an American crew. Confesses Dholakia, "Naseer, Sarika, Zakir... all worked for virtually zero payment. I would say free. Even the foreign crew worked almost for free."Why? "All because the film relates a gut-wrenching incident from the 2002 violence in Gujarat."The film has non-conventional financiers. "I was careful of that. If I had got a financier [from a particular community] people would have accused me of being hand-in-glove with the community." Despite that, the film faced trouble from a section of the audience and the press when it premiered at the International Film Festival of India in Goa in 2005. Now the censored version is ready to hit the screen. And Dholakia hopes his film, largely in English, will provoke discussion, not hatred. "It is [a] pro-humanity film. That I have been reiterating from every forum. `Parzania' shows how innocent people can suffer... It does not project any one community in a bad light, only the wrong elements."No stars. No big studio. No big director. In `Parzania' the cause is greater than the individual.