Director: Rahul Dholakia
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Sarika, Parzun Dastur, Pearl Barsiwala, Corin Nemec, Raj Zutsi
Storyline: About a Parsi family that is caught up in the Gujarat communal riots of 2002
Bottomline: The subject overshadows the filmmaking, acting and everything else.Parzania (the -zania pronounced as in Tanzania) is a brave and significant tale about a family belonging to a neutral community caught in the communal riots of Gujarat.It is told from the point of view of a young American, Allan Webbings (Corin Nemec), a clever move that ensures the film is not seen as a lopsided account of the events of February 2002.The film was made in 2005, but due to the delicate nature of the subject, has been a while in making its theatrical release. It is based on a true story about friends of Rahul Dholakia who lost their son Azar in the riots.The film ends with a shot of Azar, with the plea to pass on any information about the boy, who is still missing.The Parsi family of Cyrus Peethawala (Naseeruddin Shah), Shernaz (Sarika), Parzan (Parzun Dastur) and Dilshad (Pearl Barsiwala) is picture perfect.They live in a walled in part of the city of Ahmedabad. Cyrus and Shernaz share a warm, familial bond and dote on their children, the cricket-crazy Parzan and his sister. Parzan has created an imaginary world `Parzania,' where people play cricket all day in a land of chocolate buildings and ice-cream mountains.Into their life comes Allan, a hard drinking, harder cussing, cynic, trying to gain some perspective on life.Then one day, they hear news over the radio of the Godhra carnage. The Peethawalas reassure themselves that it has no bearing on their lives as Godhra is three hours away. But they soon realise how wrong they were, when a mob of religious fanatics come to their residence baying for the blood of the Muslim community, in retaliation to the Godhra event.
Journalistic accountWhat follows is a largely journalistic account of how the State (represented in TV grabs of the Chief Minister calling for retribution on the community to which the Godhra massacre perpetrators belonged) sponsored the violence by not doing anything and the law sat aside and watched as people were killed.The film is a story that must be told, and therefore makes for compelling viewing. But Dholakia makes it clear that he does not aspire to entertain the viewers. There is none of the commercial drama of Mani Ratnam's `Bombay' that dealt with the communal riots in Mumbai. This perhaps makes it less feasible to the audience that thrives on exaggerated emotions, and the knowledge that everything will be all right, ultimately. `Parzania' presents some impressive acting, particularly from Sarika. Besides the fact that she is breathtakingly beautiful, she also does a convincing job of a mother desperately trying to hold her family together. SUSAN MUTHALALY