Making 'Parzania' was a guilt trip: Rahul Dholakia

Jul 22, 2006 Ashish Mehta


New Delhi, July 21 (IANS) Rahul Dholakia, whose stunning "Parzania" relates a heart-wrenching incident from the 2002 communal violence in Gujarat, terms his film a guilt trip.

"I am born and brought up in Ahmedabad. When something like this (the sectarian strife) takes place, you feel equally responsible. It (making "Parzania") was a guilt trip," Dholakia said.

Sparked off by the burning of a train coach in Godhra in which 59 Hindu passengers were killed Feb 27, 2002, the statewide violence left at least 1,000 people - a majority of them Muslims - dead and many more homeless.

Parzania, a young son of a middle-class Parsi couple, went missing Feb 28, 2002, after a mob attacked a Muslim-dominated neighbourhood where the family lived.

"It is a true story. This happened to a friend of mine. When I heard about it from him, I thought this story must be told," said Dholakia.

The young boy who inspired the film, called Azar, is still missing and the film ends with an appeal to help trace him.

The powerful film centres around the struggle his parents - played by Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika - have made to find the light of their lives. In the process, it also lays bare the madness, hate, political machinations that gripped Mahatma Gandhi's Gujarat for weeks.

Making the film was predictably a challenge.

"Thankfully, there are non-conventional financiers for such projects. Also, many including Naseer and Sarika worked with virtually zero remuneration," said the filmmaker.

Moreover, he had to be careful shooting in Ahmedabad that is yet to recover completely from the aftermath of one of the worst riots in its history.

"Gujarat doesn't know I shot the film," Dholakia told IANS.

There is a scene showing activists of a radical Hindu group - a not-so-veiled reference to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) - planting saffron flags on Hindu households and shops run by the majority community in a 'pol', or old-city neighbourhood, to mark places not to be touched while attacking the minority community.

Dholakia recalled how they got away with the shoot in the walled part of the city though the unit was asked if they were from the VHP.

While the film has earned kudos in the festival circuit - it was screened in New Delhi Thursday at the eighth Osian Cinefan Festival Of Asian Cinema where the audience applauded Dholakia - its commercial release is still facing uncertainty.

Part of the reason could be the volatile ground it covers.

Though the film, dedicated to the victims of the Godhra tragedy and the ensuing violence, shows acts of humanity as well as of terror from either side of the communal divide, some viewers have alleged it is one-sided and glosses over the account preferred by a section of the majority community.

"It is one-sided to the extent that we have sided with the family. Many people, including Gujaratis, have seen it in America. Many of them do not agree with certain things. But they all feel what happened was wrong," Dholakia said.

Dholakia, who left Gujarat for film studies in the US, admitted he was not sure if the film would be released in India, though the censor board has now okayed it.

"That was one reason I chose to make it in English. The other reason was that it deals with a universal issue. Such things are happening around the world."

Asked if he would like his home state to see this film, he said: "Why Gujarat, I want to see it released across India."

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