Gujarat insanity, unvarnished
Panjim (GOA), November 28
It is not in the competition section here at the 36th International Film Festival of India but has been premiered to rave reviews. It is also proving to be a high watermark for lead actors Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika.
It is based on the true-life story of a family which lost its son during the Gujarat riots and is still looking for him. Naseer plays Cyrus, a Parsi, neutral to religious politics. He lives happily with his wife Shernaj (Sarika) in a housing development which is mostly Muslim. Parzan is their imaginative 10-year-old son and Parzania is the imaginary perfect world, which only he and his eight-year-old sister can understand.
But one morning their world changes for ever when thousands of Muslims are slaughtered. Parzan disappears. Cyrus fights for his own sanity and searches for his child. Inquiry commissions are galore but have no meaning for the distraught parents who just want to find their little boy.
Speaking about the film here, Rahul Dholakia said merely shooting the film had been such a benumbing experience that they shudder to think what those who lived through the riots went through.
So why did he choose Sarika for this role? Naseer answered that question in an oblique way: “Because both of us happen to have children and only a parent can fully understand the trauma of such separation”.
Since the film was also targeted at western audiences, an American character, Allan Webbings, has been introduced who arrives in Ahmedabad to find internal peace but gets caught in the riots.
Consummate actor that Naseer is, he refused to meet the real-life person whom he portrays in the film.
Smaller countries are springing pleasant surprises in the world section. “The Red Colored Grey Truck” from Serbia Montenegro is one such film. The 100-minute film has vowed audiences in over a dozen festivals around the world.
With four screenwriting awards already to his credit, its director-screenplay writer Srdjan Koljevic is one of the most produced and awarded screenwriters in Yugoslavia since his debut in 1993. This is his directorial debut.
The film is set in Belgrade of 1991. Yugoslavia is falling apart. Gavran cannot get a driving licence because he is colour blind. As soon as this rural Bosnian introvert obsessed with trucks is released from prison, he steals a truck for a joyride.
Suzana, a city girl into drugs, discovers she is pregnant, but until her term of abortion decides to go to Dubrovnik. She hitchhikes and he almost runs her over.
She is not hurt but under threat from her, he is forced to take her to Dubrovnik. They are from two different worlds, but both are similarly distant from reality. For him, she is the first woman to talk to while, for her he is a village oaf.
But the pressure of danger and the signs of impending war bring them together. The situation around them becomes so absurd that they seem to each other the only “sober” people left.
The red truck which appears grey to the colour-blind hero is symbolic of their topsy-turvy world. The simple story has been craftily told.