Being Cyrus and Shernaz

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By Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika were in town to talk about Parzania, which takes you back to the horrors of the Gujarat riots, writes Poulomi Banerjee
  • Published 24.01.07
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Parzania is the dream world of chocolates, ice-cream and cricket, of a 10-year-old that comes crashing down when the child goes missing during the Gujarat riots. Made in English, Parzania revolves around the real-life tragedy of a happy, middle-class Parsi couple who lose their son to the Godhra riots.

“I had known the family since before the riots. When they lost their son, I thought the story needed to be told. The aim is not to sensationalise, but to show what hatred can do,” said director Rahul Dholakia, who was present with the star cast of the film — Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika — at INOX (City Centre) on Tuesday. “I made the film in English because I thought this was a global issue. Also, I was unsure whether I’d have problems releasing the film in India. But the censor board gave no trouble. The distributors, though, were a little apprehensive about whether the film will do business,” said Rahul.

The film is set during the Gujarat riots, but focuses on the family’s loss, rather than taking a stance against any authority or group. “The authorities come in only when they come up in the narrative of the tragedy,” explained the film-maker. Though the film has been shown at festivals across the world, the real-life counterpart of Cyrus, the father whose son is still missing, saw the film recently. “His family broke down, and he said that the film must be shown in Gujarat. At times, when you make a film like this, you feel guilty, even when it has been made with honest intentions,” said Rahul.

Parzania releases this Friday.

Naseerspeak

“I did not go in for any research for the character, in the sense that I did not go meet the family before the film. I thought it would be too painful for them to have actors coming and trying to feel their grief. It was not difficult for me to empathise with them, because after all I too am a parent. Also, I think by trying to depict the tragedy and not project the persons as they are, we have been able to make it more universal,” said Naseeruddin, who plays Cyrus, the distraught father. “All films are not made with the view to draw in the audience and make money. Parzania is a story that needed to be told, and I felt I had to be part of it.”

The most poignant memory of the film for him remains meeting the bereaved family, after the shooting was completed. “When I met them, at the very place from where their son had gone missing, I realised that we have been able to portray the tragedy only to a certain extent. And perhaps projecting the full depth of their grief would have been too much to bear for us and for the audience,” said Naseer.

“I feel serious cinema always has the responsibility of representing the truth. The reason why Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen’s movies are so appreciated is because they truthfully represent the period in which they are set,” said the actor-turned-film-maker.

The poor response to Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota has, however, put Naseer off directing. “Film-making is a racket today,” he laughed. The great actor is also taking a break from the big screen “though not from the stage”, which he still finds “rewarding”. For now, teaching tops his priority list. “I feel I have to pass it on to the next generation.”

Sarikaspeak

“I play the mother Shernaz,” said Sarika. “Naseer is right, meeting the family was a very moving experience. They still nurture hopes that their son will return,” mused the actress, before adding, “I think it must have been more difficult for Rahul, for he knew the family personally.”

The actress, juggling a variety of roles on her second coming in Bollywood, is “enjoying every bit of it”.