Parzania (2007)

Based on a true-life incident, this tale of our times narrates the plight of a Parsi couple searching for their young son who went missing since the riots broke out in Gujarat in 2002. They could well be searching for humanity. The film by Rahul Dholakia, a US-based Gujarati filmmaker, takes us beyond the headlines, bang into the heart of darkness.

Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Sarika

Allan Webbings (Corin Nemec) is a disillusioned American, comfortably late with his dissertation and not giving a damn about most things. His tragic back-story is skillfully told, as he casually narrates it over glasses of cheap alcohol to Cyrus while he hangs his hand-washed laundry out to dry. Fascinated by an neighbour’s Gandhian preachings (an old bald man with glasses, mind you), Allan is more than content drinking hooch and reading philosophy without necessarily having to believe in it.

And then there is an explosion. Heard only on the radio, it sounds very far away, but the repercussions are felt. Hard. Godhra leads to bloodthirsty mobs rampaging indiscriminately for unreasonable revenge, the fanatical fire fuelled by a selfish government.
The tale is a painfully simple one. The Parsi family is caught in the midst of the religious madness, and suffers. Shernaz manages to heroically flee with Dilshad, but Parzan is nowhere to be found. Cyrus and the family are relatively unharmed, and Allan offers them room in his own ransacked house.

The American has witnessed a woman being burnt alive on the hood of his car even as he is trying frantically to back away from the scene, and the events in Gujarat open his eyes wider than he had ever expected. The family waits for Parzan. For any news, because the uncertainty is heartbreaking. But there is no respite. Every lead is a false alarm, every day is an unending trial of their patience, of their resilience. The film is titled Parzania because that’s what the jaunty Parzan had christened his world, his imaginary utopia with mountains of ice creams and nothing but cricket — a world where everyone is happy.

But that is not the real world. The real world is what Allan is hammering out on his typewriter, through a diatribe fuelled by alcohol and loathing, disgust and defiance. The American, more profane than profound, describes the Gujarat riots with angry text, going far enough to make censor-pushing statements like: ‘The Parishad is this country’s equivalent of the KKK [Ku Klux Klan]’.

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