Aditya Rawal and Zahan Kapoor in a still from ‘Faraaz’

Aditya Rawal and Zahan Kapoor in a still from ‘Faraaz’
| Photo Credit: Viacom18 Studios

A rousing take on the rot that is corroding the youth in the name of religious ideology, Hansal Mehta’s Faraazis about standing up to bigotry. It is also about protecting the flame of faith that could guide the young out of the morass of prejudice.

Steering clear of sensationalism, the narrative is based on a long night in July 2016 when Bangladesh came to a standstill, and the world watched in shock as five misguided youths descended on an upscale restaurant in Dhaka with ammunition. They killed foreigners and took locals hostage to make a statement about the atrocities committed against the people of their faith. But as the suffocating night unravels, we discover that these are essentially bullies whose brains are not fully washed yet, and they are out to display their half-baked ideas of the supremacy of one religion with machine guns.

Faraaz (Hindi)

Director: Hansal Mehta

Cast: Zahan Kapoor, Aditya Rawal, Juhi Babbar, Sachin Lalwani

Runtime: 112 minutes

Storyline: Based on the 2016 terrorist attack in Dhaka, it narrates the story of how young Faraaz stood up to the four militants who had taken him and his friends hostage inside a cafe

One of the hostages is Faraaz Hossain (debutant Zahan Kapoor), the privileged child of an influential family whom the leader of the militant pack Nibras (Aditya Rawal) gives a free pass. But Faraaz decides not to leave behind his friends. The conversation between the two makes for the crux of the story. When the leader of the terror group asks Faraaz why he does not see what is happening in Palestine or what the U.S. is doing in West Asia, Faraaz agrees with the issues. He says there is a lot that is wrong with this world but then asks, if this the answer.

Writers Raghav Kakkar, Kashyap Kapoor, and Ritesh have generated a sense of doom without playing to the gallery. The language of the protagonists is modern, but the thought is starkly medieval, making for a disturbing watch. Be it the Hindu chef preparing sehri for the hostages before dawn, or one of the militants objecting to the use of perfume for nursing the wound of a hostage (because it has alcohol and is hence against their faith), the writing scythes into an ideology that is bereft of compassion. Yet Nibras comes across as a boy-next-door who has empathy for children and has not lost touch with humanity. Seeking heaven, one moment he gives hope that he will come out of this living hell, like Mehta’s Shahid did in 2012, but when he puts a gun in the hands of a child, we look away into the darkness. This in-betweenness is more disturbing to watch than the blood-splattered bodies lined in the swanky restaurant.

Such is our upbringing on films on terrorism that we expect boys born with rigid ideas and the will to bite the bullet from the cradle. So, when we see a Google-bred militant (Sachin Lalwani) who exudes false bravado and has not lost the fear of death, it takes time to process.

Then there is the quiet Faraaz who finds his voice during the night. The beauty of the writing is that both the boys come-of-age without going out of character. The writers are aptly supported by cinematographer Pratham Mehta; he takes the audience to the heart of the crisis without being exploitative.

On the other side of the hostage drama are the ill-prepared but motivated policemen and parents keen on ensuring the safety of their children. Simeen (Juhi Babbar), the mother of Faraaz, makes the most noise. At first, she appears like an entitled bully but as the film progresses and she is stripped of her privilege, we get to see a hapless mother. Returning to the screen after a long gap, Juhi brings out the guts and grace of the character with a deft performance, and her speech at the end — one that reminds us of her theatre practice — leaves a lump in the throat. The right casting adds to the layers of the night. Zahan gets the tonality of Faraaz right and Aditya is a revelation as Nibras.

Along the way, Faraaz becomes a cautionary tale for we could see the rise in religious chauvinism in our own backyard too, where intolerance for the other is taking violent proportions. It shakes the liberals out of their slumber of safety to take a stand before the good Muslim vs bad Muslim debate, which is co-opted by those who endorse violence in the name of religion. Not aspiring to be a dramatic Friday blockbuster, Faraaz is an ache that will gradually grow on the discerning.

Faraaz is currently running in theatres

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By Dipak

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