Faraaz Review – Tale of a Terrifying Night: Five armed young men assault a restaurant. All of them are members of the dominant community, the official religion, in an ostensibly secular nation.
They discriminate against immigrants and religious minorities. Also, they murder based on names and surnames. They spare captives from their own group, particularly those who can accurately repeat their sacred chants. The five extremists have no desire to negotiate. Especially they merely want to demonstrate to a country—and the rest of the world—that they are capable of retaliating against any danger to the “purity” of their culture. Moreover they want to initiate an ethnic cleansing movement. They also want to demonstrate to their rigid parents that modern children are not weak. They are the only ones capable of sustaining traditional values.
Hansal Mehta’s newest cinema, Faraaz, is about a terrifying night. As a standalone action thriller, it has a strong screenplay, strong filmmaking, and strong tension-building, reminiscent of Ram Madhvani’s Neerja, as well as a fantastic ensemble cast. Mehta has a talent for transforming fictional characters into actual people. There are no weak links in the chain. The workmanship is flawless. Unsurprisingly, though, the picture is defined by politics.
On the surface, Faraaz recounts the 2016 Dhaka attack, in which five Islamists wreaked havoc at the Holey Artisan Bakery in the heart of the city of Bangladesh. Given the era in which we live, another sophisticated Hindi film about Muslim terrorists may seem to be propaganda. However, this illusion is integral to the design.
The film’s intelligence rests in its selection of, perspective on, and exploration of this actual occurrence. The narrative exploits the particularity of this tragedy as a key to reveal a more universal ailment. The fact that the attackers are also inhabitants of a nation with a mostly Muslim population is never lost on the audience. There are many analogies. The first paragraph of this evaluation could just as well be applied to India and its present relationship with Hindu fanaticism.
The punchline is a terrorist declaring vehemently, “Islam is my religion!” to excuse his atrocities. While it’s easy to critique the fact that the film’s principal actors and crew are mostly non-Muslim, it’s important to keep in mind the film’s wider message: It’s not so much about the religious identities of people involved as it is about their extreme—and frighteningly similar—views.
To evade the scrutiny of the establishment, liberal artists have been compelled to use increasingly imaginative strategies, such as narrative smokescreens, red herrings, and indirect treatment. In this regard, Faraaz is toward the top. By using metropolitan Bangladesh as its location, the film normalizes Islam as a culture and positions itself to exploit the very notion of communal strife. “We” in one nation are “them” in another. Thus, the lens is not so much a simplistic “good Muslims” or “bad Muslims” one as it is a multifaceted anti-Islamophobic one.
It is a courageous option that risks being exploitative and misunderstood. But context is relative to the observer. The cops, for example, are both terribly unprepared and cocky. A fractious prime minister has halted the formation of anti-terrorism military forces. The system is dysfunctional, and both victims and perpetrators seek sanctuary in prayer. Yet, the film also includes moments of situational humor—such as the quest for the restaurant’s blueprint—that humanize the gravity of the situation.
“Boycott trend” and “Pathaan”
It is a tightrope walk that may have gone astray in the hands of a lesser filmmaker, but the voice remains steady. The film’s viewpoint is conveyed by its title. It is named after Faraaz Hossain, a Bangladeshi Muslim who, despite having the opportunity to leave the café, stays behind for his companions. Faraaz (Zahaan Kapoor, superbly cast) is also shown to be the voice of sanity, a rare internet-age figure who is not punished for his wokeness. In fact, he is the only one with the bravery and, more significantly, the mental acuity to challenge the assaults. Given the affluent setting, the film does not shy away from using social media conversation vocabulary.
Faraaz Review – Tale of a Terrifying Night:It is a “dudebro” vocabulary that serious dramas often look down on. However, even the five terrorists come from an educated and privileged background, so their frat-boy banter contradicts the viewer’s conception of fanaticism. It conveys the feeling of Twitter trolls who just so happen to be armed and violent. Nibras, portrayed excellently by Aditya Rawal (son of Paresh Rawal), is the protagonist, and his “debates” with Faraaz are intended to represent the film’s perspective. Their discussions are a little too blunt and direct (“Islam is not violence; you’re the reason the world hates us”), but the atmosphere in the café is not exactly favorable to nuance. I cannot think of a more urgent manner in which to make my argument.
Salma Hayek was not cast in Hollywood comedies as she was considered too sexy
Faraaz Review – Tale of a Terrifying Night: Occasionally, though, Faraaz overreaches for impact, as when the police commissioner is almost transformed into the royal jester. Or when Nibras makes a musician suffer by making him sing a song (“No Dylan, Lennon, or any of that nonsense”). He is torturing the musician, or when terrorists pose for self-portraits. Or even when a bothersome television reporter questions one of the distraught parents. However, the film’s spirit is preserved by the smallest details.
My favorite story is about Faraaz’s mother, played by Juhi Babbar, who steals the show as an affluent woman who goes from being a cultural stereotype to a touching parent over the course of the night. Again, her persona is bait-ready in an age that feeds on tales about dumb wealthy people.
Early on, she uses all of her “Do you recognize me?” cards. Even a small thing, like the fact that she sat down instead of stood up when she asked a police officer for answers, shows her sense of entitlement. We are not used to seeing someone like her soften in a documentary film. But Faraaz’s sight is nothing if not socially adept. She remains unyielding, but without sacrificing her parenting faith. At the end, she becomes a symbol of the fact that, just like prejudice, pride knows no borders. Five youths armed with weapons stormed a restaurant in a secular nation. But Faraaz stays ignorant for about one night knowing nothing.