|Directed by||Rahul Dholakia|
David N. Donihue|
|Cinematography||Robert D. Eras|
|Edited by||Aarif Sheikh|
|Distributed by||PVR Pictures|
Parzania (translation: Heaven and hell on earth) is a 2007 Indian drama film co-written and directed by Rahul Dholakia; David N. Donihue is the other co-writer. The film featured Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika in the lead roles, while Corin Nemec and Raj Zutshi played supporting roles. Made on a budget of US$700,000, the film was shot in Ahmedabad and Hyderabad.
The film is inspired by the true story of a ten-year-old Parsi boy, Azhar Mody, played in the film as Parzaan Pithawala in the film, who disappeared after the 28 February 2002 Gulbarg Society massacre during which 69 people were killed and which was one of many events in the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002. The film traces the journey of the Pithawala family while trying to locate their missing son.
Allan (Corin Nemec), an American, arrives in Ahmedabad searching for answers, to find internal peace and to understand the world and his troubled life. He chooses India as his school and Gandhi as his subject of his thesis. It is here that he meets the Pithawala family — Cyrus (Naseeruddin Shah), his wife Shernaz (Sarika), son Parzan (Parzan Dastur) and daughter Dilshad (Pearl Barsiwala). The Pithawalas being Parsis follow Zoroastrianism. Through them and the teachings of an Gandhian, Allan starts to find peace of mind.
The plot is based on the story of Rupa Mody, whose son went missing after the 2002 Gujarat riots. The ten-year-old Parzan disappears during these riots when their surrounding homes are attacked. Cyrus, Shernaz and Dilshad manage to escape the carnage. In the aftermath of the riots, Cyrus searches for his missing child while fighting for his own sanity. While assisting the Pithawalas in their search, Allan battles to uncover the reason behind the riots in an effort to make some sense of the incident. People start to question government's official explanation of the incident which downplays any conspiracy. As a result, a Human Rights Commission is formed. Through the commission, several witnesses and victims testify against the indifference of the police to protect them from the rioters. The film ends with a dedication to the victims of communal violence.
- Naseeruddin Shah as Cyrus
- Corin Nemec as Allan
- Sarika as Shernaz
- Parzan Dastur
- Pearl Barsiwalla
- Raj Zutshi
- Asif Basra
- Pushpendra Saini
- Ram Gopal Bajaj
In the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, Los Angeles-based director Rahul Dholakia faced a personal tragedy. The riots left his friend's family shattered and this left an indelible mark on him. It hurt him all the more because the incidents happened in his home state. He felt responsible, both morally and socially, and wanted to speak up as a filmmaker. Most of the US$700,000 budget came from two of his Indian friends in the United States. Dholakia chose to make the film in English because he thought that communal riots was a global issue. Furthermore, he was unsure whether he could have the film released in India, given the sensitive nature of the film.
While deciding on the cast, Dholakia said that they were not looking at people's physical appearances. He added:
We didn't want glamorous people to play realistic roles. We've shot the film without any makeup, etc. We needed people who looked believable. So casting did play a major role, and I'm not even talking about the principal cast. Every actor in the film has been auditioned, and that includes people with one line to say or not even that.
Veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah was the first and obvious choice for the film. But Dholakia was very apprehensive about whether Shah would agree to do the film, and if he could pay his remuneration. His latter worry was because the film started out as a very low-budget film. After Dholakia narrated the script to him, Shah said, "I agree in principle, provided we make this sensitively and sensibly." Shah thought that the film's story needed to be told, and he felt that he had to be part of it. After agreeing to join the cast, Shah did not actively research for his character. Being a parent himself, he felt that it was not difficult for him to empathize with the family whose son was lost in the riots. After 18 years of hiatus, Sarika chose to return to cinema with this film. Since the film dealt with a real and sensitive issue, she felt that Parzania went beyond than being just a film. Despite facing the camera after a long gap, Sarika felt quite comfortable during the shooting.
Shortly thereafter, Shah, Sarika and Dholakia went through the script in great detail. Owing to their screen and real-life experiences, Shah and Sarika suggested changes and revised the script several times.
Because the film was about communal riots in Gujarat, the film was purposefully not released there, as the cinema owners refused to screen it, fearing backlash. After an initiative by ANHAD, a civil rights group, the film was screened at some places in the state after April 2007.
Sarika's acting skills, that were particularly on display in the last scene of the film where she narrates her trauma to the human rights panel, is worth mentioning. She delineates the simultaneously existing emotionally exhausted, as well as, tough nature of an aggrieved mother, who has endured a life changing traumatic experience, by way of her excellent acting. Her acting combined with natural and down to earth expressions, evoked heavy applause from supporters and critics alike, thereby also fetching her a National Award for an actress in a leading role. Her natural expressions portraying obvious panic and a sense of responsibility towards her family during the sudden outbreak of the riots are also quite noteworthy.
- Won - Silver Lotus Award - Best Actress - Sarika
- Won - Golden Lotus Award - Best Direction - Rahul Dholakia
2008 - Screen Awards
- Won - Ramnath Goenka Memorial Award
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