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Directed by Rahul Dholakia
Produced by Rahul Dholakia
Kamal Patel
Written by David N. Donihue
Rahul Dholakia
Starring Naseeruddin Shah
Corin Nemec
Raj Zutshi
Parzan Dastur
Music by Zakir Hussain
Taufiq Qureshi
Cinematography Robert D. Eras
Edited by Aarif Sheikh
Distributed by PVR Pictures
Release date
  • 26 November 2005 (2005-11-26) (film festival)
  • 26 January 2007 (2007-01-26) (theatrical)
Running time
122 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget US$700,000[1]

Parzania (translation: Heaven and hell on earth[2]) 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.[3] The film traces the journey of the Pithawala family while trying to locate their missing son.

The film was premiered at 36th India International Film Festival in Goa on 26 November 2005, before being released nationwide on 26 January 2007.[4]


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.[5] 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.



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.[6] Most of the US$700,000 budget came from two of his Indian friends in the United States.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9]

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."[9] 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.[8] 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.[10] Despite facing the camera after a long gap, Sarika felt quite comfortable during the shooting.[11]

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.[9]

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.[12][13][14] After an initiative by ANHAD, a civil rights group, the film was screened at some places in the state after April 2007.[15]

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.


2006 National Film Awards (India)

2008 - Screen Awards

  • Won - Ramnath Goenka Memorial Award[16]


  1. ^ Chu, Henry (25 February 2007). "Film about massacre banned in India state". The Los Angeles Times. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 22 February 2009. 
  2. ^ "Heaven & Hell On Earth - Overview". Allmovie. Retrieved 22 February 2009. 
  3. ^ "Apex court SIT submits report on Gulbarg Society massacre". The Hindustan Times. 14 May 2010. 
  4. ^ Kamath, Sudhish (3 December 2005). "Turnout spells success for IFFI". The Hindu. Retrieved 22 February 2009. 
  5. ^ "Modi's blog evokes anger among victims". The Hindu. 2013-12-09. Retrieved 2013-12-29. 
  6. ^ Sen, Raja (30 August 2006). "Parzania director: 2006's National award winner?". Retrieved 22 February 2009. 
  7. ^ Sengupta, Somini (20 February 2007). "In India, Showing Sectarian Pain to Eyes That Are Closed". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 February 2009. 
  8. ^ a b Banerjee, Poulomi (24 January 2007). "Being Cyrus and Shernaz". The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 February 2009. 
  9. ^ a b c Sen, Raja (31 August 2006). "Will Parzania reach theatres?". Retrieved 22 February 2009. 
  10. ^ Mathur, Barkha (9 August 2007). "'I've matured over the years'". The Times of India. Retrieved 25 February 2009. 
  11. ^ Nair, Suresh (22 July 2004). "18 saal baad..." Times News Network. The Times of India. Retrieved 25 February 2009. 
  12. ^ "Flicker of hope for Parzania in Gujarat". Times News Network. The Times of India. 28 January 2007. Retrieved 22 February 2009. 
  13. ^ "Parzania director's offer to Gujarat exhibitors". The Hindu. 3 February 2007. Retrieved 22 February 2009. 
  14. ^ Sharma, Radha (3 February 2007). "Gujarat will see Parzania if Bajrangi says OK!". The Times of India. Retrieved 22 February 2009. 
  15. ^ "Gujarat finally screens Parzania". CNN-IBN. 24 April 2007. 
  16. ^ 'Rahul Dholakia' Wins Ramnath Goenka Memorial Award IndiaGlitz, 11 January 2008.

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