Nandita Das sees ‘no reason’ to screen ‘Firaaq’ for Modi

March 20th, 2009 - 8:53 am ICT by IANS  

Narendra Modi By Subhash K. Jha
Mumbai, March 20 (IANS) Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has apparently expressed keenness to see Nandita Das’ directorial debut “Firaaq”, which is about the 2002 communal riots in the state that targeted the Muslim community and left over 1,000 people dead. But the actress-filmmaker sees “no reason” to hold a special screening for him.

“It’s true he wants to watch it. He has apparently asked my producers. But I see no reason to show it to him … anyone is free to watch it,” Nandita told IANS in an interview.

She brushes aside the accusation that “Firaaq” is pro-Muslim.

“I totally disagree with those who say the film is pro-Muslim. If I make a film on the Jews and their suffering will I be expected to present the other side’s version? What can I do if there’s no ‘other side’? What happened to Muslims in Gujarat was not a communal riot, it was a carnage. My film is not pro-Muslim. It’s pro-humanism. Period. And if some people or political groups want to see ‘Firaaq’ as a communal statement then so be it. I said what I had to,” she asserted.

Nandita’s father and eminent painter Jatin Das was moved to tears at a special screening of the film in New Delhi.

“He had seen parts of the film earlier. When he saw the film in totality he couldn’t believe I had done this. He was quite shaken. I guess I’m a chip of the old block. My parents spent their entire life fighting for causes. In ‘Firaaq’ I had to tell the story of the genocide that the Muslim community suffered after the Godhra incident in Gujarat,” said the actress, who has given strong performance in films like “Fire” and “1947-Earth”.

The special screening had Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi as special guest and he apparently couldn’t stop praising Nandita’s work.

“He came up to me and said, ‘What a film …what a film …Everything in the film was just so fantastic’. Then he asked my host at the screening, Naveen Jindal, if I really made the entire film. I think that was a compliment,” said Nandita.

She came in for praise from her own co-writer for making Hyderabad look like Ahmedabad as they chose not to shoot too much in Gujarat. However, Nandita says she did sneak into Gujarat to shoot a few topography-defining scenes in her film.

“It was impossible to shoot a film like ‘Firaaq’ in Gujarat. Too may wounds, too many questions, too many hurdles. We couldn’t have made the film the way we wanted to in Gujarat. I took a big risk by shooting in Hyderabad in place of Ahmedabad. We took the decision after checking out a number of cities that matched Ahmedabad’s topography. We finally chose Hyderabad.

“And the best compliment came from my co-writer who’s from Hyderabad. She said, ‘Are you sure this isn’t Ahmedabad?’ Well, it is the Ahmedabad of my film.”

The casting wasn’t that easy too.

“Naseeruddin Shah, Deepti Naval and Paresh Rawal were always there in the script. The rest of the cast was also pretty much my first and last choice. But I wanted Om Puri to play the grave digger and Deepak Dobriyal for Shahana Goswami’s husband’s role.”

Casting for the pivotal part of the Muslim child who loses his entire family in the riots and wanders around homeless was acutely problematic.

“Every child I met wanted to dance to a Shah Rukh Khan tune. I had to tell them there were no songs in my film. We finally found Mohammad Samad who was completely non-filmy. But he smiled all the time. It broke my heart to explain to him that there was nothing for his character to smile about in the film. I had to keep reminding him of sad things to stop him from smiling,” said Nandita.

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