This Article is From Feb 03, 2023

Faraaz Review: Debutant Zahan Kapoor Presents A Picture Of Courage Under Fire

Faraaz Review: If not mind-blowing, the film is thought-provoking. Watch it for what it has to say as well as for how it says it: with empathy, compassion and unwavering focus.

Faraaz Review: Debutant Zahan Kapoor Presents A Picture Of Courage Under Fire

A still from Faraaz. (courtesy: YouTube)

Cast: Zahan Kapoor, Juhi Babbar Soni, Aamir Ali, Aditya Rawal, Sachin Lalwani, Jatin Sarin, Ninad Bhatt, Harshal Pawar, Palak Lalwani, Reshham Sahaani

Director: Hansal Mehta

Rating: Three and a half stars (out of 5)

How brainwashed are you? Framed as a question, that is actually a firm statement. The scion of a wealthy Bangladeshi family directs it at the leader of a band of five terrorists who have just gunned down 20-odd people and taken 50 others hostage in a cafe in Dhaka's diplomatic enclave. It's a trigger to a debate between the two men at the centre of Hansal Mehta's Faraaz, a film about both terrorism and true heroism.

The duo obviously represents opposing ends of an ideological divide. One set of beliefs espouses violence as the sole solution to the problems hounding the faithful; the other advocates rationality and peace as enshrined in the Holy Quran. The terrorist derisively describes the intrepid hostage first as "Bangladesh ka shehzaada" and then as a "Twitter debater", implying that his privilege prevents him from feeling the real pain of ordinary Muslims.

Faraaz brings to the screen the horrific terror attack on Dhaka's Holey Artisan Bakery Dhaka seven years ago. It does so without resorting to any overt dramatic flourishes. The film has its share of shootouts and bloody skirmishes but it does not seek to make a spectacle of the violence that the ruthless terrorists unleash on innocent guests and staff of the cafe. They single out the foreigners and pump bullets into them. Others are asked to prove their Bangladeshi Muslim identity or recite a Surah.

The city police swing into action but make little headway and lose several officers in the bargain. The Rapid Action Battalion steps in, but the heavily armed terrorists hold out all through the night. As the hostage situation lingers on, the tension begins to tell on the security personnel deployed to end the crisis without any further collateral damage.

Faraaz, produced by Anubhav Sinha's Benaras Mediaworks, would have been just another terror-themed thriller but for the deeper and wider resonances that it has for the subcontinent as a whole and for the fact that it completes a trilogy of sorts with the director's Shahid (2012) and Omerta (2017).

Definitely not as intense and comprehensive as the previous two films, Faraaz is more direct in its exploration of the heart of the darkness created by radicalisation of the youth. Notwithstanding its limited scope and sweep, Faraaz raises questions that are no less relevant than the ones that Shahid and Omerta did.

The film examines the dangerous extent that indoctrinated youth are willing to go to prove that the path that they have chosen is the right one and is in keeping with their faith. The Dhaka police commissioner, who leads the initial action against the hostage-takers from the front, wonders which madrasa these boys have come from and thunders that he will show them and their ilk that they have no place in Bangladesh. That is also what Faraaz Hossein is out to do - reclaim Islam from forces that speak the language of the gun.

Faraaz isn't the first film about the Holey Artisan terror attack. Shonibar Bikel (Saturday Afternoon), a single-shot re-enactment helmed by Bangladeshi director Mostofa Sarwar Farooki in 2019, awaits release despite being cleared recently by the censors after a long legal battle.

Mehta's Hindi film, too, has been in the eye of a storm, with the mothers of two girls killed in the Dhaka attack seeking a stay on the film's release. On an order from the Delhi high court, Faraaz is out but with a disclaimer asserting that it is a fictional film.

Mindful not to treat the sensitive real-life incident as a mere pretext for a thrill-a-minute cinematic recreation, Mehta chooses sustained restraint. He poses a question that is as large as the loss and tragedy that the nightlong bloodbath caused: what is heroism? Much more that winning a battle, it is standing up to brutality that matters, the film outlines in no uncertain terms.

The titular hero, played with elan by debutant Zahan Kapoor, presents a picture of courage under fire. He is a man born into massive wealth and everything is his for the asking, including a degree from Stanford. But he does not seek the easy way out. When danger stares him in the face, he does what he believes is right.

Faraaz is, not so tangentially, Mehta's tribute to all those who fight the good fight without worrying about the outcome not just in Bangladesh but everywhere on a subcontinent that has been affected by religious fanaticism of many hues for decades now. "Islam khatre me hain," Nibras says to justify the path that he has consciously chosen.

One of the biggest strengths of the film is that the screenplay (by Ritesh Shah, Kashyap Kapoor and Raghav Raj Kakker) based on Nuruzzaman Labu's book 'Holey Artisan: A Journalistic Investigation' informs the character of the antagonist Nibras (Aditya Rawal) with believable traits.

Rawal does full justice to a role that isn't as simple as it might seem. It requires him to convey a range of emotions from the callous to the impatient to the disarmingly reasonable.

While frequently moving out of the cafe to capture the hustle and bustle in the streets and in the war-room set up by the security agencies, Faraaz brings to the fore the desperation of the protagonist's mother (Juhi Babbar Soni, who is absolutely terrific) and other parents, including the father of an Indian girl who is among the hostages.

Faraaz's mother seeks to use her connections to expedite action against the terrorists - more a sign of hopelessness than any intent to prove how powerful she is. The film is about loss and despair as much as it is about friendship, which determines the actions and decisions of Faraaz.

Rawal and Kapoor deliver the goods. The director brings a steady hand to the proceedings. And the two principal technicians (director of photography Pratham Mehta and editor Amitesh Mukherjee) lend the film the sheen and pace that it needs.

If not mind-blowing, Faraaz is thought-provoking. Watch it for what it has to say as well as for how it says it: with empathy, compassion and unwavering focus.