Jan 272013

My blog for Tehelka, last week. Yes, Maachis should have been on the list


Zero Dark Thirty has hit the screens to much controversy, debate, acclaim and box office success. The film deals with the decade long hunt for master terrorist Osama Bin Laden The film is a fascinating study in looking at shades of good and evil. There is a thin line between the two, and those who fight terror have to work very hard not to slip over to the other side. This battle is not just between ideologies or good and bad, but is also the battle within. How far do you go to keep innocents safe? This is a theme that has been looked at multiple times in movies.

Bollywood films too have looked at the issue of terror and the fight against terror. Some are out and out jingoistic, others unbelievably fantastic, yet others pure entertainment. Few have looked at the contours of terror realistically. Here in no particular order are five of the most realistic Hindi films, that use the fight against terror as a backdrop

  • Drohkaal – possibly one of the best films in contemporary Indian Cinema, that looks at the issue of terrorism. Directed by Govind Nihlani, the film looks at the shades of grey that come into play in dealing with terror. Set against a backdrop of an unnamed terror organization (most likely Naxal) unleashing violence against civilians. Two policemen DCP Abhay Singh (Om Puri) and DCP Abbas Lodhi (Naseeruddin Shah) plant agents in a group led by Comarade Bhadra-Ashish Vidyarthi in a National Award Winning performance. The cat and mouse story between the hunter and the hunted is a fascinating one and the end is a twist in the tail.
  • A Wednesday – written an directed by Neeraj Pandey, the film went on to become a box office superstar, purely based on word of mouth. The film tells the story of a retired cop , played by Anupam Kher, and his last big case that takes place on a Wednesday. A man, played by Naseeruddin Shah, plants bombs across the city of Mumbai and threatens to detonate them unless jailed terrorists are freed. Who is this man, what is his agenda and will he get away with it? The film is a taut thriller, and one reason why it was such a hit – apart from the brilliant writing and performances – is that Naseeruddin Shah’s character resonates with most of us.
  • Black Friday – In 1993, bombs ripped through Bombay (as it then was) destroying buses, buildings,people disintegrated, yet others were maimed and injured. . Hundreds died, many more injured and it left the city numb with rage, grief and disbelief. Anurag Kashyap’s film based on the book by Hussain Zaidi tells the story of the blasts (and its investigations) from different perspectives. Raw and gritty, the film makes for compelling viewing.
  • Sarfarosh – looked at the issue of cross border terrorism (read Pakistan sponsored terrorism) and the attempt of honest young ACP Rathod, Aamir Khan, to put together a crack team that fights terror. On the other side is Naseeruddin Shah, who has possibly acted in 80% of all films on terrorism, who plays a ghazal singer and terror conduit Gulfam Hassan. The film directed by John Matthew Mathan has just one flaw – a mawkish love story that does nothing for the film. The film has a fine cameo by Mukesh Rishi– who plays Inspector Salim
  • Roja – The film made in Tamil was dubbed into Hindi and became an all India hit. It forms the first part of Mani Ratnam’s trilogy on terror, with Bombay and Dil Se being the other two. Mani Ratnam’s greatest strengthwas the telling of the stories of ordinary people. Roja (Madhoo) is a young woman from rural Tamil Nadu whose husband is a government employee who is kidnapped in Jammu & Kashmir. The story follows a parallel track, the husband’s (Arvind Swamy) interactions with the terrorists on a daily basis, and the interactions of Roja with the government machinery in getting her husband freed. Pankaj Kapur plays the head of the terrorist cell, Liaqat, with a tremendous amount of empathy. The film also boasted a great soundtrack by A.R.Rehman.

Which films, with terror as the backdrop, are in your top 5 ?

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