Firaaq, the critically-acclaimed directorial debut of the actress Nandita Das, is a quietly moving film which documents the effects of the 2002 Gujarat riots. Set one month after the violence, it explores the aftermath of the religious bloodshed through 24 hours in the interconnected lives of its characters.
Firaaq follows both victims and perpetrators from different classes and religions - a housewife, an orphaned boy, a poor Muslim couple, a classical musician and a Muslim-Hindu husband and wife. Throughout the film, characters continually watch news stories of brutal attacks and reprisals. These television montages present the Gujarat riots as the rest of the world would have seen them, and it is through these news segments that Das seems to be questioning the audience's ability to hear horrific news stories and then return to their dinners unaffected.
Nevertheless, she has succeeded in making a film which succussfully communicates the devastating and divisive effects of the Gujarat riots, and she should be applauded for her bravery and attention to detail. Like Crash, Paul Haggis' 2004 film which also relied on interweaving stories, the success of Firaaq rests on strong performances by its ensemble cast. Das' simple and beautiful filming also succeeds in capturing the vibrant colours and energy of India, providing a sense that despite everything, India's essence will prevail. The chilling final shot of the little boy's eyes assures the audience that the characters will survive, and wills us to remember that this film is based on "1,000 true stories".