This weekend was essentially a clash between two of my favourite directors – Anurag Kashyap and Hansal Mehta. And with my second theatrical outing this weekend, I finished watching the new Hindi film Faraaz which is directed by Hansal Mehta. The film is based on the attacks of July 2016 in a bakery in the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka. The theme of the film instantly took me back to that horrific night of 26/11 which would perhaps be one of the darkest nights for my family and me.
It is a known fact(if you have been following my reviews) that I had lost someone in the Taj attacks. And so even to witness something onscreen was a terrible thought for me a while back. Thankfully now, I have been able to face my demons and witness films like Major or Hotel Mumbai. I did expect a similar kind of intensity from Faraaz which was again based on an event of July 2016 when humanity had died a little more. So then does Faraaz manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Faraaz follows the story of the an intense hostage drama following a real life terrorist attack at a Cafe in Dhaka. The story here is powerful, intense and terrifying and it was not meant to be an easy watch! The screenplay standing at about a 110 minutes does make for a taut thriller without unnecessary subplots. The thing that I did like straight up about the drama was its focused writing that never let the tension to evaporate from the drama.
First things first, as the drama was set in Dhaka, the expectation would have been to have the main characters conversing in their mother tongue which is Bengali/Bangla. But the creative decision of opting for a Hindi as the language of communication between principle characters did feel slightly odd to begin with. I can totally understand the intention of the makers for having to eventually sell their product as a Hindi film, this was necessary perhaps. But I wonder if the actors could atleast of spoken in a Bangla accent(as opposed to a Hindi one) which perhaps would have added authenticity to the drama. And this is one fact that needs to be accepted by the viewers too without which you wouldn’t be able to enjoy the drama.
The drama does open on an indifferent note with a quick introduction of the main players in the drama that kind of felt abrupt. I did feel that there was a window of opportunity here in slowly building up the drama through some character buildup which would have payed off towards the dying minutes of the film. A little bit of character development and world building would not have hurt here. But once the main action begins, credit to the writers for a completely focused narrative that was filled with tension right throughout.
The parts of the attack may have been sudden but they are shot such that they take you aback with shiver down your spine immediately. The proceedings are tense and engaging with a part of your life stuck in your throat as you would find yourself almost covering your eyes while the action is on. This might seem like a simple hostage drama ultimately leading to the rescue of the victims(no spoilers here as this is based on a true event) but I did like how the politics of the situation was turned on its head. It is how most people are programmed to blame people of a certain religion whenever such attacks are carried out. But the writing here ensures that it pits a noble soul of the same religion as the antagonist which completely changes the ballgame here. And so the writing which would have been monotonous suddenly holds more weight.
The events are enthralling and quite thrilling with you as a viewer being a bystander amidst the hostage crisis. The drama unfolding in the cafe is filled with tension wherein you would find yourself anticipating another set of killings every 10 minutes, it was that well written and executed. The events leading up to the final act are interesting too with a glimpse also given to the outside world which included the parents of a terrorist along with parents of a few victims. The ending might again seem slightly abrupt but it is the messaging that hits home here. For instance when asked on why a victim has stayed back, he replies ‘ tum jaiso se humaara Islam wapas lene'(to take back our religion from people like you) – (paraphrased). This line just hits home and sums up the screenplay which is well written although slightly sanitized as per the Bollywood standards.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are a mixed bag here. I did convey my dismay in how Hindi is used as a language for communication. But along with that, a few lines stick out like a soar thumb. The excessive use of Gen Z terms like ‘F**k Off Dude’ or ‘How Brainwashed are you?’ just did feel odd and almost cringe-worthy. But on the other hand when the lines truly stick to its core emotions, there are some hidden gems worth discovering too. The music is good and I did like how silence along with natural sounds for the situation(like the sound of bullets) did dominate the proceedings and filled the atmosphere with an appropriate level of tension.
The cinematography is impressive almost opting for a shaky camera setup that is symbolic of chaos. The editing was patchy and I am not really a fan of screen blackouts which were a part of the drama here. Director Hansal Mehta does a fine job here especially in scenes oc combat that are filled with tension. His ability to keep the viewers on tenterhooks was a big plus in his report card.
The performances by the ensemble cast is excellent. Juhi Soni Babbar and Aamir Ali lend good support to the drama. Reshham Sahaani, Palak Lalwani and Abhirami Bose are excellent in their respective roles. The actors playing the terrorists – Jatin Sarin, Ninaad Shaunak Bhatt and Sachin Lalwani are pretty good as is Ashish Bhatt who plays the guitarist. But the show does belong to Zahan Kapoor and Aditya Rawal who are phenomenal here. Zahan in his debut vehicle as Faraaz is wonderfully restrained yet resilient in his approach. The fear reflecting on his face was quite a reaction. Aditya Rawal on the other hand has elevated his game and how. I remember having first watched him in Bamfaad wherein he did show promise and recently in the series Aar Ya Paar where he was earnest and sincere. But here as Nibras he is phenomenal. The ability of an actor to create fear just by some of his actions means that he is destined for bigger things. And Aditya is on the right path! This was a stellar performance of the highest order very early on in his budding career!
Despite its flaws, Faraaz is a topical and resilient drama with stellar performances that makes for a tense watch. Available in a theatre near you.