[VoxSpace Selects] Nakkash – Showing The Door To Hindutva Infused Communal Bigotry

A Brave Statement At The Face Of Turbulent Times

It is saying a lot about the kind of world we are living in when basic decency and interactions make news for something extraordinary keeping the outrageous human atrocities within the parameters of normalcy. Allah Miyan, short name for Allah Rakha Siddiqui is the protagonist of the recent Zaigham Imam film, ‘Nakkash’. Allah Miyan finds exposure in the hands of the prying tactics of the media while he is shunned by his community and treated with distrust by the Hindu community for his devotion and commitment towards a craft that has been his family legacy.

The word ‘Nakkash’ suggests engraver or sculptor and the film derives its title’s significance from the “nakkashi” craft that Allah Miyan practices in the temples of Varanasi. His father handed down the skill work of “nakkashi” to Allah Miyan when he was a child. Allah Miyan’s knowledge of trade skills, begins and ends at “nakkashi” and it is the only trade on which he roots his son’s life. As a matter of fact, he is that single father, an exceptional hero whose challenges in love, commitment and parenting are as same as the conventional mother.

As the rise in the Hindutva politics mold the extreme antagonism of the majority community and the disparagement of the minority community towards him, Allah Miyan realizes that the world around him is changing and not for the good. However, throughout the ups and downs of his life, he had kept his faith unbroken in humanity because of two primary factors. First would be Bhagwan Das Vedanti, the temple priest with secular values who has always believed in him and stood with him against the Hindu dogmatists disapproving of any Muslim existence within a holy place of the Hindus. Second would be Samad, his best friend who has always liberally supported him and stood for him within the Muslim community.

Not A Clichéd Sermon But Extremely Relevant

It does not need to be pointed out that Nakkash is extremely relevant and contextual to the present times with communal hatred and enmity being relentlessly promoted by the right-wing institutions nationwide. Although, it might look like Nakkash would go for the traditional sermonizing approach, fortunately it does not and simply sticks to its guns of narrating a story that is relevant and relatable. Zaigham Imam explores the rampant hate politics of the nation as a contrast to the innocence of Allah Miyan who is very clearly a misfit in the contemporary Indian social and political scenario.

To state an instance, when Vedanti says to a police officer, “While eating food, do you check to find out whether the grain came from a Hindu or a Muslim farmer?” he faces up to an ideological traditionalist with fundamentalist inclinations and in the process animates arguments one can hear across the nation today.

Last year, ‘Mulk’ by Anubhav Sinha became one of the few Bollywod films that could muster up the courage and the voice to talk about the distressed relationship between the country’s Hindus and the Muslims in a time of hyper Hindutva nationalism. Sinha made a frank commentary in exposing the Islamophobia that has been internalized within the country’s corners and he did so without ghettoizing the Muslim community, something that Bollywood would have done even a few years ago. Nakkash offers an even more detailed view into these complexities and goes into depths exposing the negatives of both the communities not caring whether it is good, bad or ugly.

Dramatics, Narration And Techniques

Director Zaigham Imam’s film, ‘Alif’, which was released in 2017, explored on somewhat similar planes of the communal politics between Hindus and Muslims. In comparison, Nakkash is more dramatically evolved and demonstrates strength on all fronts including storytelling and techniques. Sumit Mishra’s art design and Asit Biswas’s cinematography brings out the inherent contrast between the communal hostility of the country and the innocence of Allah Miyan. With respect to the style of the narration, Imam approaches the film’s story line with tones that occasionally move from naturalism to an operatic one. The plot does not employ any instance of extremely thrilling twists to overwhelm the audience. Instead, it follows a lifelike saga in a natural setting with toxic relationships that becomes convincingly relatable.

However, one major downside of this rather progressive content is the marginal existence of a female standpoint on the significant issues presented within the film. There is very little action in the film involving except may be a couple of women characters. Such a drawback becomes extremely prominent in a film that presents bigotry as its central issue. Other than that, a few instances here and there such as that overtly stretched closing montage and the lack of finesse in the performances of some of the supporting casts add up to be minor setbacks in the film.

Hitting The Right Notes Of Performance Art

Inaamulhaq in the character of Allah Miyan delivers a brilliant job. A toned performance and hesitant demeanor assists Inaamulhaq to naturally slip into the simple character of Allah Miyan. The audience can relate to his experiences and empathizes with his fate as he moves through his life and its complexities. His relationships, be it with the priest, his son or his best friend, are all sketched from a three-dimensional perspective providing it with the vividness it deserves. Sharaib Hasmi as Samad, meets with the expectations of a dazzling performance. He provides a convincing performance and offers a realistic perception of his character. Kumud Mishra as Bhagwan Das Vedanti, the temple priest, delivers a dignified performance with a high note of stoicism that he so successfully renders to his character.

Nakkash presents only the tip of the iceberg. Although it manages to brilliantly build up the atmosphere of communal bigotry across the country, it leaves behind a heap of politically driven distrust and discord that yet needs to be explored. Reality checks in when a politician claims, “Rajneeti karam se nahi, dharam se hoti hai (Politics is not done by duty but by religion)” and just like that you realize that it is ever relevant. Nakkash pulls at the right strings at the right times.

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