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'Defeat hate, celebrate unity'

February 12, 2007 16:33 IST

From ads to award-winning documentaries, US-based director Rahul Dholakia has come a long way.

His critically acclaimed film Parzania has generated a lot of buzz. Based on a true story, the English film looks at the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The filmmaker came to our Rediff office to chat about the film, and its repercussions. For those who missed the chat, here is the transcript:

Rahul Dholakia says, Hi this is Rahul, and I'm ready for your questions.


Pam asked, hi Rahul, why everybody tries to make film on Gujarat riots only? Why anybody doesn't try to make films on what happened on happening in Kashmir, Nagaland? You all Bollywoodwalas are biased towards Hindus.
Rahul Dholakia answers, Why don't you make a film?


Shivani asked, Hi Rahul, I have been born and brought up in Gujarat and now live in CA, USA and understand the beauty of Hindu-Muslim relationship, but don't you intellact should think about the psyche of Gujarati people who have been suffering from suedo secularism since long. I was there during the riots and I can say that it was pure reaction after burning the train who carried kar-sevaks. No state was involved.No, I don't belong to any political party and nobody has asked me to say so. Why can't anybody make movies on vicitms of train incident? Cause then you can't get an award. Rahul, I really feel so lonely and said by being honest about psuedo secularism and people who have power and stage like to also hide the truth or would say present one sided truth and i feel sorry for Gujarat's Parsi community as well as Gujarat have given them shelter and why can't they speak when people are pointing fingers at them.Don't they know how Gujaratis are and how safe is Gujarat where at 12 in the night girl can go alone for tutions and come?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Shivani, I happen to know the family that suffered in Ahmedabad, and if you watch the film then the film represents any parents who have lost their child or loved ones anywhere in the world -- whether it is Godhra, Ahmedabad, Kashmir, Nagaland, America, London, Africa.. So please for all you guys out there who think we make films which are anti-Hindu or for awards, get this clear: Parzania is an anti-hate film and a pro-humanity film.


Pathaksk asked, I saw your film, I would like to ask why did you only shown that Hindus were culprits during Gujarat dungas? Why did not you mention about Godhra incident and reason behind it? I heard that you movie is sponsored by Congress, is it true?
Rahul Dholakia answers, The movie is financed by two Hindus, Kamal Patel and KB Sarin. Obviously it's not financed by the Congress, otherwise you would not have so much difficulty in making the film, releasing it, and now distributing it.


Nisha1 asked, who are your favorite actor and actress to direct?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Aamir Khan, Kajol, Madhuri, Amitabh, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep.... question is who's going to act with me? :)


Harsh1 asked, hi sir, I can understand your feeling as you made one movie and not able to release in Gujarat. But sir can you be please practical and see the reason why it is not possible to release in Gujarat? Don't blame Gujarat for saying this or that thing. Gujarat is state of tolerance and some thing they cant tolerate when its not in its limit. But don't blame saying any words just as you are losing money. First you choose only Hindu controversial subject to make money as you know Hindus will tolerate anything in the name of art you sell. Its not like that, Mr Rahul.
Rahul Dholakia answers, It's not being released in Gujarat because the multiplex owners have been threatened by the Bajrang Dal that if they release it, their theatres will be vandalised.


Kana asked, who do your admire among your contemporaries?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Anurag Kashyap. Mani Ratnam, but he's too senior.


Kana asked, how was it working with Sarika and Naseer?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Brilliant. A lot to learn from them. Very dedicated and into the character.


Yunus asked, hi Rahul, don't you think Gujaratis are missing nice movie by not allowing to screen Parzania in Gujarat
Rahul Dholakia answers, I think they are missing an important film.


Rahul ABCD asked, your movie seems to be biased, showing just the half truth...which is more dangerous than a lie
Rahul Dholakia answers, what I have shown is the family side of the story. I am not making a documentary on the history of Gujarat so it will obviously be from the family's side.


Nirman asked, you did a great job by making movie on such a sensitive issue. I will like to watch it, but its banned here in Gujarat. Are there any chance of its release here in near future ?
Rahul Dholakia answers, yes, we are working towards it. And hopefully we will get a single-screen theatre to release it.


Harsh1 asked, oh come on I'm not associated with Bajarang Dal neither I appreciate them. Nor am I pro to any political party. But still I have the same feeling like everyone have. Such movie which you made in the name of art must not released. Creativity has wide range of subjects. But than you cant make money of making such controvesial movie. Do you think that any one make movie which is hurting sentiments of Muslims. No not any one. They why you blame Hindus here. Don't you see they are tolerant? No, it's not Bajarang Dal is opposing. General sentiments is here opposite to release your movie in Gujarat. Try to make one survey. You will find it.
Rahul Dholakia answers, Aren't we living in a democracy? Shouldn't the people of Gujarat decide whether they want to see the film or not? If you don't want to see the film, don't go to the theatre. Why deprive others -- even if it is 1 person -- of the chance?


Mani Ratnam asked, I was surprised to see the leap you took from your first movie to the next? How do you explain it? Learning curve?
Rahul Dholakia answers, I'm surprised too! :) I think Parzania was something I believed in, and Kehta Hai Dil Baar Baar was something I was made to believe in.


Mani Ratnam asked, did you like Guru? What do you think of Mani Ratnam? Is he your hero?
Rahul Dholakia answers, I didn't like Guru. I thought it was a corporate Nayakan. And I love Nayakan :)


Mani Ratnam asked, Isn't Anurag Kashyap a little overrated? I read a lot abot him but except for Satya, he has nothing to show for except for anger
Rahul Dholakia answers, When you see his work, then you can judge whether he is overrated. Right now unfortunately he has only one film to show. But I've seen some of his work.


Chezbangalore asked, if all you care is spreading the message across, why not distribute free DVDs and allow cable operators to show the movie for free in Gujarat ?
Rahul Dholakia answers, We would like to go through the theatrical process because this movie was made for theatre.


Rahul DholakiaNirman asked, Ya.. that's fine. But releasing such a sensitive movie in a single screen theatre is a risky job and may commit to some violance as of now viewers coming there are not really to mature to understand heart of movie and they just may start some violance in between. That's my personal feel. What to do u think ?
Rahul Dholakia answers, The Godhra carnage or the Ahmedabad riots, the Bombay blasts, or any riot in the history of this world was never started when somebody saw a film. Cinema is only the effect and never the cause of violence. So I think to blame cinema as a cause for violence on a mass level is ridiculous.


Mani Ratnam asked, do you like songs in movies? Even Mani Ratnam sounds too defensive while talking about inserting songs in the narrative. What do you think?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Advertising has a very famous line, 'When you can't say it, sing it.' And that's why I think we use songs in films.


ARUN asked, Then I think this movie should be tax free.
Rahul Dholakia answers, It will be. If it's released, and if it wins the National Award as it was leaked out :)


Thunderbolt asked, What do you think is the main reason for Gujarat riots?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Politics. Hate. And Modi. Who else, yaar?


Mani Ratnam asked, As you can see, I am a Mani buff but was disappointed with Guru. Mani used the same tricks he had used before (in movies like Iruvar, Bombay, Nayakan etc)..is it that important that you repeat yourself for getting a box office success. How important is box office for you vis-a-vis critical acclaim?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Box office is important because then you get another film to make. Critical acclaim is equally important because of the types of movies I'm making.


Mani Ratnam asked, are you formally trained in movie making? Do you write your own scripts?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Yes, I've done my Masters in filmmaking from New York.


Mani Ratnam asked, ever received any threats while making Parzania from right wingers? Please be honest.No diplomacy
Rahul Dholakia answers, No. Only now, from you guys!


Aarti asked, I read your column today in the Indian Express. Tell me realistically, did you rally believe that you could find Azhar when you made the movie?
Rahul Dholakia answers, There was a process and we are all hopeful that the parents get the answer -- as in the film.


Sudhanshu@rediffmail.com asked, how far ur story in the film is related to Gujarat riots?Actually in India so many things happening round the corner, but why only this story? Are you willing to do movie on burnning isuue like reservation?
Rahul Dholakia answers, I've not decided what my next film is. It should move me and I should be able to give it the time I have been able to give Parzania, because if you make any film on burning issues then we have to be well-researched.


ShabnamChennai asked, i want to ask that the Gujarat riots was between Hindus and Muslims then how the Parsian family became victim?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Go watch the film, you'll know. They had protested and everybody knew they were Parsis, and yet they were attacked -- because they were not Hindus.


Aarti asked, Movies definitely are a strong medium to communicate things in India, but is there a difference between the way audience in India reacts to a movie from the way people in West react to the same?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Yes. There is a difference. A difference of subtlety, and the importance cinema is given in the two countries. There is a maturity at large in both countries, but in our country we tend to take everything personally, and therefore comments like 'why don't you make a film on Kashmir' or 'why don't you do this' etc.


Lakshmi asked, is it right to make such movies and remind poeple who suffered personally during this calamity?
Rahul Dholakia answers, I think sometimes it's important to reopen wounds. To be able to heal them.


Vipul asked, Hi, the film industry should boycott releasing any films in Gujarat if this film is not allowed to release in Gujarat. Its the right of every human to view/watch the film and because of a few people why the same is been made to suffer to the others?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Well said. Mr Mahesh Bhatt is trying to rally support from the Producer's Guild.


Aarti asked, But I had a question about the role that was given to each character. Like the gandhian character that you hd in the movie. That old gentleman, I think he could have played a major role and probably even a bold one.. like coming out into open and explaining things.. his character i believe was unutilised.. any reasons for the same?
Rahul Dholakia answers, The idea was to have him there to touch Alan's heart. And not to be preachy.


Psbokare asked, Rahul, On the name of freedom of expression why did you show distorted picture of Gujarat riots? And if they refused to exhibit your film, is it not their (Gujarathis) freedom of selection as viewable and non viewable? Should it not be honoured ?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Of course, but if they want to screen my film, which they have told me and they are scared of violence by the Bajrang Dal -- which also they have told me -- then I think there's something more than meets the eye. And it doesn't remain as a freedom of choice but a fear.


Fouzan asked, Hey Rahul, Parzania is a great movie, first of congrats for your sincere efforts to bring the truth forward
Rahul Dholakia answers, Thank you.


Sameer asked, Do you fear that just like Amir Khan now Gujarat Administration will come after your life as well and send you summons/legal notices?
Rahul Dholakia answers, If I was scared about it, I would not have made Parzania.


MUNJUN asked, Given the trouble you are going through for releaseing the movie in Gujarat, how would u feel if at all it is not released in theatres and what would be your next move to ensure that the people of Gujarat get to see the movie?
Rahul Dholakia answers, There are NGOs which are planning to take it from village to village in the form of private screenings, DVDs etc. However, I would prefer a theatrical release.


Prem11 asked, i loved the movie..but some problems I had with Parzania was the visual tension that it lacked in the foreigner's characterisation..why use his a a metaphor or a catalyst?
Rahul Dholakia answers, I use him because he is an outsider, and can give an objective viewpoint. Had he been anything else, I would have gotten more hate mail. And also, it's important for the world to know that no religion is perfect and no country is perfect. So when Allan comes to India to study Gandhi, I didn't want him to be perfect either. And I sincerely believe that no white boy can solve India's problems.


Aarti asked, Making a movie on a burning issue like this definitely mustn't have been easy.. Tell us if you expected so much of opposition and even threats?
Rahul Dholakia answers, No. I think it was tough making this film, at every stage. First being a low-budget film, the production problems; the extreme stress while doing the research, then the Censor Board; and then distribution-release; and now finally Gujarat problem. But in the end I think it was worth it.


Zachkline asked, Do you think realistic films are a preferable genre of films rather that fictious ones??
Rahul Dholakia answers, Yes, I do.


Aarti asked, what is you idea of secularism?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Never really thought the world would start seeing people based on their religion or beliefs, and segregating them.


Fouzan asked, I would like to ask you Mr.Rahul, What's your reaction to the screening of Black Friday in the same Gujarat where they are not allowing Parzania to get released?
Rahul Dholakia answers, I think Black Friday releasing in Bombay and Parzania in Gujarat is more appropriate. But I am glad that at least Black Friday is releasing, because it has also had its fair share of trouble.


Pankaj asked, Sir, I have watched your movie...really nice movie...Bur sir, can u explain why we Indians not able to accept hard hitting realities?
Rahul Dholakia answers, I think we're still living in a feudal world.


Prem asked, I wish to congratulate for you attempt to document the history. Though they say history is often the document of one who succeeds, attempts by people like you will help the current and future generation from fundementalism and facism. What is your next plan on the anvil? Do you like to identify with any political parties in India?
Rahul Dholakia answers, No, I am not a politician. Nor do I have any political agenda.


Rahul DholakiaHari asked, who are the Indian and the international film makers who have inspired you?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Oliver Stone, Vittorio De Sica, Bimal Roy, Guru Dutt and Shekhar Kapur.


Chandra asked, What is your future projects and your dream project?
Rahul Dholakia answers, I don't know. I can't afford to dream :)


Ram asked, Motive: Is this movie your effort to tell truth to the nation or to make money while trying to tell the story to the nation?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Why is it that we are so obsessed with the money part of it? If you would know what we've gone through in making the film, you would understand and appreciate that there is something called ideology, belief, values and a commitment. Which is true of the entire unit of Parzania. And it has nothing to do with money.


Chandra asked, If you were given a chance to direct Amitabh ji then which type of film will you do
Rahul Dholakia answers, An action-comedy. He's brilliant at both!


Aarti asked, How do you all research when making a movie on such a controversial topic which is real, unlike a fictional story which is penned down? Do you go on the basis of what people say or the newspapers? Isn't there a danger of getting coloured information and statistics?
Rahul Dholakia answers, A collection of all. Interviews with victims, visits to the camps, statements, testimonials, everything possible. Not newspapers because they may be biased.


Murderedinkashmir asked, Have you released your movie in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia?
Rahul Dholakia answers, No, nowhere except India.


Aarti asked, Mr. Anand Patwardhan is definitely commendable when it comes to getting his movies released. He has fought long battles in courts, for getting his three movies released (when they were refused telecast by Doordarshan itself).. Are you planning to follow the same example? It would definitely benefit the world of movies, not only this one but also future movies..
Rahul Dholakia answers, That's what we're trying, and we need the public of Gujarat to support.


Padamam asked, it feels really sad, Gujarat being governed by a handful of bullies and a shame that most of the Gujaratis have kept mum. I would like to say that instead of trying convince theatre owners here, wait for a while and release the movie on tv channel. That wont give undue publicity to people like Bajrangi!!
Rahul Dholakia answers, That's not a bad idea.


Arati asked, Hi Rahul! Liked the film though I do not agree with the way you have shown the riots were handled. Anyway, that is your opinion and perspective. What kind of films do you personally like watching? Like Parzania or lighter films?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Depends on the mood, I watch all kinds of films. From Munnabhai to Maqbool.


COOL asked, Hum Release karke rahenge
Rahul Dholakia answers, Thank you :)


SK asked, why don't you have make film on burning of Godhra train? Do we think people who died there are not having kids? Why don't you make films on attack on parliament or living conditions of Kashmir pandits on Delhi streets/ killings in Kashmir or Assam or West Bengal. Taslima has written Lajja on status of minorities(Hindus) in Bangladesh.Why don't you make a film on it? Any plans to make film on status of Hindhus in Pak and Bangla? Any plans to make film on Coimbattore/Varanasi/Bombay/Delhi/Maleogon blasts? You people have time make Faana and Parzania but never attrocities on Hindhus? Why? Just because you don't get any award or Hindus are not humans to discuss? I saw the movie its fully biased and you should have explained why did Parsis came to India(as history says unabale to bare the persecution in Iran, Parsis came to India)
Rahul Dholakia answers, Do I have to make films for every problem in India? Isn't one problem I'm dealing with in my film Parzania about hate, enough? And there are 900 films made in a year. There are many filmmakers who can make a film of their choice so why do you have to question only one filmmaker?


Moin asked, hi Rahul! We are doing a signature campaign collecting people views on releasing Parzania in Halol District:Panchmahal.
Rahul Dholakia answers, great. contact Drashti Media, they are an NGO in Ahmedabad, and has the online petition.


Megaouch asked, What would be the limits to freedom of expression that you would support?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Are there limits? If there are limits, then how can you call it freedom?


Sid asked, Parzania has a strong star cast...Sarika is back to the screen after a very long time, but still she has stood out...credits to you....How difficult was it for you to direct a person who was away from the screen for such a long time ?
Rahul Dholakia answers, I think we spent about a month just reading the script everyday. Each scene, whether it was her's or not. And it was not very difficult because she's a brilliant actress and she believed in the script.


Assad asked, I wish to see this movie but it only screens in the morning session. Why is that? Very dissapointed!
Rahul Dholakia answers, Where are you living? There are some evening shows in Delhi, Bombay, Pune, Calcutta, Indore.


MUN_JUN asked, the people of Gujarat are so desensitised of communal violence that they were even indulging in stone pelting across mohallas when Tamas serial was being shown on television as if one community reminidng the other to switch on the tv. What makes you think your film would lead to self introspection?
Rahul Dholakia answers, I think it's a certain section of Gujarat which is like that, not the whole of Gujarat. A lot of people from Gujarat are calling, congratulating and wanting to see the film. So I don't think the Bajrangis represent Gujarat.


Megaouch asked, If there should be no limits, would you agree to Hussain's paintings on nude Hindu gods, or cartoon/artistic representations of the prophet? Personally, I can agree to both. What about you?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Yes. I think the stupid hue and outcry made by the Islamic clerics against the Danish cartoon is as ridiculous as the saffron brigade stomping Hussain's paintings.


Kale asked, are u going to make film on the parts of India which is donated to other countries for nothing, like Teen Beegha Zamin to Bangladesh and Kachathivu Island to Sri Lanka?
Rahul Dholakia answers, I don't know much about it, but please send me some research material.


Nirman asked, Some people are....you cannot blame on one community.....akkal hai ki nahin..... Even I respect few Muslims and they are also good like us. But have you ever marked that every terrorists are Muslims always ?
Rahul Dholakia answers, George Bush is not a Muslim!


Fouzan asked, I think this chatting session is going in wrong direction of only asking about the release in Gujarat, the cheap publicity and importance these politicians are seeking for, and we are giving it to them by talking about this thing only ... Who is Babu Bajranagi? I had never heard of this politician one week back, and all of a sudden he is into news! Apart from this I would like to ask Mr.Dholakia had he gone thorugh a terrific Book on Gujrat Riots with the name When Gujarat Burns?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Yes. Gone through a lot of books, lot of reports and commissioned findings.


Fouzan asked, Mr.Rahul, have you seen Tamas ?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Yes, of course. And it's brilliant.


Satish asked, what will be your reaction if Narendra modi comes back to power again in that state.. even after people have watched this kind of movie Parzania and many more of this kind if it happens people make this kind of movies time and again.. I think it requires common mans approach to answer my question.
Rahul Dholakia answers, Narendra Modi will be reelected. Because he is extremely popular in the state of Gujarat. He has done a lot for them in the form of economic welfare and will be reelected. However, a vibrant Gujarat can only exist if there is freedom of speech and expression for everyone. Not just for the majority few. And that I fail to see in Modi's Gujarat.


Rajesh asked, hi Rahul, first of all I would lik to congratulate you for the National Award. I watched this movie a lot. Could you please share how you got to direct movie like Parzania?
Rahul Dholakia answers, I had to produce it myself!! :)


Mihir asked, What was your budget for the film?
Rahul Dholakia answers, About Rs 3 crores.


Shahed asked, Mr. Rahul, will you make a movie on the crusade of Bush ?
Rahul Dholakia answers, No, I think I'll leave that to Michael Moore.


Abhi4u23 asked, Mr. Rahul you said Parzania is an anti-hate film and a pro humanity film. Isn't Black the same, see because it depicted some particular community, censor board didn't release it. What you have to say about that?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Black was Helen Keller's story, and it was released with big fanfare. I only wish I had Black's luck!


Mihir asked, Have you done anything when Faana was banned in Gujarat?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Yes, I spoke up.


Rajesh asked, which is your all time favourite movie?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Godfather, Bicycle Thieves, Pyaasa, Do Bigha Zameen, Munnabhai MBBS, and DDLJ. Sholay. Deewar.


Rascal asked, Mr. Rahul, will you make a movie on sex scandals?
Rahul Dholakia answers, maybe.


Subramanya asked, hi Rahul, would you ever think of doing a film on Godhra train burning? And if so, do you forsee it being banned all over the country Except Gujarat ?
Rahul Dholakia answers, No, I'm against banning in principle, and I would fight!


Aarti asked, How was it like to make children like Parzan and Pearl (if I am not mistaken) act in a serious movie like this? Though kids are more aware about things than before, it must have been difficult?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Thank you for asking this question, because I was getting tired of defending secularism. They were darlings on the set. And were real stress-reliefs. It almost was as if they were like my kids. Both Pearl and Parzan's mothers were on set and were given the scripts to read way before they agreed to do the film. So we had to take extreme care that they were not exposed to violence. But the kids were wonderful and a delight. And there was hardly any direction.


Taruna asked, Q-is this film can be realesed in any other language Q-why do you want Sarika and Nasser?
Rahul Dholakia answers, I would like to dub it in Hindi. Maybe Gujarati too. Sarika and Naseer are sensitive people and brilliant actors, and the question one should ask is why did Naseer decide to act in this film.


Ank asked, the question again...does the initial vision behind a film get diluted by the drudgery of the filmmaking process?
Rahul Dholakia answers, Often it does. That's why its very important to have a good script and believe in it.


The Lord asked, How was it working with one of the Greatest actor of India "Nasserudin Shah".
Rahul Dholakia answers, Difficult. I had to be very sure about anything and everything I said to him. But it was a very satisfying experience as well.


Vcgopi1 asked, you hope this movie will hit?
Rahul Dholakia answers, I never made this movie for either awards or rewards.


Rahul Dholakia says, Okay guys, was interesting chatting with you. Defeat hate, celebrate unity. Watch Parzania. Thanks and bye.

Photographs: Reuben NV