Digging out lost voices

Digging out lost voices

Digging out lost voices

seeking answers Still from ‘Kya Main Qaafir Hoon?’.

He tried to seek an answer, and since he is a filmmaker, an aspiring one at that, his search resulted in a film. Kya Main Qaafir Hoon? (Am I a Non-believer?), a one-hour film has been able to strike a chord with the discerning viewer. It got selected for the Non-Feature section of the Indian Panorama at the last International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa as well as the Persistence Resistance Film Festival in Delhi in February.

Flora, a Sikh from Jabbalpur, refuses to call his venture a short film, stressing that it has the structure of a long feature film, minus the length though. But more than that aspect, it is the subject that he feels is important in today’s context. The young director chose to delve into the debate within the Muslim community about religion and its impact on them against the backdrop of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, and though slightly verbose, his film has been able to raise pertinent questions.

For Flora, it has been a worthwhile venture, though he would have loved to make it into a full-length feature film but for lack of finances. He explains, “I am trying to analyse the irony of the fact that in following principles of a religion with the same purpose, two persons can find themselves on opposite sides. My film tries to show that everything stems from a certain value system, education and most importantly, certain experiences in life that mould people into unique individuals.”

Flora, who took the help of several of his Muslim friends to explore various points of view in the community, fleshed out realistic characters in the story. “Such a story cannot stand on its own if its characters are not real. Initially, people doubted my intentions. But with some effort, I managed to break that barrier and found some authentic voices. I decided to take a backseat, and let those voices talk and interact independently in my film as I didn’t want to pass a judgement or offer a clear-cut solution as there is none,” he says.

Flora has been clear that he would highlight the fact that the common man’s views on religion are never heard or taken into consideration. He says, in a matter of fact tone, “I wanted this point heard, loud and clear. Whenever any issue of national interest is talked about in TV or print, the Muslims are generally represented by the same faces, again and again. Not that there is anything wrong in their views. But sadly, the voice of a common Muslim is lost in this whole commotion. I decided that when I tell my story, this must be included, very firmly.”

In the film, Abraham, an NRI Muslim who escapes death in the Taj Hotel firing incident, goes to his native place in Central India where he sets out to achieve his long-term dream to set up a madrassa to provide education to poor Muslim children. Through the city’s SP, Suleiman Shaikh, he gets in touch with TV journalist Maria, who also has a similar wish. But when Maria and Abraham meet, it is found that they have very different ideologies, which is what develops the drama.

Flora is aware that the market for short films is nearly zilch in India. But he hopes that if not for a regular theatrical release, it will at least be picked up by a general entertainment channel for screening. The DVDs of the film are being distributed by Delhi-based Magic Lantern Foundation that distributes independent documentaries, short films and also full-length films.

Flora is aware that a lot of films are being made on socio-religious themes but getting restricted to the film festival circuit. While he says that there is no direct visible impact of cinema on society, he believes that it is one of the many tools that can be used effectively for social change. “It is a powerful medium. Therefore, I am very much against its abuse. As a filmmaker, I wish for the sake of society that private satellite channels pick up relevant content to broadcast on television, rather than the mindless shows that are aired merely for the sake of TRPs,” says Flora, who has assisted in films like Manoj Punj’s Zindagi Khoobsoorat Hai and Parvati Balagopalan’s Rules: Pyaar Ka Superhit Formula.