Review: On the fateful night of 1 July 2016, five young militants armed with guns and grenades stormed the Holey Artisan café in Dhaka. They opened fire, took diners hostage and killed at least 22 people (mostly foreigners) in a span of 12 hours. Hansal Mehta recreates and reimagines the dreadful night that led to the loss of innocent lives.
Known for his outspokenness and liberal ideologies, Mehta addresses a raging debate that’s relevant in India and across the globe — tolerance versus intolerance, religion versus radicalism and humanity over everything else. It’s rare to see hostage dramas making room for people with polarising views to have a face-to-face confrontation. Faraaz opens a dialogue between liberals and radicals in a non-dramatic way. The terrorists led by Nibras (Aditya Rawal), a well-educated, English-speaking youngster, are convinced that ‘Islam khatre mein hai’.
One of the Bangladeshi hostages Faraaz (Zahan Kapoor), questions and challenges the Islamic fanaticism even at gunpoint. “You think you are a revolutionary? You are just a bully with a gun”, he retorts. Nibras argues, “There was a time when Islam ruled the world and all Muslims lived in golden palaces.” The militants wish to rule the world while Faraaz speaks of peaceful coexistence.
Hansal Mehta’s acclaimed body of work is testament to his sensibility. His cinematic language is about keeping things raw and making a statement without resorting to any stereotypes. His execution or intent don’t falter here, but they don’t quite emotionally invest you in the characters or leave you shaken either. Even as he maintains paranoia, the treatment feels one-toned. The nervous energy stagnates over time and never quite reaches its peak. You get a bit restless as conversations overstay their welcome.
Barring the character sketch of Nibras, which is nuanced and conflicted, the writing has its limitations. Words exchanged lack depth and sound more like a woke Twitter debate. A liberal Muslim schooling a radical Muslim, sounds more preachy than powerful.
While every new actor gives a sincere performance, the film’s standout act comes from Paresh Rawal’s son Aditya Rawal, who says a lot without saying much. His role demands him to be both humane and cruel, thoughtful yet blinded with hate. He portrays every aspect of his character perfectly. Zahan Kapoor, son of Kunal Kapoor and grandson of Shashi Kapoor, is balanced and effective in his titular role. Newcomers Sachin Lalwani and Reshham Sahaani along with Juhi Babbar also play their parts with conviction.
While the aerial shots of Dhaka are authentic, everything else looks and feels like Mumbai (where major part of the film has been actually shot) and lacks the mood and hustle bustle of the actual location (Dhaka) where the tragedy unfolded.
As a confined space hostage thriller, Faraaz is adequately gripping and impactful. It, however, isn’t as claustrophobic and gut-wrenching as a ‘Neerja’ or ‘Hotel Mumbai’.