CAST: Aditya Rawal, Zahan Kapoor, Juhi Babbar, Sachin Lalwani, Jatin Sarin, Ninad Bhatt, Harshal Pawar, Palak Lalwani, Reshham Sahaani

DIRECTED BY: Hansal Mehta

Faraaz brings to the screen the horrific terror attack on Dhaka’s Holey Artisan Bakery Dhaka seven years ago. Based on the book Holey Artisan: A Journalistic Investigation, the movie is Hansal Mehta telling us the story of understated courage.

I must confess that while watching the movie, I waited for most of its 113 minutes for an action sequence where the hero comes dishooming down the aisle and saves the day, much true to the Bollywood tropes, but none of that happens in this movie.

Instead the movie is about kids who you see around you, on social, joking, clubbing, gymming and educated at that. The opening scene shows you their young, normal selves speaking in hinglish, joking, using profanity and fighting for the tandoori chicken.

It is only a few more minutes into the movie that you understand that these are brainwashed, ISIS operatives who really have no sane mission.

Inspired from real life incidents, the movie is about these five young brainwashed men who land up at an upscale Dhaka café, Holey Artisan Bakery, on the night of  July 1, 2016. The security guard checks their bags; they slit his throat. They barge inside and pump bullets, primarily targeting foreigners and non-muslims. One of the survivors, hiding under a table with his two female friends, is a young man, Faraaz (Zahan Kapoor). Someone who, at least from his upbringing, isn’t different from them: educated, suave, elite. One of the gun-wielding boys recognizes Faraaz as knows him from his football practice.

While the movie does not dwell into the backstory but the book does mention the long form association between Nibras ( Aditya Rawal) and Faraaz.

Nibras (Aditya Rawal) attended Monash University in Malaysia, supported the Liverpool football club and had an uncle who was a deputy secretary in the Bangladeshi government. Two assailants went to elite private schools following Western education. Another gunman’s father was a politician in the ruling Awami League party. Not your average brainwashed specimens who are doing this under duress for money but ISIS brainwashed educated, elite youth.

It works very well for the Director to leave these back-stories out of the narrative because it piques audience attention immediately. Throughout the movie, as the five go on a rampage, you see them being respectful, or having an english outburst or bring in elite colloquialism and you wonder where they are from, how they got to this state and how far will they go.

The entire bloodbath is expertly interspersed by a few things that are important for the storytelling. The moments that the five show humanity between their regressive behavior.

The other important aspect of the movie is the response of the cops to the hostage situation. The movie lays bare the sheer incompetence and the unpreparedness of the forces as the five kids go on a mindless shooting spree.

The influential family that Faraaz belongs to tries its best to get preferred status and as annoying as it was to see, the reality of the sub-continent social structures is well -orchestrated. In that moment of terror, the poor and the rich, the haves and the have-nots become the same.

As Nibras shows some humanity in the middle of his bloodbath, you realize that the scenes are not designed to show his humane side for evoking empathy. These layer up to a feeling of pure disgust towards them as the Director keeps you hanging on to uncover the sheer reason that they were doing what they were doing.

The writers Ritesh Shah, Kashyap Kapoor and Raghav Kakkar are smart and know how to play with the emotions of the audience to keep them hooked from the word go.

If you’ve seen enough Bollywood films, you know how heroes look like. But Zahaan Kapoor’s Faraaz doesn’t fit the type. You can, in fact, define him by what he’s not. He is not muscular or tall, does not have a lot of screen time or dialogues, and he stays in the background for most of the movie. You almost keep waiting for the moment when he gets his fight but the movie presents none.

Except for the scenes with Nibras where Zahaan’s Faraaz shines in those brief one-liners, the Director shows you the courage that is understated, ethics that are stellar and a presence that did not need any song and dance to portray.

Every aspect of the film has been treated with great care. Defining Faraaz, his absence from the trope of the conventional Indian film hero and then the surprise moment when he rises and shines as the person who stays true to himself and his faith.

While focussing on the terrorists and the victims, the movie also makes a significant statement about the unpreparedness of the cops. The cops lack bulletproof jackets and helmets; they can’t procure the café’s blueprint; the lack of coordination among them stretches this insanity till the early hours of the morning – all laced with laidback humor.

Rawal is the best thing about this movie. His performance is explosive. He changes his tone so swiftly – from urban casual lingo to religious suras, all with ease and changes his demeanor from an empathic youth to a brutal murderer in a flick. He is a treat to watch.

One of the most chilling scenes doesn’t pivot on violence but a conversation: Nibras talking to a young girl. Just read the following and see if it reminds you of something. Nibras tells her that “Islam khatre me hai”, that many eons ago it ruled the world, and then it was all robbed from them.

Faraaz tells a very compelling story in a very compelling manner. It pays homage to real heroes who do not wear capes but stay true to their selves no matter the situation or danger. They stand up for what they believe it and for people who need them.

Highly recommended.

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