After a lot of protests, the film has finally hit screens
Harinder Singh Sikka’s maiden production venture, Nanak Shah Fakir has been attracting a lot of attention, and not the good reasons. The film which is a biopic of the Sikh Guru, Nanak Ji, is said to be blasphemous and is supposedly hurtful to the religious sentiments of the Sikh community. I just caught a show of the film, and as Sikh, I want to assure anyone in doubt that I’m, by no means, hurt.
What’s it about?
The film is the story of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev Ji. It briefly covers his birth and early years, but focuses more on the journey he took with his friend and disciple Mardana (Arif Zakaria) to various parts of India to spread the divine message. It also briefly dwells into the family and social bonds of Nanak.
I have a lot to put down here, but let’s just start with the fact that it is the first ever story of a Sikh Guru to be captured on celluloid. I think that effort in itself earns a lot of brownie points. Next is the way the story is narrated by Mardana, the way he sees Nanak and things around them. The film is in tune with the religious tenets. Since idol worship is against Sikh beliefs, portraying a Guru in the human form is prohibited. Accommodating this tenet, the story does not show the face of Nanak even once at any point. Instead, with the use of high-end VFX, Nanak is either shown from behind or emerging from a ray of light as a silhouette or from behind a shear. And surprisingly that does not reduce the grandeur of the character instead makes it more mystic and heavenly. It’s not like other films where you need to see and relate to the character to like him or root for him. The story itself is so impactful that the characters merely become props. Of course, it helps to have brilliant actors like Arif Zakaria, Shraddha Kaul (Nanak’s mother), Adil Hussain and Tom Alter (Sultan) making the characters so believable. Arif and Adil, in particular have done a splendid job as Mardana and Rai Bahadur.
Coming to the music, each time a hymn would start playing I’d have goosebumps all over. The background score was every bit as soothing as it was mystical; Rabaab being the predominant instrument. Well with Oscar winner A R Rahman and Resul Pookutty, I don’t think there could be anything better than this. The best part about Nanak Shah Fakir is that it maintains the authenticity of the time it is set in. Be it the sets, the costumes or the language, everything is very fitting.
The major drawback of the film is that it tries to encompass a lot in a limited time. I felt like certain incidents that needed more attention weren’t done justice to, in order to incorporate more anecdotes. Like the tale of Nanak working at the government ration store where he was blamed of giving more ration to people than they paid for or the time when he first preaches. I feel these incidents required a little more elaboration. But again, for anyone who does not know the story of Nanak, will not really figure that out. Also since we are so accustomed to the 2-2.5-hour movies, this one seemed a bit longer.
What to do?
I met a Tamilian couple at the theatre who knew nothing about Guru Nanak but fell in love with his story. So I guess it’s not just a dream come true for those who've grown up listening to tales of Nanak but is also a story which was worth narrating and definitely worth watching. I, for one, have had an extremely humbling experience.
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