The Hindu-Muslim divide in India was never felt to be so pronounced before. And here’s where cinema could play an anti-divisive role.
Director Zaigham Imam visits the nurturing volatility of the holy city of Varanasi for his third film that goes by the name of Nakkash, which means ‘craftsman’. It tells the powerful and decisive story of a Muslim temple-craftsman and his efforts to grasp the ironical complexities of the religious divide in the holy city of Varanasi.
The brilliant Inaamulhaq who plays the communally conflicted craftsman says it’s about time cinema reclaimed its reformist responsibilities, “Or maybe reform is too big an aspiration. At least cinema should make us think about the issues that plague our system. The Hindu-Muslim communal divide is an issue that concerns all of us and should be addressed, not swept under the carpet.”
Inaamulhaq came into recognition after the cross-border satire Filmistaan in 2014 where he first co-starred with his dear friend and colleague Sharib Hashmi. Thereafter Inaamulhaq refused to be sucked into the inane world of Hindi commercial cinema. “I don’t want to sound immodest. But believe me I turned down at least forty offers after Filmistaan. I didn’t want to repeat myself. Nor did I want to do cinema that merely aimed to be time pass entertainers. Call me idealistic, but I believe God has greater plans for cinema than mere entertainment.”
In his quest for doing an edifying cinematic experience Inaamulhaq has said no to some big projects. “I recently turned down Total Dhamaal. With due respects to the talent behind the project, it made no sense to me. I’d rather do Nakkash where there’s no money. But there is that sense of fulfilment of having done work which will impact the audience, and never mind how minuscule that audience. Actors like Kumud Mishra, Sharib Hashmi, Rajesh Verma and I who co-star in Nakkash are known as professionals dedicated to what we do.”
As for money, here’s Inaamulhaq’s take: “I didn’t come to Mumbai to make money. I came here to do the kind work I can be proud of, that my son can talk proudly to his friends about. I am not saying money isn’t important. But I won’t sell my soul to buy a 2-bedroom flat in Mumbai. That’s not my aspiration. I left behind a home in my birthplace Sharanpur where our buffaloes were housed in the housing space that is affordable to someone of my income in Mumbai. So my wife, son and I better off in a rented place.”
The dedicated actor admits there is no money to publicize and release Nakkash which releases on May 31. “Sharib Hashmi and I held the hoardings in our hands and stood in Juhu for hours as we did not have the money to put up hoardings. We are confident of getting an audience because what we have to say concerns all of us. We cannot turn away from the divide that has been created between Hindus and Muslims in this country. Nakkash tells us to follow our own religious belief, and follow it privately and not via any mullah or pundit, and to make sure we respect other religions.”