Art & Culture

'Rubaru Roshni': Aamir Khan is here with another film to make you cry. This time, the stories are real

Suhani Singh
Suhani SinghJan 26, 2019 | 13:46

'Rubaru Roshni': Aamir Khan is here with another film to make you cry. This time, the stories are real

This Republic Day, you have three options at the movies. Two require you to head to the cinema and arouse the patriot within you; the other requires you to sit at home in front of your TV set and see how hate and rage don’t get us anywhere.

Interestingly, it’s the latter film which pays rich emotional dividends.

In the documentary Rubaru Roshni, produced by Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao, filmmaker Svati Chakravarty Bhatkal reminds us the value of forgiveness and empathy in the current world where bigotry and vitriol are increasingly encouraged. The film is a clarion call for Indians to rise up and not forget the humanity within us.  

Filmmaker Swati Bhatkal picks three stories which show that the seeds of divisiveness won’t spread too far. The first one titled 'The Orphan and The Convict' looks at the repercussions of a murder on the sole child of the two victims, and the perpetrator of the crime.

rubaru1-copy_012519060648.jpgThe film is a clarion call for Indians to rise up and not forget the humanity inherent within us. (Photo: PTI)

Avantika Maken Tanwar’s childhood was disrupted after her parents were shot dead at their home in Delhi in 1985. She was six.

The killer was Ranjit Singh Gill who attacked Avantika’s father, Lalit Maken, after he read a book in which Maken’s name was mentioned as one of the Congress MPs responsible for the killing of Sikhs in the riots that followed the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984. 

Bhatkal uses the talking head format effectively to show how Avantika’s rage transformed her personality, her solitude, even when she was surrounded by an esteemed extended family that included an erstwhile President of India, and her personal hardships.

But Bhatkal never lets one voice overpower the other.

Ranjit narrates how he gave up on an educational stint abroad and got co-opted into a revolutionary movement that he believed would save his faith and its identity. Bhatkal enables her two protagonists to channelise their innermost thoughts and gradually show how they have come of age. Avantika is the more dynamic, powerful storyteller of the two and she’s unafraid to show her vulnerabilities as she documents her struggle.

Ranjit shares how he missed freedom the most while in a correctional facility in the US and then, Tihar jail. A resolution is reached which should be experienced rather than explained here for it’s a poignant moment that highlights human resilience to overcome grief and guilt. 

The second story, 'The Farmer and the Nun', is set in Madhya Pradesh and originates from the murder of Sister Rani Maria in 1995. Khan narrates to us how she was travelling on a bus when she was stabbed 54 times and deserted on the road. The culprit was the farmer of the title, Samundar Singh.

The nun is Selmi Paul, Rani Maria’s younger sister, who was battling cancer then. Bhatkal begins the story in Maria’s ancestral home in Kerala, where her brother comforts their frail mother as soon as the name of her deceased daughter is brought up. It’s one of the most heart-wrenching moments in the documentary as a mother mourns. Some wounds never heal. 

As Singh reveals the factors which drove him to commit the crime two decades ago, Rubaru Roshani feels chillingly relevant as marginalised communities continue to be misunderstood and targeted by those in the majority.

The urgency of this message is not lost as Singh elaborates on how his lack of awareness made him gullible and easily provoked to protect his faith.

Not much has changed with fake news and rumours circulated on Whatsapp forwards now to disseminate fear and hatred. Selma’s thoughts and Swami Sadanand’s goodwill become the much-needed antidotes to combat that fear. It is Singh who becomes the moral core of the documentary as he reflects on being worthy of a second chance at life.

The final story, 'The Terror and The Mom', varies from the other two, given the magnitude of the atrocity. Two of the 164 casualties in the 26/11 attacks were the husband and teenage daughter of US resident Kia Scherr. There is no direct interaction here between the tormented and the tormentor as nine of the terrorists were killed and the one who survived (Ajmal Kasab) was later hanged.

Bhatkal wants people to know what drove Kasab to the act as we see his interrogation in hospital as he lays on a bed. How one reacts to the footage tells us more about us than anything else. The final story may not be as evoking of tears as the first two but by incorporating Scherr’s journey, Bhatkal wants audiences to perhaps understand the manifold ways one finds closure.

In Scherr’s case, she now makes an annual trip to India to conduct workshops on peace with people from various backdrops.

By now, we know that what makes Aamir Khan cry has worked on most occasions. This time, most of the viewers will respond too to the stories and hopefully realise that all’s not lost.

Last updated: January 26, 2019 | 13:46
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