Arun Karthick’s Nasir, which premiered as part of the We Are One global film festival, doesn’t depict dramatic events or undergo thematic changes, so to speak. Instead, the audience follows Nasir (portrayed with subdued diligence by theatre actor Koumarane Valavane), a representative of one of the Muslim ghettos in Coimbatore, conducting a dignified social life as a local salesman for just one day.
Exploration of Nasir’s one-day journey and the film’s emphasis on anti-hate and love.
The film begins with the eloquent Islamic call to prayer, Adhan, establishing its purpose. We then transition to Nasir’s family, consisting of his wife Taj, the physically abled Iqbal, and his mother with poor health. Fatima is leaving for her hometown for five days. Before their separation is depicted, the film delves into its political and aesthetic design, portraying the Muslim ghetto’s peaceless confinement as a minority community and the overt communalization of agendas on loudspeakers when reaching public outskirts, masqueraded as sacred addressing.
The effective portrayal of the Muslim ghetto’s environment and the claustrophobia induced on celluloid.
On an intimate level, the film revolves around anti-hate and the concept of ‘love.’ The protagonist seeks solace in poetry, and the film’s most intimate moments are short monologues representing Nasir’s poetic love letters to Taj. These moments, like the separation interrupted by social chaos, frustratingly fade away with external interruptions of intolerance. Arun Karthik’s filmmaking features minimal amplifications at the beginning and progresses to unbearable intensifications in the climax, transforming verbal violence into physical violence and bigotry into heteronomy.
Among the many brilliant aspects of Arun’s filmmaking is the psychology of violence that follows the narrative trajectory. The politics of Nasir is never overt but remains a subsidiary undercurrent, portraying a man from the oppressed group unaware or silent about the material circumstances of hate around him. The hate he encounters in the employer’s house, the islamophobia rooted in his co-worker, and the hate monger speeches at the traffic signal against the Muslim community are part of the sprawling dive into the enduring realities.
It’s intriguing to see the filmmaker encode these nuances even in the technical design, using the rare 4:3 aspect ratio in indie circles. Nasir benefits from the compact space, inducing a majestic claustrophobia onto celluloid.
Secularism appears as a blown-out pun from the film’s societal lens. The contrived secular design of the textile and the compassionate lunch outings between two people are instances of dark humor. Arun Karthik breaks Muslim stereotypes with the representation of his middle-aged protagonist, beautifully dignified like Mushin Parari’s Muslim representation in Malayalam Cinema.
Moments of optimism and hope in the film are quietly savored through noir aesthetics. The climax, devoid of cinematic gimmicks, is dark and unsettling. Nasir serves as a timely reminder that powerful political expression in cinema doesn’t need overt gimmickry or showy radicalism. Instead, it relies on poetry, poignancy, and political discourse, all while maintaining the beauty of noir aesthetics.
CA Student who’s enthusiastic about films.