Indian cinema has been making serious inroads and developments into unchartered territories without the stereotypical Bollywood masala in tow- so much so that now even the term ‘Bollywood’ has been swiftly erased and replaced with the more professional diction of ‘industry’. With offerings of films like Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye, Chak De India, Life in a Metro amongst several others, the Indian film industry has been quite adventurous in recent times with opting for alternative menus from their regular dosages of song, dance, romance and have shown in full glory what their cinema is capable of. Their latest offering Little Zizou, a Mira Nair and Indian Films presentation and the directorial debt of the photographer and screenwriter, Sooni Taraporevala, is yet another delightful addition to the Indian screens.
Little Zizou is a sweet poignant film, peppered with Gujrati, that effectively and colourfully presents a slice of life of two warring Parsi families. Through these two families, the film presents a glimpse into the language, culture, religion and life of the Parsi community in India. With an impressive cast – all Parsis mind you – including the illustrious Boman Irani and the young Imaad Shah, son of the veteran theatre and film actor Naseeruddin Shah (who is a Muslim married to Ratna Pathak, a Parsi) the film takes you through life as a Parsi completely. While Boman Irani is already an established and much appreciated actor, the young Imaad makes quite an impression in this film as an actor with immense potential. John Abraham is around for some very welcome eye candy.
Indian cinema has increasingly begun to staunchly believe in the terribly trite-but in their case true-adage that good things come in small packages; the movie also introduces two incredibly talented younger artistes, Sonni’s children: Inayah and Jahan Bativala who play Boman’s spiteful yet charming little daughter and Xerxes, affectionately and self proclaimed ‘little Zizou’, respectively. These are not the only characters in the film though, the movie is inundated with fascinating little vignettes of people and locations. Yet despite this deluge of characters, the film never looses its focus but keeps on its track evolving through the comic strips, dreams of Russian invasions, temples and homes, meandering all over Mumbai to deliver a simple tale of faith, hope and love.
The dialogues are pithy, witty and meaningful, crafted and stylized like Bapsi Sidhwa’s The Crow Eaters, illuminating the complexities of people and human nature, never allowing audiences to dismiss any character or typecast anyone in one emotion or perspective. This is a capacity that only good writersare able to create for their characters-never allowing readers to excommunicate or relegate them, but always see them subjectively as a holistic whole.
From the title of the film one expects a frivolous, light hearted family comedy centering on football and its French star Zidane. Nothing could be farther from the reality of the film. Contrary to expectations, it is not a hilarious laugh out loud type of film but a quiet erudite comedy reflecting on the complexities of life, as Imaad Shah points out in the movie, “That’s life. One day you’re a cockpit, the other, scrap metal.”
Although the story revolves around little Zizou and his football craze-it centres more on his struggle for love, the pain of being a motherless child with an ambitious, religiously hypocritical father. In its most basic form, Little Zizou is an intimate story of a family and its relationships with its own members, and the members of the community it exists in. On a more deeper level, it is a critique on total social control that organized religions exercise. Through Little Zizou Sooni makes an important social commentary on the religious bigotry that is rampant around the world. In an interview she stated her outrage at what people are doing in the name of religion: “I’m a religious person but I don’t follow it blindly. The way I see it is that religious leaders do things for their own personal gains and in the process destroy the world and brainwash gullible people.” She made the film on what was closest to her own social reality, but terrifyingly for us all, this is not an isolated phenomenon and one that we experience everyday with our own beliefs. The film makes some very excellent observations on how to tackle the situations and suggests, amongst other things, to think, criticise and hope. It is very different from the way the Parsis were characterized in comic flicks from Bollywood like (the Amol Palekar and Tina Munim starrer) Baton Baton Mein and also quite different from Bollywood’s recent attempt to script a film on Parsis: Being Cyrus. Little Zizou is a very genuine straightforward film that presents a very nuanced understating of religion and life. A must watch to gain insight and hope for what we in Pakistan are suffering and how we may find solace and a panacea to our quandaries – Hani Taha Salim (Rating – 3 OUT OF 5)
Cast and Production Credits
Year – 2009, Genre – Comedy, Country – India, Language – English, Producers – Dinaz Stafford, Studio 18, Sooni Taraporevala, Director – Sooni Taraporevala, Cast – Kurush Deboo, Boman Irani, Cyrus Broacha, Immaduddin Shah, Imaad Shah, Saurabh Ardeshir, Shernaz Patel, Zenobia Shroff, Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwa, Kunal Vijaykar, Tknow Francorsi, Kamal Sidhu, Dilshad Patel, Iyanah Bativala, Special Appearance – John Abraham