‘Nanak Shah Fakir’ review: Despite all the constraints, it is an effective and incredibly pristine film
Director: Sartaj Singh Pannu
Cast: Arif Zakaria, Adil Hussain, Tom Alter, Shraddha Kaul, Anurag Arora, Narendra Jha, Govind Pandey
The film’s cinematography is gorgeous, and many of the performances are very real.
At a time when several innovative ideas are being used to appeal to the movie-goers, it is interesting to see how a few filmmakers are paying adequate attention to religious-themed movies, which still remains the untapped genre in Indian cinema.
Harinder Sikka’s ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’, which revolves around the life and teachings of Guru Nanak that are narrated by loyal disciple Bhai Mardana (Arif Zakaria), may have been banned in a few parts in India for violating Sikh doctrine (it depicts the Guru in human form). But those who have watched it will agree that it offers several indelible episodes from Guru Nanak’s travels and multiple thoughts that put forth the essence of ‘Ek Onkar’ – all making the experience of watching this film truly enriching.
What also makes it remarkable is the convincing manner in which it puts forth an in-depth presentation of Nanak’s childhood, his philosophy and Udasi tours, in about 140 minutes.
Right from its very first frame – when we are introduced to Guru Nanak’s birthplace Rai Bhoi Ki Talvaṇḍi (which is now referred to as Nankana Sahib) to a fantastic shot towards the end – when he recites ‘Ek Onkar’ in holy voice, the film keeps the audience engrossed. ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’ never pretends to be a drama. On the contrary, it comes across as a distinctively visual work of art that explains the Guru’s preachings without letting the viewers get a glimpse of him. All that’s shown is soft light that radiates from Guru Nanak’s body and outlines it to maintain the sanctity.
The film succeeds in maintaining its piousness throughout with excellent background score, meaningful lyrics and sleek editing.
It strikes a perfect balance between the Guru’s personal life and his philosophy, especially the episodes that happened while he traveled to Varanasi, Jagannath Puri, Kamrup (Assam), Tibet, and how they resonated with the mood at that time. Each incident that happened during 25-year Udasis puts forth his teachings against the caste system, and for the equality of all humanity.
The cinematography is gorgeous, and many of the performances are very real, especially that of Arif Zakaria. Arif is impressive as he plays Bhai Mardana, a Muslim fakir who belongs to a poor family of rebab players, and Guru Nanak’s disciple and companion. Since the viewers don’t get to see Guru Nanak, it is then only through Arif’s reactions as Bhai Mardana that they understand Guru’s thoughts at different situations. As the narrator of Guru’s story, he is terrific.
Full credit goes to the makeup artistes who helped Arif’s character grow from early 20s to late 70s, and make Tom Alter look the way you’ve never seen before. Tom is completely unrecognizable as the puffed up king Daulat Khan.
Keeping aside the controversy, the film offers a genuinely religious experience. It’s a pity that not everybody will get the chance to watch it at the theatres.