Rotting in the cans for almost four years, Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan’s National Award-winning 72 Hoorain has perhaps got a release because the film distribution ecosystem believes that it could cash in the frenzied atmosphere created by The Kashmir Files and The Kerala Story at the box office.
But truth be told, 72 Hoorain is not a companion piece to the hateful propaganda propagated by the two films. It is a cautionary tale that questions the motive of the poor foot soldiers of terrorism to become suicide bombers. Like Shoaib Mansoor’s Bol, it doesn’t put a particular religion on the dock but rather button holds those who misinterpret religious texts for their vested interest. At times, its message that Islam like any religion is a religion of peace seems simplistic and pretty obvious but knowing the times we live in, the reiteration is welcome.
Set in a dystopian space, it follows two Pakistani suicide bombers Hakim (Pavan Malhotra) and Bilal (Aamir Bashir) in their afterlife. After conducting a bomb blast at the Gateway of India that took more than two dozen lives of people belonging to different faiths and age groups, the brainwashed terrorists are waiting for their entry into heaven where 72 fairies would serve them. Their handler, a bigoted cleric, has fed this story into their impressionable minds. So, they are in for a surprise when they find themselves literally hanging between the two worlds.
72 Hoorain (Hindi)
Director: Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan
Cast: Pavan Malhotra, Aamir Bashir, Rasheed Naz
Runtime: 81 minutes
Storyline: Hakim and Bilal are two suicide bombers who lose their lives after conducting a bomb blast at the Gate of India. Their goal is to get an entry into heaven to meet the famous 72 fairies, called the Hoorain.
Using the form of satire and dark humour, Chauhan smartly answers their queries and sense of bewilderment through religious texts where suicide is considered to be a sin and taking one life equals killing the whole of humanity. Also, to pass on to the other world, one requires a proper burial which the mutilated bodies hardly get. The film goes on to question how the Almighty would take the practice of leaving the family and loved ones to serve Him.
The film takes a clear stand that Indian Muslims have stood firm against terror and also addresses the false image of madrasas that many of us carry. Here we have an English-speaking maulana seeking the help of state authorities to get the bodies a proper burial. There is no generalisation as after a point even Bilal starts questioning the logic of Hakim. Shot in black and white with a sprinkling of colour, the film generates some stark images of violence against humanity.
The ever-reliable Pavan Malhotra plays Bilal with a Punjabi flair and brings out his frustration and obfuscation with clarity. Aamir is not bad either. It is good to see noted Pakistani actor Rasheed Naz, who passed away in 2022, in the role of a bigoted Pakistani cleric who pollutes the mind of Bilal and Hakim.
However, at 82 minutes, Chauhan doesn’t serve the purpose of those looking to watch a feature film with multiple plot points. Like Lahore, his first feature, Chauhan is razor-sharp in his focus and delivers a strong and timely message. It serves as a wake-up call for in the last four years the film might have lost some of its bite and timeliness but now texts of other religions are being used to serve political interests.
72 Hoorain is currently running in theatres