Film Review- Ruuposh (Veiled, 2022): The perennial pang of separation.
Festival Focus: SIGNS, Kerala, 2023
Dipankar Sarkar, a noted Indian film critic and an alumnus of FTII, Pune, examines the short documentary Ruuposh in-depth.
The partition of India is one of the darkest chapters in world history, whose repercussions have left an imperishable scar on the subconscious as well as the personalities of those who have undergone the tumultuous phase. It is still remembered as a phase that was filled with grief and pain and caused losses in terms of both material and personal possessions. The short documentary Ruuposh, which translates to "something that lies hidden" and is directed by Mohd Fehmeed and Zeeshan Amir Khan, explores what it means to live in modern-day India by drawing on memory and an unsettling history of such a bitter past. The almost half-hour-long work of non-fiction shows how over time people have negotiated with their past with the hope for a better future, as opposed to depicting the partition as a massive story of violence.
The narrative of the documentary follows the protagonist, Mohd Fehmeed, who, along with his mother, Ruksana Begum, is caught up in the past. Fehmeed’s grandfather, Mehboob Khan, who stayed behind following the country's division, witnessed as his whole family immigrated and relocated to Pakistan. As the decades passed, communication between this fractured family halted. Now, Mohd Fehmeed wants to restart communication with the other side, but since the split, political tensions between the two nations have grown stronger, leading to prejudice against Fehmeed's identity and blocking his zeal to progress.
Image: Film Still
The documentary makes an effort to reignite a relationship that has been dormant for a while due to suffering, melancholy, and global politics. Fehmeed uses the medium of letters to analyze his family's feelings about living across the border. He ponders his grandfather's difficult decision as well as his current status as a Muslim living in Shaheen Bagh, Delhi, and studying at Jamia Millia Islamia, a prestigious institute that has often become the target of Islamophobia. But the film does more than just examine the life of separation and discrimination by drawing on the memory archives of the characters within the narrative framework. It also looks back on a life of community togetherness and aims to challenge narratives that favor elevating the great accomplishments and triumph of the spirit of ordinary individuals while downplaying the horrific and traumatic experiences. It further attempts to create memories of a history that resonate with those whose stories remain outside the purview of official history by rigorously challenging the dictum of official narratives.
Image: Film Still
Humans are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them, as James Baldwin famously said. Many possibilities are made possible by history, but eventually, only one future is realized, and we adhere to it. But we continue to hold onto the hopes and dreams of the unmet aspirations and seek to devise fresh ways to embody them. Thus, the documentary becomes a medium for the filmmakers to insightfully examine how memory and history continue to be intertwined. In one of the scenes towards the end, Fehmeed informs us that he has carefully hidden an old diary of his mother. He has discovered an address jotted down in one of the pages and is eager to initiate some kind of communication with his relatives residing on the other side of the Indian border. But under the current intolerant socio-political situation, such an act might land him in some trouble. This scene that appears at the end of the documentary touches upon a relevant theme, emphasizing the feelings of characters like Fehmeed, who expresses his skepticism about the present and the enveloping anxiety that stalks his mother.
Ruuposh has won a special mention from the jury at the 16th SIGNS Festival, Kerala, 2023, and deserves to be seen by a wide audience around the world.