Razakar: The Silent Genocide of Hyderabad is scathing expose of historical distortion

Raj Arjun and Makrand Deshpande in Razakar: The Silent Genocide of Hyderabad. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

History is like clay in the hands of irresponsible—or malignant—historians, because it can be distorted so easily, allegedly for ‘the common good’. The official narration of the late 1940s incident is of 120,000 Muslims being slaughtered by Hindus!

But the real facts are something else! Hyderabad and its Nizam were reluctant to be integrated into the union of India after Independence when freedom was being celebrated throughout the nation even by other then-princely states. Writer-director Yata Satyanarayana exposes the stark reality behind this in Razakar: The Silent Genocide of Hyderabad, which has been dubbed in Hindi.

As per actor Tej Sapru, who essays the legendary OG Iron Man of India, Sardar Patel, in this film, the story here is completely authentic. I happen to also know that the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC) needs cogent proof by way of documents before they pass any content, especially if potentially controversial or worse, for public consumption.

And so, Razakar: The Silent Genocide of Hyderabad is one more in the list of exposes of contemporary (as in post-Independence) happenings, just like The Tashkent Files, The Kashmir Files, The Kerala Story and Bastar: A Naxal Story that were kept hidden from Indians until now. Indeed, the skeletons turning out of our nation’s closet after Independence seemingly never end!

Nizam Mir Osmal Ali Khan (Makrand Deshpande) is an aging ruler who is unduly influenced by his militant advisor, Kasim Rizvi (Raj Arjun), and decides not to be a part of India after Independence. Fuelled by Rizvi, he decides to make the state of Hyderabad an Islamic nation. But Rizvi does not stop at just that. He wants to convert each and every man, woman and child to Islam, and by foul means like torture, murder, rape and unimaginably brutal coercion. Entire Hindu villages are slaughtered in the process, there are mass hangings and an atmosphere of unimaginable fear is created.

The height of this is when a woman kills a newborn girl because she will soon become a victim of the fanatical oppressors’ lust, if not worse. A fearless and staunch Muslim journalist who protests with his small newspaper against Rizvi has his arm cut off before he is also brutally slaughtered.

News of such atrocities reach New Delhi, but a Prime Minister who merely prevaricates and quotes a treaty that India has signed with Great Britain, prefers to look the other way. However, it is the strong-willed Home Minister, Sardar Patel, who decides to take action, if necessary, with military help. And the Army is finally needed when things get out of hand—the Sardar Patel-designed Operation Polo finally rescues the Hindus and other right-thinking people.

At long last, after sanctioning Rizvi all his atrocities by giving him a free hand, Mir Osman sees reason and regrets his misplaced decisions. And Hyderabad State, then made up of Telangana and parts of present-day Maharashtra and Karnataka, acceded to India on September 17, 1948, over 13 months after India gained independence.

The film is narrated in a no-holds-barred depiction of the inhuman way Rizvi went about his actions, even forbidding Marathi and Kannada from being taught in schools and totally forbidding saffron, the holy thread (janeo), the sindoor, haldi and kumkum and any pujas. The violence shown is as graphic, if not more, than in Bastar, but it only heightens the impact of how India’s powers-that-be then manipulated the truth and hid it from the populace.

In real life, regretfully, neither the Nizam nor Rizvi got what they deserved. Rizvi was only jailed and then got political asylum (!!) in Pakistan, a country from whom he expected support by making the Nizam donate Rs. 2 billion to them!! The film also vividly exhibits how Pakistan, more out of religious extremism than anything else, always had hatred for India. It also makes a case for how the Nizam managed to acquire material aid from certain foreign powers.

The 166-minute saga is replete with bloodied events that may put off a sensitive-to-violence section of the audience and affect the box-office, but the intensity of the evil had to be shown. And this paradox did work with The Kashmir Files and also with whatever violence was shown in The Kerala Story, so I hope that the historical drama does find the necessary audience to be enlightened with facts.

That said, I wonder why the writer-director is so unduly influenced, that too in a subject as real as this, by S.S. Rajamouli. A significant part of the background score is heavily in Rajamouli-M.M. Keeravani mode, as are the concepts behind two songs—one being very similar to Kumorum Bheemodu, that all-time masterpiece from RRR, and the other is the end-credits song. The Hindi lyrics range from good to functional fits, but the artistes barely open their mouths and modulate intense facial expressions to match either the lyrics or the high musical scales of what they are ‘singing’ on screen!

The songs, though, are good from the Telugu point of view and the Hindi lyrics are alright. I would have loved to know who wrote both these and the Hindi dialogues.

A second failing is the larger-than-life typical filmi fights shown when characters take on multiple antagonists in true hero-heroine style! All these elements should have been eliminated here as they are brazenly at odds with the seriousness of the movie.

The technical values are outstanding, with special mention of the work of cinematographer Kushendar Ramesh Reddy and film editor Tammiraju.

With the exceptions of four main characters, the Nizam, Rizvi, Patel and his staunch supporter, K.M. Munshi (Thalaivasal Vijay)—a Gujarati scholar who also founded the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, everyone else has small roles and less footage. But every actor and actress does his job wonderfully. Among them, I would offer special pats to Bobby Simha as Rajireddy, Vedhika as Shanthavva, Anasuya Bharadwaj as Pochamma and Prema as Anthamma.

Thalaivasal Vijay is excellent as Munshi and so is Tej Sapru as Patel, and both depict the subdued intensity needed. Makrand Deshpande as the Nizam shows his stubbornness and helplessness very effectively as he indecisively hovers over right and wrong and ultimately chooses the latter, despite timely warnings from one of his wives (Annusriya Tripathi).

But it is Raj Arjun as Rizvi who towers above all. As the head of the brutal volunteer paramilitary force, Razakar (pronounced razaakaar), he is exceptional in his expressions, intonations and more. As someone once said, it needed a Gabbar Singh to highlight Jai’s and Veeru’s courage in Sholay, and over here, the ruthlessly amoral persona of Rizvi was needed to truly underscore the terrible hidden truth about the genocide of Hyderabad.

Samarveer Creations LLP’s Razakar: The Silent Genocide of Hyderabad  Produced by: Gudur Narayana Reddy  Written & Directed by: Yata Satyanarayana  Music: Bheems Ceciroleo  Starring: Makrand Deshpande, Tej Sapru, Raj Arjun, Bobby Simha, Vedhika, Annusriya Tripathi, Indraja, Prema Thalaivasal Vijay, Chandhu Nath Nair, Tarak Ponnappa, Arav Choudary,  John Vijay, Cheluva Raj & others





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