In black and white, director Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan presents a message of peace and humanity.
Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan’s National Award-winning 72 Hoorain, which has been sitting in cans for over four years, maybe get a release because the film distribution ecosystem feels it can cash in on the frenzy produced by The Kashmir Files and The Kerala Story at the box office.
But, in reality, 72 Hoorain is not a companion piece to the two films’ venomous propaganda. It is a cautionary story that calls into question the motivations of terrorists’ impoverished foot soldiers who become suicide bombers. It, like Shoaib Mansoor’s Bol, does not target a specific religion, but rather individuals who misuse religious scriptures for their own gain. 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.
It is set in a dystopian world and chronicles the afterlife of two Pakistani suicide bombers, Hakim (Pavan Malhotra) and Bilal (Aamir Bashir). After carrying off a bombing at the Gateway of India, which killed over two dozen people of various faiths and ages, the indoctrinated terrorists are awaiting their admittance into paradise, where 72 fairies will serve them. This narrative has been pushed into their naïve brains by their supervisor, a prejudiced preacher. As a result, they are taken aback when they find themselves practically suspended between two realities.
Chauhan cleverly addresses their questions and sense of perplexity using religious literature where suicide is considered a sin and taking one life means murdering the entire human race. Furthermore, in order to pass on to the other world, one needed a decent burial, which damaged remains rarely receive. The video then asks how the Almighty would react to the practice of abandoning family and loved ones to serve Him.
The video asserts unequivocally that Indian Muslims have stood firm against terror, as well as addressing the erroneous image of madrasas that many of us hold. Here we have an English-speaking maulana requesting the assistance of state officials in burying the remains properly. There is no generalization since, at some point, even Bilal begins to question Hakim’s rationale. The picture, shot in black and white with a splash of color, creates some startling images of human cruelty.
Pavan Malhotra plays Bilal with a Punjabi accent, bringing up his fury and ambiguity with precision. Aamir is also not awful. It’s nice to watch famed Pakistani actor Rasheed Naz, who died in 2022, play the character of a prejudiced Pakistani preacher who pollutes Bilal and Hakim’s minds.
However, at 82 minutes, Chauhan does not satisfy those hoping for a lengthy film with several story aspects. Chauhan, like his debut movie, is razor-sharp in his focus and delivers a powerful and urgent message. It acts as a wake-up call because, while the film may have lost some of its venom and relevance in the previous four years, scriptures from other religions are now being utilized to suit political purposes.