We, the Indians, remember 26/11 the way the Americans remember 9/11. The only thing different between the two dates is that we write the date first and the month later, the Americans do the vice versa. This is just one of the things different between India and America among the many things that there are.
We have a different perspective having seen 9/11 or 26/11 on our television sets and having heard many opinions and thoughts. Emotions flow when we see a man falling from the World Trade Center. He became the symbol of the inhuman attack. ‘Inhuman’. Yes I wrote that word to define the terrorists who did this. But what does it mean to be so inhuman. To be Omar Sheikh and many like him.
Omertà makes sure you know these people, without any filtered opinion of non-stop television coverage of the attacks, of your own perspective of war and peace. It is an account of a man and how he became what he became. Also, why he became what he became. And let it be mentioned that knowing Omertà’s story is not necessarily being kind to him or calling him ignorant. Because it is not exactly his story. For many who indoctrinated him might feel that he was one, an ignorant. Maybe that’s how and why he became what he became. Anyway, the judgement is still far away from reality.
The most catching thing about Hansal Mehta’s Omertà is that there is no protagonist in the film. Rajkumar Rao plays Omar. But he is not the hero of the film. He is not even the villain. He is a perspective. And he is so good in the film that you don’t see him at all. All you see on the screen is Omar. There is no protagonist because it is not a story of Omar alone but that of many like him.
In a scene, where Omar lies with another militant, we could sense the deep understanding of the ‘Holy War’ from the point of view of these two men. Here, the other militant kisses the pictures of his parents. He misses them. While you sympathise with him, you understand that he is on war. This is also what Omar tells him lying beside him. The film is his story as well.
The film is also about Omar’s father who has allowed his son to follow the path of ‘Jihad’ but feels betrayed by his own people when his son is called a militant.
More than anything else, Omertà as a film is not interested in opinions of our world in respect of the several terrorist attacks. That what Indian governments did following the attacks. What America did after 9/11. It’s not needed actually. We all know how we reacted and went through. What we don’t know is the story of Omar and many like him and again it is important to mention that knowing and understanding their perspective does not mean being kind or affectionate to them.
From the first shot of the film to the last, there is Omar and his chase. A chase that would never end. A chase so rough and long that it would kill him. A chase where even Omar does not know who he is chasing.
I wrote a term to define Omar’s fellow above – Militant. That’s the way you and I see them, right? There’s also a scene where the same militant introduces himself to Omar. He says, “I am Javed from Srinagar, Kashmir. I am a freedom fighter.”
The way Indians remember 26/11 and the way Americans remember 9/11 is well understood by us. There are many 26/11s and 9/11s that none of us know about.
How we see the world does not define the world. That is why a film on Omar Sheikh cannot tell his story. And that’s the best thing that a film on him can teach us. We don’t know them.