Nakkash: Harmony in the times of communalism

Zaigham Imam’s directorial, Nakkash, proves it is possible to be accepting of all faiths in the discordant times we live in.

Published: 31st May 2019 10:42 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st May 2019 10:42 AM   |  A+A-

A scene from Nakkash being shot

A scene from Nakkash being shot

Express News Service

Director Zaigham Imam’s new film, Nakkash, looks at the life of Muslim craftsmen working at Hindu temples in Varanasi. The film, which stars Inaamulhaq in the lead role, contrasts the cultural diversity of Varanasi with the communal tensions in the city. Kumud Mishra plays the forward-thinking trustee of a centuries-old temple, while Rajesh Sharma portrays a local policeman. The film was screened at the 71st Cannes Film Festival last year and is headed for release on May 31.

Imam, who hails from Varanasi, says the cultural fabric of his city has always been secular. “Many Muslim localities in Banaras have their entrances facing the Ganga. Growing up, I have seen men of my community offering namaaz on the ghats,” he recalls. A former journalist, Imam has previously authored two books and directed the films Dozakh in Search of Heaven (2015) and Alif (2016). Religious identity and communal harmony have emerged as key themes in his work, a preoccupation he traces back to his journalistic career. “I like to think of my films as an extension of journalism, where things are said fearlessly, without twisting words. I am influenced by filmmakers Satyajit Ray and Majid Majidi, who have made great cinema.” 

On a visit to his hometown some years back, Imam was inspired to make a documentary on nakkasi (manual metal engraving). However, none of the practicing craftsmen, a majority being Muslims, agreed to sit down for interviews. Several feared persecution or loss of livelihood. As such, he decided to extend the idea into a feature film and use it comment on the changing political landscape of India.

“When I see people on social media fighting about communal issues, I fear they have forgotten inclusivity of their culture,” says the worried filmmaker. He contends that religious tensions in Varanasi, as well as the rest of Uttar Pradesh, are politically-motivated, and can be traced back to the Ram Janmabhoomi movement of the early ‘90s. 

“During those years, several clips on politicians making inflammatory speeches against minorities were circulated. It created an environment of fear among Muslims who worked at Hindu establishments. A lot of hate and mistrust that was invisible got a visible shape.”With Nakkash, Zaigham hopes to open up conversation on Hindu-Muslim unity. He says artists in India have no reason to lose faith and should pursue their craft fearlessly.

Stay up to date on all the latest Entertainment Hindi news with The New Indian Express App. Download now
(Get the news that matters from New Indian Express on WhatsApp. Click this link and hit 'Click to Subscribe'. Follow the instructions after that.)


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp