Razakar is a rabid Hindutva project that uses horrifying violence to peddle hate

In 'Razakar', women receive special attention. As with 'The Kashmir Files' (2022) and 'The Kerala Story' (2023), 'Razakar' tries to shock us with visual after visual of Muslim men brutalising Hindu women.
Razakar film poster
Razakar film poster
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In the long lineup of films attempting to “educate” the audience about “hidden” truths and “forgotten” history comes Razakar: The Silent Genocide of Hyderabad, directed by Yata Satyanarayana and produced by Telangana BJP leader Gudur Narayana Reddy. The film was released in the south on March 15, but the Hindi and Marathi dubbed versions were pushed back by over a month and hit the screens on April 26th.

Razakar is ostensibly about the integration of the princely state of Hyderabad into the Union of India. But like several films of this genre (and by that, I mean propaganda), it is more invested in scaremongering and imagining parallels in the present than telling a real-life story with integrity. The message etched in gory visuals is simple: Watch out, O Hindus! If Muslims come to power, they will destroy your language, kill your cows, raze your temples, rape and impregnate your wives and daughters, murder your babies and execute all the men. 

Not surprisingly, the complicated history of a peasant uprising against the Nizam (Makarand Deshpande), his brutal militia – the Razakars – and the oppressor landlords who colluded with them, is pushed into a simplistic Hindu-Muslim binary. So, the scenario presented to us is Telangana Hindu villages where there are castes but no casteism, and a rapacious Muslim army that is out to harass and humiliate the helpless Hindus. 

Heading the paramilitary force is Razvi (Raj Arjun) who mostly shouts, “Khatam karo in kaffiron (non-Muslims in Arabic) ko!” all through the film. The ritual threads of Brahmin men are snapped. The Reddy men twirl their moustaches and stand up to the Muslim hoodlums. The other nameless caste groups suffer and die bleak deaths, blood oozing, screams threatening to split our eardrums. Rinse, repeat. 

Women receive special attention. As with The Kashmir Files (2022) and The Kerala Story (2023), Razakar tries to shock us with visual after visual of Muslim men brutalising Hindu women. In one scene, a Razakar pulls down the blouse of a breastfeeding mother and leers at her chest. “Let’s cut it and play with it,” he says. In another scene, a woman’s blouse is torn off her body, the bare back facing the camera, as her Muslim assaulter rapes her. In yet another scene, the camera focuses on a foot (Muslim foot) as it stamps upon a Hindu woman’s pregnant belly, crushing her to death. In yet another scene…well, you get the idea.

The film wants to present a house of horrors, a torture museum with Exhibit A, Exhibit B, and all the way to Z. It is not interested in finding a visual language that can draw viewers into this chapter of history without desensitising them completely. This is apparent in the very first episode of violence that we witness – children being bludgeoned and stabbed to death for learning Marathi instead of Urdu. There are no crests and troughs in the screenplay. It is always in a state of escalation, one violent episode after another punctuated by “Khatam karo in kaffiron ko!” 

So breathless is the storytelling, and so poor is the editing, that we don’t even register the names of people who are dying in great agony before our eyes. Anasuya Bharadwaj appears in a Bhathukamma song – and by the end of it, she’s stripped, and so are all the women who dance with her. “I’m not afraid to be naked because all the men here except my husband are my brothers!” she thunders, blurred body facing the camera. Soon, the women are pushed into a haystack and burnt.

Chakali Ilamma (Indraja) is presented heroically, but minus the red Communist flag that she raised in real life. She is harassed by a state-appointed landlord or jagridar, but though he is of the Reddy caste, he is dressed like a Muslim. She is 'saved' by another Reddy who is visibly Hindu, with no mention whatsoever of her communist affiliations.

There is a lot of “nari shakti” in many of the scenes – closeups of sindoor, angry goddess postures and the fervid chanting in the background score. But the saffron brand female agency is subject to market risks. Read the offer documents carefully before you sign up.  

The director’s haste in killing off his characters before he can even establish who they are is puzzling. Or did they just shoot SO many violent scenes that they didn’t know what else to do on the edit table? In comparison, one of the cows gets a better character arc. The cow is defaced by the Razakars, but she gets her revenge. In a sequence that made me think of Padayappa (1999), the belligerent cow races down the village when the Razakars are tormenting a Brahmin man and kills the Razakar with its horns. Sadly, the emotion that the scene was going for is diluted by the CBFC’s ‘CGI’ label that appears right next to the cow.  

While all this is going on, Nehru is twiddling his thumbs and uttering inanities about the standstill agreement (an agreement between newly independent India and the princely states before their integration). Sardar Patel (Tej Sapru), on the other hand, is raring to take on the arrogant Nizam but is curtailed by Nehru. 

The Hindu right has repeatedly hijacked Patel’s legacy though the ‘Iron Man’ was no fan of the RSS and had in fact, banned it in 1948 to “root out the forces of hate and violence that are at work in our country and imperil the freedom of the Nation and darken her fair name”. But such facts come in the way of framing a villain, so Nehru once again is held responsible for Hindu deaths. His role in Operation Polo is limited to looking flummoxed and paying subservience to the United Nations. Needless to say, the film doesn’t spend any time documenting the violence that was unleashed on Muslims after Operation Polo concluded.

The Communist Party of India (CPI)’s erasure from the film is amusing, but only to be expected. The sickle is the choice of weapon for the peasants, and yet it is not linked to the political party that was at the heart of the rebellion. Instead, the film will have us believe that everyone was fighting for Sanatan Dharma and Hindu nationalism while waving the tricolour (which the RSS rejected at the time of Independence). 

Razakar becomes an illustration of irony as towards the end, a burqa-clad Good Muslim woman points to Razvi and shouts, “Brothers! He is trying to spread hate between Hindus and Muslims!” As if Razakar and its predecessors are part of a peace project. But then, it’s the same tactic as a divisive leader erecting a ‘statue of unity’ and basking in its glory, the same statue that finds its way to the screen as the end credits play. 

There are many stories from India’s complex history that are worthy of being made into powerful, stirring cinema with intelligent cinematic liberties and respect for the truth. The integration of Hyderabad with the Indian Union is one such, but what we have in Razakar is not that. There are so many lies in this one that it ought to be called Pinocchio

Read Yunus Lasania’s piece on the history of Razakars and their violence here
Read: A movie on Razakars' violent history in BJP's arsenal for Telangana

Sowmya Rajendran writes on gender, culture, and cinema. She has written over 25 books, including a nonfiction book on gender for adolescents. She was awarded the Sahitya Akademi’s Bal Sahitya Puraskar for her novel Mayil Will Not Be Quiet in 2015.

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