In the Saibal Mitra directorial, the veteran actor shares screen space with the late Soumitra Chatterjee
Last Updated: 04.47 AM, Feb 12, 2023
Stage and screen veteran Naseeruddin Shah, who is known to speak his mind, has announced his latest film - a courtroom drama, titled A Holy Conspiracy. Helmed by Saibal Mitra, the film is about the constitutional right to differ in religious beliefs. The movie is inspired by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E Lee’s 1955 play, Inherit the Wind, which is said to be influenced by the 1925 Scopes ‘Monkey’ Trial in Tennessee, in which a school teacher was prosecuted for teaching evolution theory in a church-funded school.
While speaking at a session during the ‘MOSAIC: Judte-Judte (unite) JNU!’ festival at Jawaharlal Nehru University, the actor said, “I read the play Inherit the Wind in the mid-1970s. It was a great piece of writing and I wanted to do it on the stage, but couldn’t. It picturised the toxicity in which we are living today and the dependence on superstition where we are beginning to mistake mythology for history. I felt I certainly should be a part of this movie.”
In A Holy Conspiracy, a science teacher is suspended from his Christian missionary school, and imprisoned on false charges, when he refuses to teach the Biblical story of creation before Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. The story then follows the courtroom battle between a reclusive lawyer Anton De Souza (played by Naseeruddin) and his old ally Reverend Basanta Kumar Chatterjee, played by the late legendary actor Soumitra Chatterjee.
As an actor, Naseeruddin aims to capture life as it is through his work and A Holy Conspiracy ticked all the boxes. “I felt this is a significant film, because it is trying to portray a true picture of the times and that’s the kind of cinema I believe is significant. This is why I consider documentaries more significant than feature films. Documentaries can capture life as it is which no other form can do. Cinema is a combination of all the other art forms. It’s a mix of theatre, photography, painting, architecture, sculpture, music and choreography. It has assimilated all these forms. So, I said yes to this without any hesitation. This is a film that might be seen 50 or 100 years later and will give a true picture of what the situation of our country was like in our time,” the 72-year-old actor elaborated.
Another reason Naseeruddin wanted to be a part of this project was that it gave him the opportunity to collaborate with Soumitra. The movie was shot before the actor’s demise in November 2020, at the age of 85. “I was also looking forward to working with Soumitra Chatterjee. I have to admit I greatly envied him. He appeared in great movies like Apu Sansar and many others with Satyajit Ray. “When I did meet him, he was extremely nice and civil. He appreciated my work and everything but he wasn’t in the best of health at that time,” the actor said.
According to the director of A Holy Conspiracy, although the film had its initial release in July last year, the team could not publicise the movie much to bring the audience to the theatres. “There are people who want it to come on OTT and everything, but we don’t have any place on OTT. Some executives told me that they liked the movie, but they can’t take the film on their platform. So I don’t know, someday we will find this film on YouTube. It is for the people,” Saibal summed up.