"Nakkash", meaning engraver (one who designs on metal or wood), is a balanced faith film that does not preach any religion but opens your eyes as to where humanity is heading. The messages hit you straight, on target, when you hear, "Kaam aur mazhab ke beech kissi ek ko chun-na hai", which literally means, you need to choose any one, between your profession and religion.
At another instance, we are told, do you select the grains you eat depending on who harvests the crops? So why this discrimination? The messages are subtle and flow naturally in this social drama based in Varanasi.
A Muslim, Allah Rakha Siddiqui (Inaamulhaq) is a widower with a young son. He hails from a family of talented engravers who live in Varanasi and like his ancestors, under the patronage of "Vedantiji" (Kumud Mishra) the head priest of a Hindu temple, he too works in temples, engraving the idols and the altar.
But now, the times are bad. Religion is the driving force that divides humanity. There is tension in the air, as, "Manushya ka, manushya se vishwas uth gaya hai." In these trying times, survival for Allah Rakha is an issue. Torn between his craft and religion, how he tries to co-exist, forms the crux of the narrative.
The premise and the plot of the film keep you hooked. But it is the jagged screenplay, which is a minor issue, at times could be a stumbling block for a seamless viewing experience. Little details and small incidents are strewn across the narrative without a care for a polished finish.
Religion plays a big role in the film. You gnaw when a politician says, "Rajneeti karam se nahi, dharam se hoti hai", or you ponder, when Vedantiji says, "Kala, kala ki nahi hoti hai, Eeshwar ki hoti hai". That's when you realise that the dialogues are colloquial. They hit the right notes and tones befitting a realistic film.
Inaamulhaq is a brilliant actor, with his timid demeanour and nuanced performance, he slips into Allah Rakha's simpleton character with natural ease. You relate to him and your heart goes out to him at various stages of his life. He shares an excellent rapport with his co-stars. The chemistry between him and his son Mohammad or his friend Samad (Sharib Hashmi) in particular, are palpable.
Sharib Hashmi, in a well-etched character, delivers an equally good performance. As a fun-loving friend and rickshaw driver to a dutiful son who hopes to send his father on a pilgrimage to Mecca to a fanatic, he is convincing.
Kumud Mishra as the illustrious and righteous head priest, Pawan Tiwari as Mayank Tripathi aka Munna Bhaiya, a wannabe politician and Rajesh Sharma as the bigoted police inspector Sudhanshu Rajan, in one-dimensional roles have their moments of on screen glory.
In her maiden appearance, despite having a miniscule role, Gulki Joshi as Inaamulhaq's new wife Sabiya Banu is impressive.
The movie is filmed on a modest budget and shot on actual locales. Asit Biswas's cinematography captures the milieu and the tale in all its glory. Overall, the film is impressive.