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A Holy Conspiracy

A Holy Conspiracy Movie Review

by rameshe

Critic’s Rating : 4.0 / 5

A Holy Conspiracy Movie Review : An intelligent and hard-hitting story of the right to think on trial

Story: A Science teacher in a Christian missionary school is suspended and imprisoned as he refuses to teach the Bible’s Genesis before Darwinian Evolution. As two stalwarts, Reverend Basanta Kumar Chatterjee and Anton De Souza, face each other in court for the trial, a Hindu fundamentalist politician uses the issue for his gain.

Review: Director Saibal Mitra’s courtroom drama is an important story that not only comments on the nation’s socio-economic and political scenario but is also the voice of reason against fanaticism, fundamentalism and the disregard for an individual’s right to think independently. It follows the Science teacher of Hillolganj Christian High School, Kunal Joseph Baske (Sraman Chaterjee). He makes a rational decision to avoid teaching Science from a Vedic textbook as his knowledge of the same is limited. He skips the Biblical story of Creation as his students are already well-versed with it. As Kunal teaches Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution to his class, he finds himself suspended for going against the school’s rule and skipping Genesis. Matters turn worse when he is put behind bars.

Kunal insists it was an honest mistake, pleads not guilty, and thus begins his trial. The church’s pastor brings a celebrated lawyer, Reverend Basanta Kumar Chatterjee, to represent the school. The defence counsel is his old-time ally, Anton De Souza (Naseeruddin Shah), a lawyer disillusioned with the growing religious polarisation in the country, who ‘disappears’ from Delhi and moves to a village. The courtroom drama between the two stalwarts representing religion and science, fanaticism and rationale respectively, forms the rest of the story.

A Holy Conspiracy hits home with its argument — citizens’ constitutional right to differ in religious belief as much as to have a particular faith and protect it. The film is remarkably intelligent and uses logic instead of the usual fiery dialogues on humanity and that everyone is born equal. It talks about the politics of religion as it turns out that there’s a sinister plan involving a local politician Babu Soren who uses the issue for his gain.

The intolerance is palpable as Kunal turns into an atheist and apostate for the church and Maoist for the authorities, just for preferring science to a holy text. There are three stakeholders in this scenario — religious zealots (the pastor and Hindu groups), the rationals (Anton, Hari — the reporter who breaks Kunal’s story first and Kunal’s co-wormers) and the misguided (Reverend Basanta and Kunal’s fiance). The film highlights the complexity of religious beliefs and questions its increasingly blind acceptance among followers.

Naseer as the world-weary lawyer is, as usual, brilliant, but it’s the late actor and thespian, Soumitra Chattopadhyay, who truly shines with his performance. He is an authority on the Bible, a firm believer and a Parliamentarian who thinks he is doing the right thing and shows his prowess when the bubble bursts. Not for a second will one hate him even though he is against Kunal. The conviction both actors show in their respective parts (and their debate) will make one sit with rapt attention. Kaushik Sen as the abrasive journalist is a delight to watch — imagine pulling off a scene in which he calls Naseer a fake! Amrita Chattopadhyay as the fiance torn between her belief and love is great. Her frustration and grief will make your heart go to her.

The movie has powerful lines, with Naseer calling Kunal a murderer of political agenda and poignantly stating, ‘The right to think is on trial.’ The battle of wits touches upon the dichotomy in views on the law of nature, logic and even reproduction when seen through the lens of religion. The film calls out about India’s history being obliterated to suit a faction’s narrative favouring the majority. This is not just religion vs science or modern education vs pseudoscience but also voices being suppressed. Kunal belongs to the Santhal tribe, which has different beliefs thlly the full-blown debate between the two lawyers and how powerful political clout is.

The film is thought-provoking and worrying as it brings to the fore where we are headed as a nation.

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