‘A Holy Conspiracy’ Movie Review: Making the Case for Evolution

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While raw around the edges, this legal drama starring Naseeruddin Shah and Soumitra Chatterjee, should be watched for its honest investigation into a disturbing truth and its questioning of where we are headed as a nation.

While raw around the edges, this legal drama starring Naseeruddin Shah and Soumitra Chatterjee, should be watched for its honest investigation into a disturbing truth and its questioning of where we are headed as a nation.

Inspired by the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, A holy conspiracy is a gripping courtroom battle between science and religion. When science is represented by Naseeruddin Shah and religion by Soumitra Chatterjee, one expects it to be a fascinating watch. Writer-director Saibal Mitra put it together well, but the execution required a little more finishing, a little more know-how.

Set in present-day India, when religious polarization is a reality, the film engages in a timely and meaningful debate between bigotry and protectionism, between modern education and pseudo-science, and continues by exposing how politicians use the faith of the common man for their vested interests. .

Coming at a time when the Santhals are in the news, the film is about a Kunal tribal science teacher Joseph Baske (Sraman Chattopadhyay) whose father converted to Christianity.

All hell breaks loose in the fictional town of Hillolpur, somewhere on the border of Bengal and Jharkhand, when Kunal refuses to teach the biblical chapter of Genesis and a book on Vedic science in ancient India before the theory of Darwin’s evolution. He feels that the Bible is taught at home and in church, and finds himself ill-equipped to teach Vedic science. However, the Christian school dismisses him for defiling the faith and calls him a Maoist; he is later arrested for inciting people and assaulting the principal.

As zealous reporter Haranath Singha (Kaushik Sen) breaks the news, the case takes on national significance. While the pastor hires Reverend Basant Kumar Chatterjee (Soumitra Chattopadhyay), an authority on both law and the Bible to defend the school, Kunal is represented by Anton De Souza (Naseeruddin Shah), a human rights lawyer. man, who has been in hibernation for some time.

The argument begins with how teaching Darwin’s law of evolution amounts to a desecration of faith, but as the case unfolds we realize that Kunal is a pawn for a politician who’s looking ghar wapsi tribals.

Ironically, the so-called faith keepers who gave Kunal access to modern education and pushed him to think have nearly abandoned him now. The upbringing that made him realize that tribals have their own religion and scripture – and gave him the courage to do some soul-searching when the pastor refuses to pray for an innocent child because he hasn’t been baptized before death – is now under the cloud. His ability to reason is called into question, and that is why De Souza, arguing for evolution, says that the right to think is on trial.

The valiant are like a flooded river. As De Souza, Shah is suitably shaken by the circumstances, but confident in his skills and point of view. Perhaps in his latest performance, Chattopadhyay is almost as easy as he always has been. He’s a more complex character to portray, as here’s a man who chose religion over science, but in the course of the case he discovers he’s being used to further an agenda of hate. Kaushik as a cynical scribe provides good support, as does Jagannath Guha as a judge whose integrity is tested.

The writing tends to become theatrical and the dialogues in Bengali and English (subtitled in English) often become declamatory. Perhaps a play would have been a better way to tell this impactful story. The casting of the stand required polishing, and the blend of inspiration from the historic US trial and current circumstances is not seamless. The background music is even more shocking. Sometimes it also seems that the majority angle, which forms the crux of the narrative, has been scattered to prevent some fragile feelings from being shattered.

But despite being rough around the edges, A holy conspiracy must be watched for its honest investigation of a disturbing truth and its questioning of where we are headed as a nation.

A Holy Conspiracy is now playing in theaters

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