The Miniaturist of Junagadh
India. 2020. 29 min
The ravages of Partition have compelled an old artist, Husyn Naqqash, to sell his ancestral home in Western India and move with his family to Karachi, Pakistan. When Kishorilal, a stoic and stone-hearted man, who has bought the house, comes to know that Husyn is a well-known miniature painter and has an invaluable and rare miniature collection, he schemes to get hold of the collection. But all is not what it seems and there is a secret about the collection that Husyn’s family is holding back. Not only from Kishorilal… but also from Husyn.
Born and raised in Bombay, Kaushal Oza graduated in Film Direction and Screenwriting from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII, Pune) Indian’s premier film school. He has twice been awarded the National Film Award for his short films Vaishnav Jan Toh and Afterglow by the President of India. His films have won 15 International best film awards and have been screened in Clermont Ferrand, New York, London, Los Angeles, Beijing, Singapore, Goa, Colombo etc. His third short film The Miniaturist of Junagadh begins its festival journey in 2021. He is currently on the pre production of his feature film Little Thomas, whose script was mentored at NFDC Film Bazar, Goa and Cinekid, Amsterdam.
The Miniaturist of Junagadh was born out of the grief that I experienced at the loss of home. Home, in the literal sense, when my family’s century old ancestral home was to be razed to ground to give way to a housing complex. And home in the philosophical sense, as the tolerant nation I grew up in elected a religious fundamentalist as prime minister, and I, like my many liberal compatriots, was robbed of the secular heritage India’s founding fathers had bequeathed us. Soon, a citizenship law was proposed that marked religious minorities, and can one day become the basis of deporting Indians on religious grounds.
Husyn, the blind miniaturist of the film, also finds himself being forced out of his house on the eve of Indian Independence. In the aftermath of ethnic violence, it is not just his home that is being taken away from him, but also his art. The art of Indian miniature paintings is a confluence of Islamic and Hindu traditions and is a testament to the true heights the human spirit can scale, when minds, cultures, and religions, assimilate. It is through this art that Husyn speaks to his tormentors; and in his own way, breaks free of the tyranny of lines, be they borders or religious divides.
The Miniaturist of Junagadh, although rooted in India’s difficult past, speaks to the world of today – a world ravaged by religious, ethnic, xenophobic and racist violence. It is a film about a lost art, shot in my own ancestral house before it is torn down. It is at once a lament, and at once, like in Husyn’s final act of bridging cultures, a prayer of hope.