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15th Biffes 2024: Terrestrial Verses - Life in Iran

The first thing you'll think of when you see this title is Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses. Terrestrial Verses is about life in Iran and how it is devoid of constitutional rights and sometimes even fundamental rights.

Such oppression is universal - as a student, male and female cab drivers, A new father trying to name his child, and a young woman and middle-aged man trying to interview for a job.

Terrestrial Verses movie poster

The Plot of Terrestrial Verses

The movie is an anthology of people's stories that are punctuated by screen that displays the next scene in terms of location and more.

Each person's story is treated differently, showing what they go through living as citizens of Iran. One common thread among all these people is the lack of constitutional rights and freedoms.

As a person who has never been to Iran, and going by the director's portrayal of life there - it doesn't seem great. To say that the movie ends with a bang is a gross understatement.

sarvin zabetian playing aram in Terrestrial Verses

A girl student at a high school is called in by her teacher in the middle of the school day to question about seeing her being dropped off by a boyfriend. When the student stands up for herself it comes off as really funny. The student says that she saw her teacher with another man in the park and took a video of the same.

Hossein Soleimani playing a cab driver in Terrestrial Verses

A male cab driver is asked to strip down completely while being qualified for the job of a cab driver. The driving aspirant reveals tattoos that he has of Rumi's poems which are comical as they are shown and read aloud by the driver.

The subtext here is the dehumanization of the person during the interview. This isn't a far-flung thing that only occurs in Iran. It happens in walk-in interviews for IT jobs, during long working stints with the same company, and so on. It may take the form of unjustified job cuts, pressure to work long hours, and many other things that are taken for granted by corporate employers.

Sadaf Asgari playing a cab driver in Terrestrial Verses

The female cab driver is questioned about her hijab and whether she is driving without it in her cab. The debate gets heated between her and a government official when the cabbie asks the official the definition of a private space. It looks and sounds equally shocking.

One thing that really shocked me was the courage of the directors and the producers of this movie! They seem to be calling out their government on the repression they impose on their citizens to maintain tight control on them as a people. It gives people around the world hope - to speak up against oppression in all its forms.

While India is far from the repressive state of Iran, we as Indians need to stop being passive and speak up as a people. We need to start caring about what happens in our country.

Our government has been very understanding with its citizens, so much so that we as citizens sometimes take it for granted. This is probably why India has had so many invaders from the Mughals to the British - because we Indians are a peaceful people. But this should not translate into being passive and reticent.

That being said, I am happy to be a citizen of this wonderful country. The people of India should be grateful for the freedoms we enjoy and ensure that we preserve its rich culture and heritage.

Father trying to name his son David in Iran

A father has a long and at times hilarious conversation with an Iranian government official about naming his son David. The official beats around the bush, and tries to confuse and disorient the father. Eventually, the father ends up calling his wife to think of another name that is "Iranian"

COnstruction worker interviewing for a job in Terrestrial Verses movie

Then there is a construction worker who is interviewing for a contract job and is interviewed by a private contractor. The contractor asks the job aspirant to do ridiculous things such as enact the preparation for prayer, recite specific verses from the Quran, and so on.

Faezeh Rad playing a job aspirant in Terrestrial Verses

The female version of this is considerably worse with the young woman being sexually harassed by her future employer until she leaves. There is a constant theme of hopelessness and despair throughout this movie.

The ending scene is really terrifying and haunting at the same time - an old man who is falling asleep while the entire region around him experiences an earthquake.

Cinema Style

The entirety of Terrestrial Verses is a collection of people being faced by a representative of the Iranian government or a closely associated organization. So what you see is an unknown faceless entity questioning a person who is already under a lot of stress.

The director of this movie wants to make it clear that people in Iran are nearly helpless against the systematic oppression from their government.

Should You Watch This? Yes!

Considering that even the US isn't progressive enough to air movies that are hyper-critical of their government, you should definitely watch this movie. The scary part of this movie is that most of it is present-day reality. We might even experience subdued versions of this in our daily lives, even if it is not from the government.

1 comment


deepak Jadhav
deepak Jadhav

The review delves into specific scenarios faced by characters – a student questioned about a boyfriend, a cab driver facing invasive scrutiny, and a young woman confronting sexual harassment. These examples highlight the film's critique of human rights violations and dehumanization.

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