(UPDATE: You can view this movie here).
Regular readers know how much respect, even reverance, I have for Shoaib’s work. For me he is one of the single most talented Pakistanis I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
As we have written before, he may also be the single most under-rated Pakistani artist, since his contribution to TV music, to TV drama, to TV comedy, TV stage shows and to popular music remains unknown to many; too many.
I have not seen the movie myself yet and have been hearing about it from a number of people – including some directly involved – for quite some while. The promo clips are now available on YouTube and – no surprise – the quality of cinematography, of artistic composition, of music, of attention to detail all look great. Typical Shoaib Mansoor. Of course, how the whole package comes across remains to be seen. This is, of course, his first feature film but he is already a master of each of the genres in a movie and his long plays (like Alpha, Bravo, Charlie) must have trained him well for this.
To me, of course, the story is Shoaib Mansoor. For others, however, there are other draws. The cast includes Lollywood superstar Shaan, Bollywood maestro Naseeruddin Shah, Iman Ali (who is PTV’s Abid Ali’s daughter and was in Shoaib’s Anarkali music video), and other notables. But the real story here is the story. Or, rather, the topic of the story.
The film has a wonderful and wonderfully rich website, and according to the synopsis posted there:
The film is about the difficult situation in which the Pakistanis in particular and the Muslims in general are caught up since 9/11. There is a war going on between the Fundamentalists and the Liberal Muslims. This situation is creating a drift not only between the Western world and the Muslims, but also within the Muslims. The educated and modern Muslims are in a difficult situation because of their approach towards life and their western attire. They are criticized and harassed by the fundamentalists and on the other hand the Western world sees them as potential suspects of terrorism just because of their Muslim names. This paradox is resulting in great suffering for a forward looking Muslim.
This paradox of the divided society is, of course, a constant theme of ATP too. It is always a controversial subject here and will be much much more controversial for Khuda Kay Liye. It is, despite the controversy, a topic that we as a society have to confront. Thoughtfully and seriously. Since I have not seen the movie I cannot say how he has treated the subject, but based on his track record if there is anyone who has the ability to deal with this difficult issue sensitively and without turning things into slogans, it is Shoaib Mansoor. All the more reason to watch the movie and refrain from judging it in advance.
But there is another important angle to this too. GEO is promoting the movie as a ‘revival’ of Pakistan cinema. As a long time fan of Pakistani cinema, I certainly hope it is. Again, if anyone can do this, Shoaib Mansoor can.
I saw a post today in Metroblog Lahore that made me think that he just might. It was not about this movie, but about a new very modern movie house opening in Lahore. I have long believed that the reason Pakistani cinema declined is not just because of the movies, but also because of the state of movie houses. Well, this new theatre – the DHA Cinema – is quite something.
With tickets at Rs. 250 and Rs. 500 it may be pricy, but from the pictures at the site, it is clearly something that could attract a lot of people simply for the theatre experience. Interestingly, this theater also opens on July 20, and one of the movies it is opening with is Khuda Kay Liye. Coincidence? Probably not.
I must confess that I have been planning to write this post for nearly two weeks now. I had originally thought of calling it something like ‘The Other Lal Masjid Story’ simply because Abdul Rashid Ghazi had taken an interest in this movie. According to Daily Times (July 3, 2007):
Lal Masjid has demanded a ban on a yet-to-be released movie, Khuda Kay Liye, declaring it blasphemous… Ã¢â‚¬Å“The film is against Islamic norms and traditions and is being released on a private TV channel without prior approval from a censor board. We wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t allow this,Ã¢â‚¬? said Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the Lal Masjid deputy mullah, who did not mention his source of information about the movie. He said he would not object to the movie if ulema approved it. He demanded that the government form a board to review the film. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The government will be held responsible if the film is released without being censored,Ã¢â‚¬? he said.
I had not understood then, nor understand now, whether his source of objection was the subject matter, the fact that it has an Indian actor in it, or a statement of support for the Censor Board. I guess we will never really know. I do know, however, that it is bound to be controversial for same for at least two of those reasons. As for myself, I will reserve my judgement until after I see the movie. But anything from Shoaib Mansoor, and anything on this subject, I do want to see.