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Pakistani hit examines effect of 9/11 on the average Muslim April 19, 2008

Posted by lollywoodhungama in Uncategorized.
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Khuda Kay Liye (7/10): Although this film has been available on the local DVD market for some time, it has only just been released in cinemas in India.

The significance of the release is that it’s the first film in 43 years from Lollywood, the Pakistani movie industry, to be shown in India , heralding a further thawing of cultural relations between the countries.

Directed by Pakistani TV veteran Shoaib Mansoor, it deals with issues confronting Muslims post-9/11.

In Mansoor’s words, “Khuda Kay Liye highlights the tragedy of average Muslims, like me, who suffer on two fronts: while radical clerics in Pakistan don’t consider me a good Muslim because I wear Western clothes and don’t have a beard, when I go abroad, the West reads my name and labels me a fundamentalist or a terrorist.” It’s something most Muslims can relate to.

Although it’s draining to watch, this film knows its target audience, and Mansoor succeeds in stirring debate without resorting to simple solutions.

The scenarios are designed to raise questions in the viewer’s mind and demand introspection. The contents ought to resonate with Muslim viewers, who may not agree entirely with what Mansoor presents but also won’t be able to walk away unaffected.

At last year’s Cairo International Film Festival, the movie was awarded a Silver Pyramid, and although it was heavily condemned by hard- liners in Pakistan, it turned out to be the biggest hit that country has ever seen, re-attracting people who had stopped frequenting cinemas.

The questioning of religious identity was one of the outcomes of 9/11. In its wake, Muslims have been forced to re-look at themselves.

In a country like Pakistan, such introspection has often resulted in conflict, even splitting apart families, and Mansoor has had first-hand experience of it.

He previously penned songs for the group Vital Signs and witnessed how its star singer, Junaid Jamshed, abandoned the pop-star lifestyle in favour of the life of a tablighi (a person who invites his fellow Muslims to follow the path of Islam), and it left enough of an impression on him to want to express it.

Set in an aristocratic Pakis- tani family, Mansoor’s film allows three interlinked scenarios to unfold.

The first deals with a young man’s musical career being derailed by an imam who frowns upon such idle pursuits. The second focuses on a young Bri- tish girl being forced to marry her cousin to ensure she doesn’t stray from the fold. The third is about an accomplished musician being wrongfully detained in America on suspicion of being an Al-Qaeda operative.

The film opens with two bro- thers, Sarmad (Fawad Afzal Khan) and Mansoor (Shaan), enjoying a musical jam session and plotting a course to become huge pop stars.

When Sarmad’s religious adviser steers him away from a career that attracts “vice” towards a life that holds “great benefits in the world and in the hereafter”, he abandons music.

Mansoor and the rest of the family try to dissuade him, but to no avail. A disillusioned Mansoor then heads for the US, where he enrols in a top music institution and impresses his colleagues with his understanding of global trends. He also embarks on a relationship with an American but is arrested in the aftermath of 9/11.

At the same time, their uncle, who is married to a British woman and hardly adheres to his religion, is faced with a dilemma. His daughter, Mariam (a stunning performance by Iman Ali), has fallen in love with a British guy and the only way to ensure she doesn’t marry him is to take her to Pakistan on the pretext of a family visit and trick her into marrying Sarmad.

Taken in context, each scena- rio questions whether what transpires is God’s wish, hence the title, meaning “In the name of God”.

The first deals with religious manipulation, the second with Islamophobia, while Mariam’s plight depicts the double standards employed, with God used as an excuse to fulfil man’s private desires.

If there is a criticism of Mansoor’s approach, it is that far too many sub-plots complicate matters, dragging the film out. Each almost warrants a full film on its own. If it were shorter, it would have been far more effective.

What this film lacks in Bolly- wood slickness, it makes up for by stimulating the grey cells. Whether it provides any answers is for you to assess, but it does strike a chord, and for a subject so contentious, that in itself is an achievement.

The original DVD of Khuda Kay Liye is available from Global Music, (011) 836-9445.

E-mail your comments to: docky@702.co.za

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