Khuda Kay Liye (2007)

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Khuda Kay Liye (2007)
Cast: Shaan, Rasheed Naz, Iman Ali, Fawwad Khan, Naseeruddin Shah
Director: Shoaib Mansoor
Music: Various
Nutshell: Hugely ambitious and largely impressive post 9/11 scenario based movie

 

Shoaib Mansoor’s highly ambitious project had been announced a few years ago and with time had become one of the most anticipated movies in recent Pakistani history (sounds almost like an accolade!) and indeed it arrived riding a wave of publicity the likes of which had rarely been witnessed in Pakistan before.

After the first few shows of the movie, the accolades started to fly thick and fast; even normally sane people spouting four syllable superlatives and the queues growing longer and longer with each passing day. So, is the film all that it is touted to be? Does Khuda Kay Liye live up to the enormous hype and does this film signal the much proclaimed “Revival of Cinema in Pakistan” and will it win an Oscar? In the following write up cum review will we will attempt to tackle those issues.

Having spent the last day or two hanging out at a cinema in Royal Park that was screening Nasha Jawani Da, I had ample time to be amazed at the current level of commercial cinema in Pakistan as well as the state of most of the theatres themselves. Sitting in rubble watching Nasha Jawani Da, one wondered why even a poor labourer wouldn’t prefer to spend his time trying to catch some sleep then watch the garbage on screen…worse still that the garbage on screen was being projected by a relic built in 1938 and that the sound that came through the few still functioning, bust to pieces loudspeakers, can hardly be called sound at all. The coffee, chai and cold drinks kiosk lay in ruin as did everything else in this particular cinema in the heart of Pakistan’s film industry, Royal Park Lahore.

But to get back to the subject of reviewing Khuda Kay Liye – The titles sequence is simple yet dignified and the background music soft and pleasing suggesting even at the very outset that the audience might be in for a surprise and for those who watch films like Nasha Jawani da on a regular basis, they might very well keep the smelling salts handy. From the few opening scenes of the film, it is very clear that the aesthetic and language of the film is totally unrecognizable from the world of Nasha Jawani Da.

The acting on the most part is very commendable with some performances outstanding and some that are less than memorable, however on the whole, there is true quality in the performances yet the real star is the writer who has painted characters that are both believable and likeable, there are no garish songs nor any vulgar comedy – it’s all hugely refreshing.

Among the actors, Rasheed Naz walks away with a towering performance under his belt and hopefully the film’s success means we will see a lot more of him. He is brilliant; exuding just the perfect blend and balance of charm and menace his portrayal rings frighteningly true. The parents of Shaan and Fawad Khan are also well acted and perfectly believable. Shaan himself turns in an honest and sober performance even if he looks more like the parent of a college student than a student himself however his girlfriend is a very weak link and there moments together are perhaps the least effective scenes of the entire movie. The scenes at the Jazz college veer into some weird Teen age kids from Fame kind of thing with a really seriously cheesy number when all the kids join in with Shaan like some horrible We Are the World spinoff.

Iman Ali carries herself well and turns in a perfectly adequate performance despite the occasionally hysteria inducing accent cock up. Whenever she says Dave like Dive she suddenly morphs into a cockney lass from East London and then slips back into her regular blah accent – these accent malfunctions provide a couple of moments of comic relief, but criticizing the film for such negligible issues would be nit picking.

Shoaib Mansoor has taken on a herculean task and has for the most part accomplished what he set out to achieve. It is head and shoulders and in anything else above any other commercial film made in Pakistan in the last quarter of a century if not more. The message it delivers is a very relevant and important one and even without the message factor, the film succeeds on almost every count. That said, I did find the film over long to the tune of about 45 minutes – the second half was laborious at times and right at the very end with the court case scene and the arrival of Naseerudin Shah, the film appears to step into traditional Bollywood style uplifting sermons. However these are merely small quibbles with a film that will clearly set the standards for all mainstream movies to follow. It is a superb effort by Shoaib Mansoor, a truly towering achievement and his film totally deserves the success and the accolades being showered on it.

Khuda Kay Liye is a ridiculously gigantic step forward for Pakistani commercial cinema and watching the film with a packed, utterly involved crowd with not a seat to be found was something a little bit special. Can there be life after death for Pakistani cinema? Or will we be banished to premature hell and be forced to watch Nasha Jawani Da sitting in rubble that was once a cinema? Khuda Kay Liye and a couple of other films in the pipeline suggest that 2007 could well turn out to be a pivotal year in Pakistani cinema history and Geo who are the thrust of this “Revival of Cinema in Pakistan” deserve huge credit for daring to attempt what nobody dared and by doing so, retaining their cutting edge.

One of the best aspects of KKL was that it didn’t ape Bollywood while Javed Shaikh’s Yeh Dil Aap Ka Hua leant so much towards Bollywood aesthetics. Shoaib Mansoor, to his credit has not styled the film to mimic the ethos of Bollywood or anywhere else, he has just followed his own impulses which have turned out to be a huge strength of the movie. On the whole, a very well crafted, intelligent and hugely impressive film which would have been even better had it been more concise. Oscar Awards may not beckon just yet but despite that the film is most definitely a well deserved triumph for Shoaib Mansoor.