Saturday, March 1, 2008

Khuda Kay Liye

Had a chance to watch Khuda Kay Liye tonight at a screening conducted by the local PSA. You may recall that I have played several songs from this film on Sangam. There was a discussion after the movie on the questions and issues raised by it (basically issues of "Muslimness", culture, and identity) but sadly I didn’t have time to stay for it (other duties called).

This is more of a reaction to the film rather than a proper review but I thought I would share it with you in case you were interested. Information about the movie can be found on its official site: http://www.inthenameofgod.com/

The story is enjoyable though no novel themes are explored. Some parts were insufficiently motivated, for instance no convincing context was provided for why one of the main characters (Sarmad, the younger brother) had a resurgence of religiosity. That also highlights an issue with the pacing of the film. It did not allow sufficient time to develop a theme or a certain scene and yet seemed to drag on. Perhaps it would have been better to explore fewer ideas; though I suspect that a more expert director and editor probably could have packed things together more effectively.

The acting is rather mediocre; quite amateurish from some of the actors. You have seen better on TV dramas. Some of that could have been due to the script where both phrasing and the switch between Urdu and English for some of the lines seems quite forced. The language used by the older brother when speaking to his younger brother sounded like Bollywoodese Hindi rather than what one would expect given their family backgrounds. Finally, some ends were left dangling at the conclusion of the movie. What happened to some of the supporting characters? It is within the prerogative of the storywriter and director not to account for those but, still, it felt a little awkward.

Some portions of the film did move me but I suspect that was because they triggered emotions associated with specific elements of my cultural and religious background rather than eliciting universal human reactions due to the excellence of film craft. Someone walking into the movie with a different background could be left totally unmoved.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie and would suggest that you watch it but modulate your expectations appropriately. It is neither a Hollywood blockbuster nor Masterpiece Theater. Good effort. It is nice that Shoaib Mansoor made the film and that there is interest in developing Pakistani cinema into something artistic and professional. However this movie is definitely a product at the beginning of that process and quite a bit of work remains to be done before something competitive strictly on film-making merit is produced.

Some of the music from the movie, though, is very nice and I’ll play certain tracks again on Sangam. Stay tuned.

It is interesting that Pakistani music is highly competitive globally. Some of the music videos, even, compete every effectively with the best productions from other countries. Pakistani film though has a ways to go. I think if the number of productions increases and more new directors, actors, and producers get involved, film quality will improve quickly.

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