I love how my life transitioned from fashion to movies this weekend. Friday was a flight of fantasy with Iron Man 3. Saturday sketched the limits of endless love in Asim Raza’s Behadd and then on Sunday (today) The Reluctant Fundamentalist injected a very intense and thought-provoking dose of unpleasant reality. Mira Nair’s adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s novel was gripping, moving and too close for comfort real. By the end of TRF I saw myself wishing for some of the escape and fantasy that Hollywood and Bollywood usually have to offer. This is where The Great Gatsby and Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani come in handy. I suspect the next weekend will be lighter and more entertaining.
Until then, here’s what I feel about what I saw…
Iron Man 3
Tony Spark still has spark but The Mandarin is THE MAN (to be found in Pakistan). And as much as the action sequences are entertaining, the comedy in the Iron Man series makes them much more entertaining than your average superhero flick. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy the (repetitive) action. Stark does fall into his suit (fascinating) one time too many and his suit does fly on to him, again, one time too many. But he’s too cool to be condemned for a little repetition!
Behadd has been shot with a love for beauty and beautiful things; there is clarity in the frames, the premise is simple and contemporary, the music is soul-stirring and all the phones are iPhones and the computers are Macbooks (okay, okay that’s hardly relevant)! Behadd is visually appealing, which would be a superficial compliment if the story lacked soul. But it doesn’t. It has depth and soul. The story is very real, very easily relatable and very high strung. That said, Umera Ahmad’s script is too linear and a tad too cliched.
Nadia Jamil does an exceptionally good job as Masooma, who’s trying to deal with her 15 year old daughter’s teenage issues. In fact even the 15 year old Maha, characterised by the talented Sajal Ali, carries her own and does justice to her complicated role. It is a film well directed, and if this is a tester (which the director says it is) then Asim Raza is ready for a big screen feature film as long as he shifts to a 35mm camera and adds some extra tiers to the story as well as the filming. As a telefilm, Behadd works perfectly.
PS. I have to appreciate that Asim Raza’s inherent love for style had him engage Feeha Jamshed for Nadia Jamil’s lovely wardrobe (her look was more ‘I work at an NGO not creative ad-agency but it worked perfectly for Nadia’s personality). And Ismail Farid designed the male wardrobe, Fawad Khan’s including.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
TRF brings back haunting memories of how the world changed after 9/11, especially for young and ambitious Pakistanis looking for opportunities in the USA. What’s most frightening is that that fear – the Islamophobia, the misunderstandings and mistrust between the west and Muslims (especially between the USA and Pakistani muslims) – is as much a reality today, if not more.
“In 25 years I see myself as dictator of an Islamic nation with nuclear weapons,” Changez Khan tells his colleagues with a straight face. He’s joking, of course, but that flippant humour appears to be closer to becoming a reality by the time his ordeals are over.
Riz Ahmed, who personifies Changez Khan to perfection, is what binds and anchors the film through its duration. There couldn’t have been better casting as far as he’s concerned. However, one does wonder why he doesn’t have Pakistani parents as opposed to the ostensibly Indian Shabana Azmi and Om Puri? But then many nuances in TRF are more Indian than Pakistan, a fact one can easily overlook in the larger scheme of things.
And the bigger picture is that Mira Nair’s brilliant adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s novel does pitch the perfect Pakistani perspective to life post 9/11. And it does something else. It puts you off running after the ‘American Dream’ of soul stifling corporate success. It encourages you to find the Pakistani Dream. But what that Pakistani Dream is, no one can tell. At least not yet.