The Review: Khuda Kay Liye

The Poster

While browsing the movie listings a week back, I saw Khuda Kay Liya listed at Santosh 70mm, Abids, Hyderabad; I thought it must be some English movie dubbed into Hindi. I did not know that it was a Pakistani film releasing in India after 43 years. Next, i saw the trailor during the intermission of Jalsa, a telugu film, on April 2nd and decided to watch this internationally acclaimed ‘WORLD HIT’. As expected, the theater was only quarter full. As the movie began rolling it was clear that this is a non-commercial world cinema. Before entering the theater I only knew that the film is about the internal conflict within the Muslim community, between the moderates and conservatives, 9/11 is only one part of the film, shown through the struggles of a Pakistani family–one brother’s family in Lahore and the other brother settled in London.

The film begins in Autumn 2002 in America with a scene from a mental hospital where an individual is pronounced to be deported to Pakistan. The scenes also switch back and forth to Lahore, Pakistan and London slowly going back in time to December 2000. The Lahore family is liberal, moderate into music, arts, and their women do not ware the hijab. The two music brothers, Mansoor (Shaan) and Sarmad (Fawad Afzal Khan), are famous Pakistani pop music artists, but Sarmad suddenly shifts towards the conservative agenda being heavily influenced by Mullah Tahiri. Soon Sarmad develops a beard, abandons music, decrying modern development justifying it in the name of Islam while Mansoor tries to explain that religion should be interpreted moderately. Meanwhile, in London, the younger brother’s family is a broken one with a divorced marriage to a white women followed by a live-in relationship. The daughter’s name is Mary (Iman Ali) and is totally British dating a white man. The father however wants her to marry only into Pakistani blood for the sake of posterity; clearly acknowledging that there are different rules for Pakistani men and women.

This is the initial set up and from here begins the journey of the three main individuals: Mansoor who goes to America to learn music, Mary who is forced by the father to marry Sarmad and left to live with in the care of the Tailiban, and Sarmad who is doing all this only for the sake of Islam, but does not fully understand the gravity of his actions. Most of the movie switches back and forth between America and the tribal areas of Pakistan where Mary is trying to escape. Mary is also shown developing a lovely relationship with the ladies in the village. During this time, 9/11 happens and Mansoor becomes a victim of racial profiling, arrested, and abused. Towards the end, Mary brings her case to court, justice is seeked, NGOs also participate, Sarmad realizes his mistake, and Mansoor also is released only to be deported as a man who cannot remember anything. Naser ud din shah makes a guest appearance and he represents the voice of the movie and conveys the message of the director. He is perfect in his role.

Though the film is close to three hours and with no comedy, it is a gripping experience. Special mention must be made of the music; the soundtrack is sure to get popular by the day. Performances are first rate and the direction is well done and gripping even though the story moves at its own pace. Some of the highlight scenes in the film are: (i) the sequence where music and beats of the world come together in the Chicago Music School (ii) the escape episode of Mary from the Taliban village, and (iii) the final proceedings in the court.

Those who regularly follow world affairs, news and analysis, have historical knowledge about the cold war will enjoy this film and relate to several facts and discussions presented in the film; even otherwise, this is an easy movie to follow and audience will be able to identify with the characters and situations. There is also usage of chaste urdu in the climax and detailed references to Quaran, which only those who are knowledgeable in that specific area will understand. This film is not all about Islam vs the West (though briefly it is presented that way during the post 9/11 scenes with Mansoor), but it is more about the internal struggle and conflict within the Muslim community. The underlying message conveyed in the film is about the questionable and often disturbing interpretations of holy scriptures, and this applies not only to Islam but to all other religions as well. The internal struggle portrayed in this film is also applicable to other religions.

Shaan as Mansoor is great and I felt he looks like another version of Sanjay Dutt. Iman Ali is stunning and I felt her voice is like Maduri Dixit’s. This film released on July 20th, 2007 in Pakistan and is reportedly the highest grossing film in Lollywood, 7 crores. Although this analysis is not about difference between Indian and Pakistani films; such a film in Bollywood would never be the highest grosser.

Parents should know that Khuda Kay Liye is a serious film and deals with issues that are politically, communally, socially, and religiously sensitive, and often times explosive. Parents should discuss with their kids about the popularly used jargon ‘war on terror’ post 9/11, the cold war, role of America in world politics, the middle east conflict, holy scriptures and their interpretations. Parents must also discuss with their kids about the role, place, and privileges of a woman in a society and about the right to make one’s own choice while keeping in mind family traditions and being cultural sensitive.

Mr. Inkenti’s MOVIENOMICS Rating: Two Thumbs Up! A Must Watch for those who appreciate serious and mature cinema.

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1 Comment »

  1. we welcome all desi movies as long as they are fun and entertaining.

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