Khuda Ke Liye – Movie Review
It has been almost a month since its release in India and the Pakistani film Khuda Ke Liye (In the name of God) isn’t doing too well – a pity as this is first Pakistani film to be released here after 4 decades. It was a holiday but the theatre was half empty. I could see audiences flocking to see U Me Aur Hum. Well, I guess I was one of them because I saw U Me Aur Hum before Khuda Ke Liye. There are other movies I have seen in the past few weeks (Race and Krazzy 4) and I wondered why I didn’t go for Khuda Ke Liye instead as it beats all of them hands down.
It’s original. It’s bold. It’s very brave as well as it tackles the relationship between moderate Muslims and the extremists and it’s coming from a deeply religious country like Pakistan. Sure, the film’s production quality could do with improvement and the story could have been less melodramatic and it should not have had the many stereotypical characters that it did. Despite these faults, the movie is gripping. There is also a strong and not-so-subtle message in the movie – that Islam isn’t about terrorism. And nor is it about forced marriages.
I think I can understand why people in India are reluctant to see it. They probably feel the movie delivers sermons about Islam (it does) and that the film is depressing. Well, it isn’t all that depressing as the movie ends on a note of hope and the sermonizing is limited. Another reason why the Indian audience has not rushed to see the movie could be because the film lacks Indian stars except for Naseeruddin Shah, and well, he is hardly a box office draw nowadays.
The director, Shoaib Mansoor (first time director) has told a story that’s dramatic enough…enough to please Bollywood lovers. Forbidden love and forced marriages is what it deals with as well as the clash between traditional values and western values…the theme of many of our own movies. There is even plenty of music to keep one entertained…
The story takes place in three locations… in the U.K. (London) where we are introduced to Maryam or Mary (model Iman Ali), who is born and raised there…in Pakistan (Lahore), where two musician brothers, Mansoor (actor Shaan) and Sarmad (Fawad Afzal Khan) live…and the United States (Chicago), where Mansoor goes to study music in the year 2001, the same year the twin towers in New York are attacked.
The movie opens with the independent Mary and her clash with her father over her British boy-friend. The viewer is also taken to Pakistan to familiarise him with the two musician brothers and we are shown how the younger one (Sarmad) gradually falls under the spell of an evil maulvi (cleric). Soon, the elder brother (Mansoor) leaves for the U.S. to study and there meets and falls in love with an American girl…
The tragedy begins to unfold itself almost immediately as Mary’s father tricks her into going to Pakistan and there arranges her marriage with her cousin Samrad. By then Sarmad has completely alienated himself from his family and goes to Afghanistan to take part in military training.
The most moving part of the whole movie is the plight of Mansoor who is wrongly arrested by investigators of the 2001 terror attacks in New York. It is most moving because it is shot well and in great detail. And then there is Shaan’s fabulous acting. In these scenes American investigators have been demonized and there is also a veiled criticism of the westernized modern Pakistani (like Mansoor) who loves America.
Mary’s plight is equally moving but her terror was not portrayed that well.
Overall I didn’t like the ending because the evil doers in the movie are not punished. What was the message in that? That this is reality?
I was really surprised that the director felt that a grown man like Sarmad was not to be held responsible for his actions. It’s not as if Sarmad had been abused in childhood or had undergone any other trauma or was otherwise vulnerable. He is shown as an educated man with a loving family and therefore if he got caught in the terrorist net, he has to take some of the blame at least! Even the other perpetrators – whether the investigators who bungle up where Mansoor is concerned, the maulvi who influences Sarmad, or Mary’s selfish father – are not punished…not by the law.
However there are many things in the movie that make it worth a see. Something that Naseerudin (who plays the good maulvi) says about religion that stayed in my mind. He said that the external manifestations of religion like the way one dressed are not important…it’s the way one lives that is far more important. He said that many evil people don these external garbs (as it’s easy!) that symbolize religious faith but are actually evil people. It is far more difficult to lead a pure life and that is what one must aim for. There are many things that are said by him which is an education for non-Muslims.
If you are interested in the conflict between Islam and the rest of the world, then this movie is worth a see, particularly because it comes from Pakistan, a religious country. For a first-time director I think it’s a wonderful attempt because it is an honest movie.
Update: 25th May 08: Some people are saying that the movie is fairly well of late, one of those late starters. However I could not get confirmation of this news although the fact that the movie has not disappeared from theaters is significant.