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Khuda Ke Liye – Movie Review

May 2, 2008

Khuda Ke LiyeIt 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. Khuda Ke Liye 2

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.

Related Reading: U Me Aur Hum Movie Review
Shaurya Movie Review
More Movie Reviews

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26 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2008 10:18 pm

    unfortunately it is a third grade bollywood movie with Pakistani actors and directors . boring cliche

  2. May 3, 2008 7:22 am

    Even I wanted to see it but it seems that it is not playing in Chennai….I bought a dvd of Khamosh Pani sometime back. Have you seen it? It was one of the most beautiful movies I have seen in recent times. I guess I will buy a dvd of this one also.
    p.s. : This is something not related to the post, but don’t know where else to ask. I saw yesterday’s ILP match in the stadium and clicked a few photos with my mobile. Would it be ok to use them on my blog???

  3. May 3, 2008 7:28 am

    Nita, I saw the film (or most of it, to be honest) on the Internet. I have to admit that at the first instance it was gripping, primarily because I wasn’t expecting anything like this from the Pakistani film industry. You are probably right that it beats movies like Race etc hands down, but I don’t think they are comparable.

    KkL should be compared to the likes of RDB or Hazaron Khwaaishein Aisi, Mr.&Mrs Aiyer, etc. It pales away in front of them, primarily because of the reason you pointed out here — cliche. It’s full of them :(

    When you reflect upon it, the initial magic starts to wane…quickly.

    For example, remember the scene when the older brother meets the white student in Chicago and tells her “We built the Taj Mahal”? Whoa! “We”? We who? Muslims?

    a) So this movie is about Muslims, not Pakistanis?
    b) First of all, since Taj Mahal was built in Agra, the workers most likely came from that region. The last I saw, Agra and its surrounding region was in India.
    c) Who told him that the people who built Taj Mahal were Muslims? For argument’s sake, let’s say they were Muslims.
    So what happens to all the Indian Muslims?
    d) It feeds into the stereotype about Muslims that they hold their religion dearer than their national identities. It’s a dangerous proposition to make these days.

    I am not surprised it didn’t do that well in India. It’s not just the lack of stars — I don’t think that was it. It was lack of context. The 9/11 tragedy did not change relations with Muslims dramatically in India. It was more shattering for the West — this film seems to be directed toward the Western audience.
    In fact, India (until recently) prided itself for not having any “home-grown” Islamic terrorists. So the film doesn’t come as much of any eye-opener in that department.

    I think the film is more emotional and feel-good rather than realistic. But I can watch it on DVD again though. In fact, I think I will ;)

    You must have read all the fabulous reviews in India about the film. I came across this review by a Pakistani blogger (who, of course, trashed the film) and found it very interesting. Didn’t look at the film that way.

    But I must say, the music was mind-blowing :)

    SS

  4. May 3, 2008 7:46 am

    Raj, true the quality of the film isn’t good but I thought it was better than a lot of bollywood movies.

    I haven’t seen khamosh pani. And Amit, if you clicked the photos yourself, they are yours to do anything with.

    Snigdha, ofcourse you are right, the film leaves much to be desired. we have some fantastic bollywood films, some of which you have mentioned. Its just that of late there have been some bad releases and I regretted seeing them.
    And that remark about Muslims building the Taj irritated me too. I think it reflects some sort of inferiority complex about India. like when the guy says you must have heard of India! Also I felt a lot of things in the movie were specifically meant to play to the gallery…and I agree with your reasons for the Indian audience not going for it. Yes your reason is bang on! Our audience cannot identify with these issues. Our Muslims are not the type who think the extremist way. Thanks for that reference Snighda and thanks a ton for this valuable insight into the movie!
    And yes, the music was great! I am really glad I saw the movie even though it wasn’t great cinema.

    P.S Snigdha, I tried the link you gave but its not working.

  5. May 3, 2008 8:57 am

    For example, remember the scene when the older brother meets the white student in Chicago and tells her “We built the Taj Mahal”? Whoa! “We”? We who? Muslims?

    I think that was exactly the point of the movie – to show that some Pakistani Muslims do think this way. And yes, it will rub Indians the wrong way – just like it did to you. :)

  6. May 3, 2008 11:02 pm

    Nita, sorry the link didn’t work. It’s from a blog called Pass the Roti on the Left Hand Side. (www.passtheroti.com) Here goes:

    passtheroti.com

    @Amit,
    Right, but I doubt they meant it negatively. Because the older brother’s character seems to have been portrayed as the perfect guy. Too good to be true (remember how kind and understanding he was toward the Sikh guy who lost his mind and yelled at him for being Muslim after 9/11?)

    It didn’t appear to me that the statement was made to reveal the character’s weaknesses. But I liked the girl’s reply, though: something like (If I recall correctly), ‘If you build it why did you put it in India?’ :D

    Cheers!
    SS

  7. May 3, 2008 11:33 pm

    Sounds like an interesting movie. Point of fact, the terrorist attacks in New York occurred in 2001, not 2000.

    Thanks Asad. I have made the correction. – Nita.

  8. May 3, 2008 11:47 pm

    Snighda, I haven’t seen the movie yet, but from what I’ve read, history textbooks in Pakistan do play up issues like Taj Mahal. So what the director was trying to depict is that this is what many Pakistanis learn in school, and the g/f set him straight. :)

    Again, my point is that we Indians will of course disagree, but what that character said about Taj Mahal probably reflects how many Pakistanis (erroneously) think and/or are taught in schools – it has nothing to do with whether a Pakistani person is “good” or “bad.” :)

    And the movie is primarily targeted at Pakistanis. So when they see the movie and see/hear that exchange with the g/f’s response, it will probably make them reconsider what they learned in history class.

    At least that’s how I see it.

  9. May 3, 2008 11:49 pm

    Snighda, I’m not saying that your response is invalid – only that the response will probably be different for an Indian and a Pakistani. :)

  10. May 4, 2008 3:04 am

    It’s too bad I will most likely never get a chance to see the movie, since I live in America.

  11. May 4, 2008 9:27 am

    @Paul,

    The movie was released in America before it was released in India :)

    It was running in theaters like Naz 8 (California) where host of Indian/Pakistani films are released.

    SS

  12. May 4, 2008 9:33 am

    @Amit,

    ….which makes it a not-so-great movie :) My point.
    The Taj Mahal scene was just an example.

    The reason we are discussing this movie so much is because it has won international awards! It has been touted as a “great” film, which is what we are questioning.

    Also, the reasons why it didn’t work in India…

    As I said, it is otherwise a pretty decent watch. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again :D If you asked me to pick between a Garam Masala or No Entry and KkL, I’d pick this one :)

    You should watch it if you get a chance…

    SS

  13. May 4, 2008 11:02 am

    For those who are curious about this:


    For example, remember the scene when the older brother meets the white student in Chicago and tells her “We built the Taj Mahal”? Whoa! “We”? We who? Muslims?

    Most indians are taking it negatively except for Amit, who pointed out the exact intention of the director:


    I think that was exactly the point of the movie – to show that some Pakistani Muslims do think this way. And yes, it will rub Indians the wrong way – just like it did to you.

    I am a Pakistani and I can understand this. The director wanted to highlight this sort of (negative) thinking in some of the Pakistanis. It’s not the cae with most of Pakistani youth, but it is with some of them, that they kinda think of themselves as superior just because of things they don’t really relate to… this was one such example… and i salute the director that he cleverly highlighted all the aspects of our society via this movie..

  14. May 4, 2008 2:33 pm

    @ Kamran. Hi there! Nice to hear a Pakistani voice on the subject.

    Kamran, I just used this scene as an EXAMPLE to discuss a) the greatness of the movie or its lack thereof, & b) why it didn’t work in India. Mainstream Indian movies are full of cliches too, but KkL is being held to a different standard, hence the scrutiny and nitpicking :)

    About misunderstanding, well…I’m not sure about that. It appeared from the way the character was etched out, he was supposed to be the right kind of guy — the youth who had it all figured out. He was right about everything, so it’s rather odd the director would want to choose his character to highlight such follies.

    In any case, that scene is not the only reason the film did not work in India :) As I mentioned, I think it’s a lack of context for Indians.

    And about dear Amit’s observation, I’ll wait for him to see the movie before discussing it further :)

    I suggest you read the post by the Pakistani blogger I mentioned above to get another perspective — whether you agree or not is another matter, but it is worth sparing a thought.

    BTW, despite everything, I enjoyed the movie :D But I wouldn’t categorize it as great. It was a good mainstream Pakistani film with terrific music. :)

    Cheers!
    SS

  15. May 4, 2008 6:38 pm

    @ SS: Thank you for the information that the film was released here! :) I don’t know what chance there is of its being shown here in Colorado Springs, but one can hope!

  16. nithya permalink
    May 5, 2008 9:55 am

    i think he bolly wood movie style is almost upto the hollywood range which k but even kills our culture even though its nice to see the development and the technology that are used in the movies smilar to holiwood.

  17. May 5, 2008 12:47 pm

    i don’t like hindi movies..
    watch only good ones..
    all are of same type :)
    btw nice blog, i subscribed to it :P

  18. May 5, 2008 2:25 pm

    Have heard the movie is great. Plan to watch is some time soon….

  19. NDT permalink
    May 10, 2008 3:17 pm

    Nita, first of all I totally agree with your review and your view. Movie deserves lot more recognition and appreciation. but you can’t be surprised why it didnt go successful in Indian theaters. our Indian audiences(atleast majority) look for MASALA MOVIES and STAR ORIENTED MOVIES. I rented the dvd as I heard good things about it and I sure wasnt disappointed. As as far as Movie not Some of The points I admired were

    1) It shows that one cant biased the whole religion due few peoples actions.
    2) I think extremist werent shown overly emotional or dramatic as portrayed in our Hindi Movies(Typical Pakistani Terrorist). The smooth yet strong influence / brainwash by the mauli was well crafted. It showed how words and its meaning are cleverly twisted and thrown into the names of religion to brainwash someone to such extent

    4) The letter Mansoor wrote gave a very positive message against Racial Biases.

    Personally, I liked it better than Ajay Devgan’s Movie. I agree it wasnt that strong in terms of direction and quality.. but very nice narrated..Few things that I think could have either be avoided or modified were

    1) The TAJ MAHAL point was not needed. It would only attract negative comments.
    2) The Sardar calling Mansoor “Terrorist”. Since this movie is about giving the facts..I think that part was not true. I was there in Manhattan during that 9/11 and post 9/11.. i have see the unity that SouthEast Asian had during that time, esp when racial profiling was quiet high in both USA And UK. I would have rather shown the American calling Mansoor a Terrorist while the Sardar grieves to Mansoor about the beard confusion and his friend’s Death.

    3) I agree the Father and husband should have got some kind of punishment.

    4) I would have liked more if director had made a point about that TAAVIZ and how the FBI Agent was proving to be so ignorant about SouthEast Asian Cultures/faith. I think if he had explain the true meaning behind wearing that Taaviz and the meaning of it, An average American not knowing about it would have learned something. Nita, first of all I totally agree with your review and your view. Movie deserves lot more recognition and appreciation. but you can’t be surprised why it didnt go successful in Indian theaters. our Indian audiences(atleaset mojority) look for MASALA MOVIES and STAR ORIENTED MOVIES. I rented the dvd as I heard good things aboutit and I sure wasnt disappointed. As as far as Movie not Some of The points I admired were

    1) It shows that one cant biased the whole religion due few peoples actions.
    2) I think extremist werent shown overly emotional or drammatic as portrayed in our Hindi Movies(Typical Pakistani Terrorist). The sudle yet strong influence / brainwash by the mauli was well crafted. It showed how words and its meaning are clevery twised and thrown into the names of religion to brainwash someone to such extent

    4) The letter Mansoor wrote gave a very positive message against Racial Biases.

    Personally, I liked it better than Ajay Devgan’s Movie. I agree it wasnt that strong in terms of direction and quality.. but very nice narrated..Few things that I think could have either be avoided or modified were

    1) The TAJ MAHAL point was not needed. It would only attract negative comments.
    2) The Sardar calling Mansoor “Terrorist”. Since this movie is about giving the facts..I think that part was not true. I was there in Manhattan during that 9/11 and post 9/11.. i have see the unity that SouthEast Asian had during that time, esp when racial profiling was quiet high in both USA And UK. I would have rather shown the American calling Mansoor a Terrorist while the Sardar grieves to Mansoor about the beard confusion and his friend’s Death.

    3) I agree the Father and husband should have got some kind of punishment.

    4) I would have liked more if director had made a point about that TAAVIZ and how the FBI Agent was proving to be so ignorant about SouthEast Asian Cultures/faith. I think if he had explain the true meaning behind wearing that Taaviz and the meaning of it, An average American not knowing about it would have learned something.

  20. May 10, 2008 9:23 pm

    NDT, thanks for your detailed analysis. I tend to agree with your points. Even I was quite uneasy about that scene where the sardarji called Mansoor a terrorist but not being familiar with what happened in the US, I thought that maybe indians had turned against pakistanis. I had read of a few instances of sardarjis being mistaken for muslims and killed so I though perhaps this was why they reacted by anger against muslims. but somehow even then I wasn’t sure of this aspect. I think the director simply assumed that sardarjis would retaliate against muslims but it was a wrong judgement. I think the sardarjis instead vented their ire on the whites, not the muslims.

  21. May 11, 2008 9:12 pm

    I do not understand why WE BUILT THE TAJMAHAL was even there in the movie. Taj was built years ago and evryone who built it lost their hands by the way. Its a world heritage and not belonging to any communal class or religion. In that case the indians built texla !! We need to grow up and out of the religious egoes !!!!

  22. June 29, 2008 11:28 pm

    Being a Paki im glad that many of u liked the movie and as for the taj mahal thing, its right that the muslims built it (as Shahjahan was a muslim) but at the same time we are also aware of the fact that it belongs to India and we respect that. One thing i would like to clear is that this surely doesnt mean that we have an inferiority complex. The only purpose of the movie is to prove wrong the misconceptions in western world regarding islam being the religion of extremists and terrorists, so guys please dont think that its anti-india or something.

    @ RG: The Indians didnt built Texila, the hindus did, just the way muslims built taj mahal not Pakistanis.

  23. Aamir Khilji permalink
    July 5, 2008 1:04 pm

    first of all @AA: Indians built both takshila as well as Taj Mahal, the only difference is at the time when takshila was built muslims were not there in India and when Taj Mahal was built they were there. Pakistan only got into picture in 1947, nothing against it but just wanted to clear that out.

    Now about movie:

    Its a gr8 movie and I agree with some of the comments in this forum but this is wat I think:

    1) first of all, this movie dissects Islam religion, bringing out the good stuff and showing to people and at the same time removing the misconceptions. That is what this movie is about, its not about 911, its not about India-pakistan.

    2) The Taj Mahal scene was necessary for wat director wanted to show about misconceptions about Islam, the whole point was tht he scared the girl away bcoz of his arrogance and lie (coz the girl lied tht she dint know abt pakistan coz she had listened to nusrat sahib). The guy was angry tht she doesnt know abt pakistan (his native place) so he bragged unnecessarily with lies and religous arrogance, later on tht same girl love him coz of music, which the film focuses on, is bad according to Islam. so tht scene was important.

    3) naseer’s scene is brilliant as it brings out so many good points.

    4) the questioning scene of the guy in USA had some questionable motives, especially the scene where he says Muslims thinks bad abt others coz they are being targeted around the world, INCLUDING “Indians killing them in Kashmir” tht was a big lie not needed in a movie so focused on Islam as a religion. The director should know abt Kashmiri Pandits and also thousand of muslims who are dying daily because of terrorists, but anyway tht was an unnecessary scene, actually, my rating went down frm awesome to gr8 after tht scene.

    5) The guys were not punished because the case was dismissed by both parties and also wht director wanted to show was tht Islam will remain Islam as a good religion even whn some people interpret it differently and it just takes few people to change thr perception and tht is still possible.

    6) I think the ending letter was the key when the guy writes in his letter tht just because few ppl have hurt him he doesnt hate all ppl in US, so others shud not hate all muslims just coz some of thm do bad to them.

    The most important point this movie makes it tht you should stop looking out for threats to your religion from outside, it is people from inside you have to take care of coz they are causing big damage to a beautiful religion. remember the scene whr he killed tht guy in war and thn he shouts “ye kaisa ji-had” cos the guy he killed he realised was also muslim.

    I would say tht this is a very bold film and very good and he is lucky not to have a fatwa yet.

  24. July 5, 2008 3:35 pm

    @ Aamir Khilji: It is not a lie that Indian forces are killing Kashmiris.How can you say that they are terrorists? Do terrorists have to dress up in an Indian Army uniform to kill innocent people. No offence to anyone but the truth is truth.And for the taj mahal scene, he wasnt bragging as whatever he said was absolutely true.

  25. April 6, 2009 6:36 pm

    TO all the viewvers,well guys why do we make issues out of everything?why cant we indiands and pakistanis live together as good nieghbours,i have come to india twice first in 1980 then in 2007,i have 4 of my fathers real brothers living in indian, all my cousins live there.i fail to understand why do we have to argue with eachother for everything,i love going to india like meeting people there(sure the authorities give us such hard time u feel like never going back)find all loving and kind,it is just a movie not aginst anyone,showing to the world the difficulties muslims find now a days anywhere they go,please distinguish between right and wrong.

  26. assssd permalink
    May 4, 2012 6:55 pm

    masha allah recently i have seen this movie ,its jst out class defendng pakistan ALLAH AKBAR

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