Bol review: Leaves you spellbound!
By: Sonia Chopra
Critic's Rating: 17/5
Thursday 1 September 2011
Humaima Malick, Manzar Zehbai, Amr Kahmiri, Zaib Rahman, Shafqat Cheem, Iman Ali, Atif Aslam
Bol trails the lives of five sisters living in their jail of a home. Studied till Grade 5, after which their totalitarian father ordered hem to sit at home, the sisters yearn to experience the world outside. The father, Hakim Saab, a respected medicine man and treasurer of the mosque committee, puts his convoluted ideals over his family?s happiness. He has made his wife pregnant 14 times, all for a son. He doesn?t appear to love his daughters, merely tolerate them. And when the 14th child turns out to be a hermaphrodite, Hakim is distraught.
The film interestingly presents how a religious fanatic twists religion as it suits them. For example, Hakim who prides himself on being devout doesn?t find a contradiction in taking away a life or marrying a second time.
He feels a sense of male entitlement in caging the women of the house, even raising his hand if any of them dares to argue with his decisions. His logic that his wife should continue bearing children, as its God?s will, has daughter Zainab (Humaima Malick) enraged. She does the unthinkable; in order to save her mother from suffering another pregnancy, she has her mother operated. The rift between father and daughter widens.
It is to the credit of the writer that he hasn?t shaped the father?s character as a complete madman. He too has moments of reason, his own frustrations, and an admirable integrity (despite no money for adequate food, he refuses to touch the mosque money). Despite the family?s penury, he insists on shouldering the responsibility of the family alone, refusing the daughters? suggestion that they could earn as well. He is a victim of his own beliefs as well.
The film is stark because it has its roots in reality. The dictatorial father is everywhere, perhaps in more diluted forms. Fathers who kill their daughters in the name of honour, marry off their daughters too young, insist they stay at their husband?s home despite being tortured. (Indians will find the film especially identifiable, given our patriarchal society.) The film?s story goes darker still, as we witness a brutal rape; a stigma that the father cannot bear- the proverbial last straw.
Starting on a dismal note, Zainab ?s character is telling her story to the media. If taking a life is a crime, then why is giving birth not a crime? Isn?t it a crime to give birth with no intention of giving the child a dignified life, she questions. This question is also relevant in context with a parallel track where a brothel owner looks forward to the birth of a girl so she can earn for the family.
The film is not without glitches. The world of the sisters is too sanitized. Despite their trying circumstances, we never see the sisters fight. They?re always obedient to the parents, loving to each other, smiling to the world. Perhaps in showing the male as the villain, he?s bought into the female as a deity. The finale-the modern version of Happily Ever After-is too sudden and improbable to make a formidable impact. A fairytale ending in a film that borrows so earnestly from reality is incongruous.
Shoaib Mansoor?s sure-footed, unique storytelling style is as entertaining as it is relevant. The pace is unhurried, the narrative doesn?t shy away from brutality, the story is grim, and yet you?re spellbound.
Humaima Malick portrays her character?s intensity and rebelliousness with remarkable restraint. It?s truly a masterful performance. Manzar Zehbai as the father, Amr Kahmiri as the youngest child, Zaib Rahman as the mother and Shafqat Cheem as the brothel owner are outstanding. Iman Ali from Khuda Ke Liye appears in a striking cameo. Singer Atif Aslam plays the modern Pakistani effectively.
Bol is an audacious film given the world?s tenor at the moment where fundamentalists are quick to retort to the most harmless remark. And this film asks women to throw away their burqas and experience what the world has to offer. Pakistan has accepted the film with open arms, revealing what an evolved audience it is.
Given the choice of films this week, Bol is your best bet. As viewers, we need to break away from watching the same blockbusters for entertainment. Films offer a variety of experiences; different forms of entertainment. Sample this; you?ll be happy you did.
Verdict: Four stars