A Gutsy Take On Fundamentalism
By MovieTalkies.com, 04 April 2008
After winning innumerable accolades at various international film festivals, director Shoaib Mansoor's Khuda Ke Liye has finally arrived in India. The film is significant, not just for its content and intent, but also because it is the first Pakistani film to be released in India. The movie has already won the Silver Pyramid Award at the 31st Cairo International Film Festival and has also been chosen for the Roberto Rossellini award in Italy.
Khuda Ke Liye is definitely a movie with a message. The film takes great pains to examine the rampant state of religious fundamdentalism in Pakistan and tries to correct the misapprehension in the Western world that every Muslim is a terrorist or supports such activities. Post 9/11, one has heard of numerous incidents where anyone sporting a beard was subject to suspicion in the US and elsewhere. Khuda Ke Liye endeavours to project a true picture of Islam, while at the same time denouncing acts of terrorism perpetrated in the name of Islam.
Director Shoaib Mansoor makes his point through the story of two brothers, who are musicians in Pakistan. The brothers, played by Shan (Sarmad) and Fawad Khan (Mansoor), start drifting apart when the younger brother starts visiting the rabid Mullah Tahiri (Rashid Naz). The mullah brainwashes the mind of the younger brother along with countless other young Pakistanis, filling their heads with thoughts of jihad and his take on Islam. His take on consists of treating women second class citizens, and music to be taboo. Meanwhile, the rational, liberal brother played by Shan, moves to the US to study music where he falls in love with a fellow student. He marries her and then comes 9/11. Suddenly everything changes and he finds himself behind picked by the cops and tortured behind bars, as they suspect that he is a part of the Al-Qaeda. The younger brother, a jehadi by now, is married off to his cousin Miriam (Iman Ali), who lives in London. She has committed the ultimate crime of falling in love with a Britisher, hence her orthodox father brings her to Pakistan on false pretences and gets her married to her cousin. It doesn't matter that he himself is living in with a British women. Both brothers are torn apart by religion, or rather by their opposing views on their religion. The film finally culminates in a court case, where Naseeruddin Shah finally makes his appearance, as the learned Maulana Wali, who exposes the fundamentalists and beats them at their own game by quoting extensively from Islamic religious texts. He clarifies the true meaning of concepts like jihad, much misunderstood by Muslims as well as non-Muslims.
What is truly noteworthy about the film is its uncompromising look at the state of religion in the hands of the clergy and mullahs in Pakistan. It does not hesitate to call a spade a spade and exposes both sides of the picture the mullahs for their deadly interpretation of Islam and the Western world for their belief that every bearded Muslim is related to Osama Bin Laden. Through the story of the two brother and the trials, the director makes an honest and courageous statement about religion and politics. Khuda Ke Liya is one of the better political films that one has seen in recent years. There is a lesson to be learnt here by our Bollywood directors whose idea of a political film rarely goes beyond the naïve and simplistic Hindu-Muslim bhai-bhai concept. One is aware that it must have been a thorny subject for the Pakistani director as well, but kudos to him for his mature and honest look at the role religion has played in dividing the world after 9/11. The film's musical score is praiseworthy as well.
The film's lead actors and our very own Naseer, have all turned in very fine performances. One feels that their conviction in the film's subject matter has given an edge to their performance.
Khuda Ke Liye is a film which asks to be seen for its courage and conviction, a quality that it is rare to come by in these times.