If given a choice between Pakistani movies and Pakistani TV shows/serials, I'd settle for the small screen any day. Not that all serials ['dramas' is what they call them in Pakistan] are engaging, but I am hooked to a few shows. From whatever I've seen of Pakistani movies, my ratings would not exceed 1 on a scale of 10. But KHUDA KAY LIYE, the first Pakistani film to release in India, is also the first Pakistani film that moved me.
The film depicts the dilemma the well-educated, progressive-thinking and liberal Pakistanis face, post 9/11. The West looks at them as potential terrorists, while fundamentalists frown on them. Director Shoaib Mansoor may not be a great technician, but is a fine storyteller nonetheless.
Honestly speaking, you don't take to the film at the outset. For, it takes time to come to the point, but once it does, there's no stopping it. However, there's a flip side as well. A theme like the one depicted in the film is not everyone's cup of tea. Although one does identify with the proceedings, the film is more for the thinking viewer, for those who dissect cinema after watching it, it's a film that sparks off debates and discussions.
Cinema in India has undergone a sea change and whether one likes it or not, the harsh fact remains that cinema here is entertainment driven. In that respect, KHUDA KAY LIYE has limited chances. Limited to the multiplexes of a handful of cities only. Yet, you cannot turn your eyes away from the fact that KHUDA KAY LIYE is a well-made film that reaffirms a dangerous fact - the world is only getting more and more divided!
The film is about the difficult situation in which Pakistanis in particular and the Muslims in general are caught up since 9/11. There is a conflict going on between the fundamentalists and the liberal Muslims. This situation is creating a drift not only between the western world and the Muslims, but also within the Muslim community.
The educated and modern Muslims are in a difficult situation because of their approach towards life and their western attire. They are criticized and harassed by the fundamentalists and on the other hand, the western world sees them as potential suspects of terrorism just because of their Muslim names.
The film has two stories running concurrently. The elder brother [Shan] wants to pursue music as a career and leaves for the U.S. The younger brother [Fawad Khan] is so influenced by the fundamentalists that he turns into an altogether different person completely. The younger brother's story of forcibly marrying a woman, the woman wanting to flee from his clutches but can't, takes you back to the Karisma Kapoor starrer SHAKTI - THE POWER and also the Manisha Koirala starrer ESCAPE FROM TALIBAN. The elder brother's story is novel and deftly executed. In fact, the elder brother's story is heart breaking.
Director Shoaib Mansoor knows exactly what he's talking about and has handled several portions with dexterity, especially the penultimate 20 minutes in the courtroom. Only thing is, the chaste Urdu spoken by Naseeruddin Shah will be difficult to decipher by most viewers. Cinematography could've been more eye-filling, in view of the fact that the locales are bewitching.
Shan is a fine actor, but he has put on a lot of weight and it shows. Imad Ali could've been more effective. Fawad Khan is strictly okay. Rasheed Naz is excellent. Naseeruddin Shah is the scene stealer. His portions are simply outstanding!
On the whole, KHUDA KAY LIYE is a well-made film, but it caters to the thinking audience, the intelligentsia mainly. At the box-office, the film caters to a handful of multiplexes in a handful of cites only. Sure, it would win tremendous critical acclaim, but box-office dividends in India are ruled out.