Khuda Kay Liye
Cast: Shan, Fuwad Khan, Iman Ali
Direction: Shoaib Mansoor
For sure, it leaves you with mixed feelings. Gratifyingly, they're not the sort that you erase like an unwanted sms. Any which way you look at it, Khuda Kay Liye is a thought-provoking work on the state of the Muslim identity today, in particular post the 9/11 devastation.
Indeed the topic is, "All Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims." Even as Hollywood draws caricatures of bearded, gun-toting maniacs, here's a successful attempt to redress the balance. Pakistan's director, Shoaib Mansoor seeks to say - stop looking at the Muslim with suspicion. And worse, prejudice.
Moreover, Mansoor has had the guts to state that the faith has its own enemies. These are the clerics who insist that music and painting are 'haram', have issues with modes of dressing (jeans?..not done) and formulate unilateral fundamental codes. In the same breath, it is emphasised that there are exceptional scholars and mullas who have a deeper understanding of the religion, rooted in tradition with offshoots stretching to the modern day. A ten-minute address, in a courtroom, by Naseeruddin Shah as a man of God, is pure brilliance.
As the plot unfolds, you do feel cluttered with far too many characters, too many time jumps and several awkwardly shot scenes, many of them leaving elderly mums and grandmas gaping saucer-eyed at the camera.
These are quibbles though. Because the inter-cutting stories of two brothers. From well-heeled families, the brothers are Sufi pop singers whose lives travel into diverse directions. One (Fuwad Khan) is indoctrinated into fundamentalism. The other (Shan) is sadistically detained in an American hell hole, accused of terrorism.
The fundamentalist brother assents to a marriage to his cousin (Iman Ali), even if she has to be kept a virtual prisoner. If there is any panacea offered to such personal tragedies - some much worse - it is merely this. Feel the pain. It could happen to anyone, caste, creed and nationality no bar.
Apart from the pithy dialogue, several scenes are impressive. Like a group of music students coming together in a song. Or a woman closing the door on her father who can't see her with a British boy, though he has lived for years with a white woman.
Throughout the music is extraordinary. Technically, the photography is sufficiently atmospheric. The editing could have been less generous to the director though.
Of the cast, Shan and Fuwad Khan are both first-rate. Iman Ali is believable. Rasheed Naaz as the bigoted mulla strikes just the right note of menace.
Bottomline: it has flaws. But what doesn't? After many moons, here's a film that makes a strong, progressive statement. So Khuda kay Liye just see it.