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Sunday, June 26, 2011
Social drama
Shoaib Mansoor
Humaima Malick, Manzar Sehbai, Atif Aslam, Iman Ali, Mahira Khan
Coming in the wake of the filmmaker’s much-acclaimed Khuda Ke Liye, gender-inequality and hate-propelled traditions in the name of the religion get candid appraisal in this new Pak-produced product.

The plot: Hakimsaab (Manzar Sehbai) is caught in a time-warp as he rigidly clings to old beliefs,   desperately yearns for a normal son, despises the effeminate offspring which is his only “male” progeny, stifles female voices in the household and throws the holy book in defence of his gender-biased views and practices. When his only son turns out to be more eunuch than male, he hates the sight of the artistically-inclined child, allows only home study for him and is driven by hatred to passions unimaginable against the boy. The boy grows up under the loving protection of his sisters and mother, all of whom cannot ultimately save him from his father’s wrath. Meanwhile, daughter Ayesha (Mahira Khan) has a romance blossoming with the neighbour (Atif Aslam), the progressive, small family next door striking a contrast with the never-ending line of kids the financially-strapped Hakim insists on regularly fathering. A devout Muslim, he is led by his narrowest possible interpretation of his religion, never mind that he deviates from the straight and the narrow when he is faced with a financial crisis. Hakim’s nemesis is his eldest daughter Zainab (Humaima Malick) who is feisty in her verbal jousts with his father, her logic and debate often sending him into an impotent rage.

The good: Most definitely, it is the intent of the film that first calls for applause, as looking within the community and raising important, relevant questions gives the religion its much-needed balanced presentation. Humaima as Zainab is unyieldingly forceful, whether she is protecting her mother’s weakening body as pregnancy after pregnancy take their toll on her, or whether she is arguing with her father about a cricket match, or asking her sisters to lift the veil and step beyond it. The bonding between the women in the house and the family next door is warm and believable. Manzar Sehbai as the doddering, faltering Hakim is credible, even as he arouses hatred in the viewer.

The bad: The educated family next door doing nothing to bring the Hakim to justice when he has committed a heinous crime is questionable and the argument that they choose to be silent because the daughters need their horrible father holds no water. Especially when they are ultimately shown doing just fine without him at the end. Iman Ali as the tawaif the Hakim marries on the sly may be   dignified but she is no kathak dancer.  Atif Aslam as the neighbour is effete since he is more a helpless bystander than an active changer of the game. The entire sequence where the effeminate son is left to fend for himself at his workplace when the boss knew the intentions of the others is convenient screenplay.   
Overall: It may not be perfect cinema but it is important, relevant cinema. A highly recommended watch for the issues it brings forth with stark candour.
– Bharathi S Pradhan

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