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Sunday, 26 June 2011

Bol Movie Review

What did you learn at the movies today? It is with this cryptic question that A O Scott, the respected film critic of The New York Times, begins his latest write-up. I found it interesting that it is published in the issue of Friday, June 24 – the very day on which ‘Bol’, Shoaib Mansoor’s spectacular follow-up to ‘Khuda Kay Liye’, was released across Pakistan after glittering premieres in Karachi and Lahore for invited audiences.
Now, Scott’s lengthy piece relates to another world where movie-going is a popular cultural experience, particularly in summertime “when hot weather and idle hours drive young scholars into the multiplexes”. And he raises the question whether “popular commercial movies are, or should be, intellectually undemanding, easily digestible, requiring no special knowledge and offering none in return”.
In Pakistan, of course, going to the movies is not something you do on a regular basis. Besides, going to see a Pakistani movie would hardly be the choice for a discerning and cultured audience. In this environment, a Pakistani production that rises to international standards is sure to become an event in our social life. There was ‘Khuda Key Liye’. And now we have ‘Bol’.
I am fond of telling my younger acquaintances that in the sixties, when the population of Karachi may have been less than one fourth of what it is now, there were over one hundred cinema houses in the city.
Yes, more than one hundred. I would say that I was almost brought up on Hollywood movies. To return to the first sentence of this column, there was surely a lot to learn from those movies. Also, to dream. Look what has happened to the city now and I am sure one symptom of this devastation is the dearth of such cultural activities as going to the cinema. Pakistan’s own film industry is a waste land and another measure of the drift of the Pakistani society that we find afflicted with violence, intolerance, bigotry and cultural decadence.
Incidentally, these are some of the themes that have been tackled in ‘Bol’. This is one reason why making it, with those obligatory cinematic embellishments, was an act of courage. There is always this danger of someone nasty getting very annoyed.
But ‘Bol’ has come with some good luck. It is the timing. After the events of May and some other emotionally unsettling episodes, Pakistan has gone into a contemplative mode. Serious thinking on not just our national sense of direction but also on the glaring brutalisation of our society is the need of the hour.
However, the regret is that one excellent movie does not make a summer. We are desperately in need of a cultural and intellectual revival. It calls for a revolution that must begin in the minds of our youth. This is very possible while they continue to sing their songs with the likes of Atif Aslam.
To conclude, let me refer to what I had learnt from an old Hollywood movie, ‘Teahouse of the August Moon’. Its central character, Marlon Brando, began with these words: “Pain makes a man think. Thought makes a man wise. Wisdom makes life endurable”. There are some dialogues in ‘Bol’ that its young viewers may fondly recall many, many years hence.


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