Bol by Shoaib Mansoor, the critically acclaimed director of Khuda Kay Liye, is brutally hard-hitting cinema. When movie makers choose to depict societal evils, they have a choice - either they can pay lip service and make the depiction an insignificant sidetrack or they can choose to take the bull by the horns - that is when they do real justice to their craft!
What is cinema without storytelling? When the story entertains, we appreciate it because we want to escape reality. In living our fantasies through our cinematic idols, we revel in their exploits, dance steps, riches, conquests and triumphs! When the story is closer home in its grounding, we tend to sometimes brush it aside, choosing to label it, 'not for the faint hearted/weak hearted'/ 'bold'/'hard-hitting'/'art cinema' etc. By categorizing movies as mass entertainers, we have started committing a grave injustice, injustice to the intellect of the masses.
Set in Pakistan, in a quasi-urban landscape,Bol is the story of a single family's travails and tribulations. Hakim Saab (Manzar Sehbai) in his quest for a male child ends up with seven daughters and a hermaphrodite. The most rebellious and vociferous in the household, the eldest daughter, Zainab (Humaima Malick) confronts her father every time his ego and male chauvinism shackles the household. Child sexual abuse, the perils of growing up as a girl child in an ultra conservative and feudal environment, corruption in police ranks, prostitution, societal attitude towards hermaphrodites, their humiliations, Shia-Sunni divide, all compounded by a single man's egoism and chauvinism - this is Bol!
Ayesha (Mahirah Khan Askari) is lucky enough to be charmed by Mustafa (Atif Aslam), the boy next door. She falls in love with him and among Zainab's many crimes in the eyes of her father, giving Ayesha's hand to Mustafa is also one. Humaima and Manzar are both excellent, the former in her restrained anger and agony, verbal barbs and jibes and the latter in his seething hatred of his eldest daughter and his inability to reconcile with his conscience. Atif gets to emote little, Mahirah is just OK and the other girls end up as helpless spectators of a charged battle. The movie disrobes reality,shocks, angers, stuns, numbs and in the end, leaves us with a flicker of hope - a hope that is beautiful in its potential to transform lives.
Cinematography in the song 'Hona tha pyar' is awesome. It manages to juxtapose the natural beauty of the landscape alongside the frail existence of Mustafa and Ayesha. Among other songs, Dil Janiya is my favorite. Mumkin hai is the very voice of hope! Shoaib Mansoor, hats off, hope this serves as an inspiration to other talented craftsmen in the sub continent.
Perhaps, it is high time, the masses too start asking themselves - do we want movies that are escapist or do we want movies that question accepted norms and ask uncomfortable questions? With the World in turmoil - debt crisis, austerity measures, Arab dissent and frustration with farcical democracies - isn't it time for cinema to become a vehicle of the collective and for the collective, in articulating their real voices for a change? The scope and potential is huge, who has the guts to take the plunge?