Everyone, their wives, five kids and dogs have already seen the film BOL so I decided to follow suit and headed towards the only decent cinema in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The cinema was packed and the queue was long but my friend and I were lucky enough to get really good seats.
While waiting for the film to get started, I realized that just like a mosque, a cinema is a great leveler. From the elitist of the Islooites to gota kinaree wearing ladies from Haripur Hazara to Army kids from Taxilla, everyone was in queues buying popcorns.
BOL is the story of a Hakeem Sahib in old Lahore who fathered a whopping 14 kids; of them seven daughters and a son, who is not really a son (this is an actual dialogue in the film, I did not come up with this cheesy line) survived. He is a grumpy, old man who hates everyone in his family and uses religion to control them. He is not fond of women in general and his daughters in particular, but he hates his eunuch progeny (Saifi) the most. He at least sent his daughters to school till the fifth grade but poor Saifi never leaves the house, the only people he has ever seen apart from his family, are the neighbours.
The neighbours’ have a son, played by Atif Aslam who is sort of courting one of Hakim Sahab’s daughters on their combined rooftop with the help of their respective siblings, who for lack of any other more fulfilling activity, keep an eye on Hakim sahib and make sure that the party breaks every day before the dreaded dad makes an entrance.
The film has so many plot glitches that even when a viewer is willing to give the director a lot of room for artistic liberties, one cannot overlook them. For instance, Hakim Sahab lamented the survival of his seven daughters countless times throughout the length of the film, but the director decided to get stingy and cast just five girls to play the daughters. There is no mention if the other two girls are married or killed (because Hakim Sahab likes to kill his children when he feels like it) or if they have turned into ghosts because they thought it was better fate than listen to Hakim sahib’s litany day in, day out. .
Even though it was Atif Aslam’s character that was partly responsible for the molestation of Saifi’s character, he remained miraculously guilt free. Most medical students get a measly stipend when they start house jobs but Atif Aslam being Atif Aslam somehow hits the jackpot and buys a TV and cell phones for everyone with his first salary!
The casting was way off the mark, with exception of Humaima Malick, Manzer Sehbai and Shafqat Cheema, everyone else looked out of place. Atif Aslam is wooden and every time he says the word Baji, he sounds like a whiny, younger brother who has been banished from Baji’s room. . Mrs Hakim Sahib has had so many plastic surgeries that she is incapable of expressing any emotion at all, except perhaps for a pinched surprised look. Hakim Sahab is dirt poor, but the girls who are cast as his daughters look stylish with their posh diction and Rs 5,000 haircuts.
Though both Hakim Sahab and Mrs Hakim Sahab are never shown to have imparted a word of wisdom to their daughters and they have no other source of getting exposure to new ideas and thoughts, their knowledge, level of awareness and confidence is mindboggling. The eldest panchvi paas daughter argues most eloquently on religion and the other panchvi paas daughter makes music, sings, dances and gets rid of her stage fright in 30 seconds straight. The rest of the panchvi paas daughters break into graceful dances the minute Hakim Sahab steps out of the house even though they have never seen anyone dancing, you know no TV and contact with outside world and all. Shahid Afridi’s status as the national heart throb is further solidified when it was revealed that Hakim Sahab’spanchvi paas, stay-at-home daughters have hots for him.
The mother who remained either pregnant or lactating for most of her adult life (14 children) and used to get regularly beaten up by Hakim Sahab also suddenly evolves the minute Hakim Sahab leaves the scene. A woman who has never cooked anything other than Daal (because they couldn’t afford anything else) turns into a gourmet chef and an entrepreneur par excellence; turning the family’s fortune around. Though irrelevant to the plot, she also starts using hair dye after making it big as a restaurant owner.
This is not to say that everything about the film was bad. Shafqat Cheema was excellent in every frame and the scene where Iman Ali switches from an Umrao Jan Ada wannabe to hardcore slangy Punjaban was carried forth with enough aplomb.
What I found most refreshing was how the film was received among the audience. The film is a three-hour-long advertisement for family planning and the virtues of having a small family are repeatedly stated, yet none of the usual suspects have called it un-Islamic. One character openly asks others to take off their hijabs, leave the four walls of the home and experience life; yet the film has not attracted any major fatwa. I know it is not much but it gives me hope for a Pakistan where people are tolerant and fatwas are hard to come by.
Originally written for Dawn