Review: Bol

[Rating: 4]

Director: Shoaib Mansoor

Cast & Crew: Humaima Malik, Atif Aslam, Manzar Sehbai, Mahirah Khan Askari, Iman Ali, Amr Kashmiri, Shafqat Cheema, Zaib Rehman.

Plot Summary: Zainub (Humaima Malik) has been sentenced to death for murder. Mustafa (Atif Aslam) advises her to tell her story to everyone before she is hung to death. She is allowed a last wish by the President of Pakistan and she tells her story to the media starting from the origin of her family and the transition after Partition to how she got to the prison

Review: Bol unabashedly tells us the story of a family reeling under monetary issues, and a patriarchal society that many of us can understand if not relate with. A father, Hakim Sahib (Manzar Sehbai) who blindly believes in religion and its teachings and keeps getting his wife impregnated in order to be a good disciple and to satiate his hunger of having another male member in the family while his income is less than sufficient to take care of his ever-increasing family.

The screenplay is a bold outlook on sensitive issues like a male member’s atrocities in the name of “chauvinism” and religion, domestic violence, homosexuality, contraception and a conservative society’s outlook towards music. The story starts from a jail encounter between Zainub(Humaima Malik) and Mustafa (Atif Aslam) who asks her to speak up and tell her story which is when she asks the jail authorities to grant her a last wish before being hanged to death. She has few hours and has to tell the world how an innocent girl reached behind bars and has been sentenced to death. She also tells her family members to get rid of unreasonable customs in the name of religion especially the burqa.

Religious reasons keep Hakim Sahib from mingling with his neighbors since they belong to a different sect of Islam, which he finds deprecating. Mustafa, the neighbor’s son, is a doctor by profession and music is his hobby. Mustafa is in love with one of Zainub’s sisters (Mahirah Khan Askari) who he teaches the guitar and coaxes to perform at a concert with him. Hakim Sahib wants to get her married like he had married off Zainub to an inappropriate suitor however defying her father, Zainub gets Mustafa and her sister married much to the disgust of her father since she faces the music in a most negative way. Her undeterring will to help herself and the other members of the family is fantastic since she stands up to her father on every unreasonable step she finds him taking. She is divorced from her husband since she has had a bad childhood due to the family’s penniless condition and wants to have her own kids once her husband has enough to provide for the family which ends up in a sour divorce and her home-coming. She has always questioned why is only murdering a crime, why is giving birth not a crime. She asks why do people believe in having more and more kids when they have no or few means to provide for them?

Zainub is the eldest daughter born to her parents and 6 sisters follow her and a brother who has effeminate qualities, it is later found that he is a eunuch born to the family and Hakim Sahib is ashamed of his ‘son’, Saif Ullah (Amr Kashmiri), although there are restrictions on everyone in the family, the girls are allowed to study uptil class 5 while Saif Ullah/Saifi is not allowed to step out of the house. He stays confined in a room which he has decorated with hand drawings of flora and fauna as per his imagination. The lady members of the family love and care for him however Saifi craves to be loved and accepted by his father but the latter’s hatred for him increases with each passing day, until Hakim Sahib murders him one night to save face but that starts a new string of unfortunate events, since he is compelled to arrange for a large sum of money to bribe the investigating police officer which takes him to the doorstep of a brothel run by Saqa (Shafqat Cheema) initially to teach verses of the holy book to the boys in the house and later, ending up marrying the pimp’s grand-daughter so they can have a girl in the brothel to fetch them more money in the years to come. Hakim Sahib has a change of heart when he sees the baby’s face and asks Mina (Iman Ali) to give the baby to him so he can leave town never to return.

The family learns of Hakim Sahib’s infidelity through his wife Suraiya (Zaib Rehman) and is furious with him while only Zainub speaks up only to slapped across her face, in the events that follow in the same scene, we find Hakim Sahib trying to kill the new born baby from Mina in order to save himself from Saqa that Mina gave him later and Zainub kills her father to save the baby.

The film ends on a good note but leaves many questions for us to answer within ourselves. It left me on the verge of tears initially sad then transitioning into happy. It is after a long time a movie such as this has come around questioning so many issues all in those few hours. The music is very good, two songs in the movie have been sung by Atif Aslam. Except for a few prolonged dark scenes, it is a very good watch and a sincere attempt from the film-maker hence I am rating the movie a 4/5.

Verdict: The movie has a strong message and is imperative for all to see for it is sure to make an impact on its audiences. For feminists ( extremists/moderates) and social activists, this is food for thought.

Saumya Sharma

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