I finally got a chance to watch Bol with a few friends the other day. The movie is well-made and Shoaib Mansoor has handled some very controversial and taboo subjects which other filmmakers shy away from. It promised to be a hard-hitting film and on that score it delivered. I guess my criticism is that it is perhaps a bit too hard-hitting. I sat through the entire length of the movie just cringing and feeling really stressed out.
I think the film could have handled fewer issues and developed the characters more. For example, Atif Aslam’s role was a joke. Two performances really stood out. Saifi was excellent. I could really feel for him and while the issue of ‘hijras’ in Pakistan has been shown on TV serials etc, this brought a different angle to it. As ironic as it sounds, the other character I could relate to and even sympathize with was the monster father. I could understand, even if I could not condone, the inner demons he was fighting; the social norms that seemed paramount; and the religious dogmas he was devoted to. On the other hand, the protagonist delivered a mediocre performance. She was not very impressive and at times even annoying.
The format of the film was a bit awkward as well. The midnight press conference with dimwit reporters asking rhetorical questions or rushing to wake the President up in the middle of the night seemed a bit juvenile. A woman on death-row with harrowing flashbacks while she waited her sentence or even just narrating her story to one reporter might have been much more effective and believable. But then it would not have led to the hopeful outcome of getting through to the President. Maybe I am way too cynical but that eventuality just seemed so lame.
But let’s face it. All of us Pakistanis rushed to watch and support this film because we’re starved for Pakistani films. There aren’t many watchable films out there even though a few independent filmmakers are doing good stuff. But most of these films end up being issue-based and thus, to a domestic entertainment-starved audience cannot compete with Bollywood. While to an international audience they reinforce a lot of negative stereotypes about Pakistan. While there is definitely a need to make issue-based films, we’d also like to see the ‘softer’ side of Pakistan. I’m craving a feel-good, happy, hopeful Pakistani movie which celebrates functional relationships, humour and the good in humanity. Shoaib Mansoor, I hope you’re listening.