By Rashmi Talwar
Bol is bold, brash and banshee … Every time one tries predicting; a new twist fevicols (glues) one to the seat. At the outset it seems just another stereotype sob-story but its inner mazes – wraps and unwraps- you in a blind-hole, wherein you search the light out of the mysterious tunnel.
Writer-Director Shoaib Mansoor’s second inning’s outstanding production after the much acclaimed Khuda Kay Liye, Bol rains questions on Pakistan’s society on retro practices, hollow honor, patriarchal modes and the sufferance of innocent humankind as puppeteer controlled dolls.
In flashback mode, Shoaib takes a dig at society’s claim on male heir, while queuing a dozen daughters to attain the elusive son. Told through a compelling narrative as Zainab (Humaima Malick) narrates her life history, to the watchful media, minutes before being noosed to death- the eldest of the many daughters of conservative Muslim family of Hakim saab (Manzar Zehbai) reveals all in her journey to death’s rope.
The elusive son-chase ends with birth of Saifee (Amr Kashmiri).
A storyline so amazing, no mumbo-jumbo to those of the Indian sub-continent but shocking for western farers, the film explores the depths of deep-rooted bias and exploitation born out of systemized centuries-old drilling, about the role and place of a woman in society. The scene of ‘currency–note washing and ironing’ to purify is an unmistakable gesture, worming from debased superstition.
Saifee’s artistic development, his closeness to his sisters is the mystery in the movie owing to its ‘queer’ storyline . However, Saifee being admonished by his protagonist sister for donning lipstick and wearing duppata et al, sees him raising a vital question ‘ Is being a man –Means to be stiff-lipped, beat women and treat family like scum?
Saifee’s eventual destiny is that which connects you the angst over something that human being is hopeless to rectify .
A murder twists the plot into a complete shredding of ideals and age-old pretext values and as they say –‘Allah’s rage looms large’- of father taking a complete dirt-road, out of his predicament.
Hakim saab’s trot to the house of Saqa Kanjar (Shafqat Cheema), a tout of Lahore’s infamous Heera Mandi –And then the ‘strangest agreement’ – –seen as money-spinner for Kanjar and Hakim’s sole face saver. Hakim hits rock bottom with his association with Heera mandi’s tawaif Safina (Iman Ali), who calls herself Meena after the legendary leading lady of Kamal Amrohi’s Pakeezah.
Safina’s or Meena’s role is a gem. Posturing, a simple conversation in Royal dialect, the next moment elapsing into true crass form of brothel dialect, throws one. Her eventual melting point is a peep into motherly emotions winning over in contrast to her environmental pressures.
Sets and acting of each character including Kanjar’s slurping – dipping finger licks, Punjabi abuses of Meena or that of Kanjar’s wife, the wandering chicken in courtyard, Lahore’s signature trucks makeover into bridal-like contraptions, narrow watchful streets, old family haveli, four-poster antique beds, true-blue lahori dialect and occupations to match, dialogue delivery and gestures, all point towards a piercing eye to detail and authenticity.
I could compare the details of Bol to ‘Tere Bin Laden’ another movie set in Pakistan, though shot on sets in India, which too entrenched the same quality unlike top of the charts film ‘Veer-Zara’ of Yash Chopra which lost out on vitals of lifestyle, language , décor and many other aspects.
The plot, spins, twists and turns lend a very authentic storyline to Bol. The Film’s narration, cinematography is brilliant.
A whiff of soft music that doesn’t necessarily gel in the story, by Atif Aslam otherwise adds lightness in his signature style ‘Hona tha pyaar..’ and proves a breather in the haystack.
The question at the end by the protagonist daughter is at seen as throw on burgeoning population in a mad race in her country “If it is a crime/sin to kill, then why is it not a crime/sin to give birth?” leaving one with a lingering feeling of children as a head-count or herd gathering mechanism .
Overall the film leaves one thoughtful, enthralled and in complete wonderment.