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Khuda Ke Liye

May 19, 2010

I liked this movie, I really really did.
But I didn’t LOVE it.

Khuda Ke Liye tells two parallel stories, one about Mary (Iman Ali) a Pakistani Muslim girl brought up in UK and the other, about Mansoor (Shaan) a Pakistani Muslim man who moves to the US to study, and faces the repercussions of the 9/11 terrorist attack.

The story plays with the idea of how one persons actions can affect and hurt someone close, but entirely unrelated to the actions. Mansoor and Sarmad (Fawad Afzal Khan), brothers, come from a liberal family. Both enjoy music and well known for their musical ability (even appearing on TV). As Sarmad begins to get influenced by an Islamic fundamentalist, he starts believing that music is evil, and refuses to play anymore. His older brother is frustrated, but is convinced by his father to leave Sarmad alone. As Sarmad becomes more and more radical, he moves out of his house and gets involved in the jihad.
Meanwhile, Mary, in the UK, has fallen in love with a gora. Hearing this, her father decides that she must be taken to Pakistan, to marry a good Muslim boy, and in a way, atone for the ‘sins’ he committed by living in with white women all his life. He tricks her with the promise that once they return, he would meet Dave’s parents. Once there, he first attempts to convince Mansoor, and then Sarmad, to marry her. Sarmad agrees, believing that he is saving her (and not letting the future generations get corrupted). To get her married, without her consent, she is taken to a rural, remote part of the countryside, to a small village. After the ceremony, she’s left there with Sarmad, and her father leaves for UK (the toilets are too dirty for him, makes you hate the creep). The movie then details Mary’s life in the remote village, her attempt to escape, how she is raped by Sarmad and bears a child (a girl) and finally, gets a letter out to Dave. When the British Government become involved, she is allowed to return back to the UK. However, she vows to fight a court case, and get back at Sarmad and her father.
Mansoor, in the US, has fallen in love and married a pretty American girl. When the Twin Towers collapse (September 11) he is taken into police custody and tortured. The torture, both mental and physical, drives him mad. He is deported back to Pakistan (though, if he married an American, won’t that make him an American citizen?).

What I really loved about their family doesn’t believe in forcing any of the members to behave in a certain way. And I adore the fathers expression as he explains this to Mansoor. Again, I love the stern-ess on his face as he leads Mary to the helicopter to take her back home.
The scenes that show the maulvi convincing Sarmad to follow not logic, but his heart, are insightful. They give you a taste of how easy it can be to make someone ‘believe’. The movie has shown his confusion really well, from when Mansoor tries to convince him to shave, to when he is forced to kill a man.
For one, the scenes in English seemed forced. Mansoor and the actor who plays Mary’s mother are perhaps the only two who don’t seem to be trying to speak with an accent. Mary’s British accent was a little annoying, and hard to understand. The American investigators don’t seem realistic at all. A little like the creepy leering bad guys from a B grade hindi movie. (And there’s one fat woman with a pig like face whose (is it whose, or who’s?) laugh is really mean) And they wear sun-glasses a lot of the time. Even when it’s dark (a la Matrix).
Mary and Dave’s relationship should have warmed us towards the couple. But neither actor conveys any feelings at all. Even when Dave angrily declares that he will go to Pakistan to rescue his beloved, there is no conviction in his dialogue, and he seems to be waiting for the next actor to say something.
Naseeruddin Shah plays his role beautifully (doesn’t he always!). He seems to be the epitome of wisdom, kindness and exudes a sense of calm. During the court scene, he cuts down, point by point, every fundamentalist argument Sarmads maulvi puts forward, making Sarmad see how illogically he had been behaving, and that in reality, he had been a ‘good muslim’ all along.
I didn’t like how the movie ended for Mary… most girls would have gone right back home, to the place where people loved and understood them, baby and all. She didn’t, and perhaps, the movie wouldn’t have been such a success if she had.
Also, if Mary’s step-mother had left her husband, once and for all, realising what a selfish piece of crap he really is, the ending would have been much more satisfying.
I did, however, enjoy watching Sarmad sing out the call for prayer, at the end of the movie, his strong voice rising high over the city of Lahore.

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