Shoaib Mansoor needs no introduction. With his debut film KHUDA KE LIYE, the Pakistani director had the audience sit up and take notice of his work. BOL, his latest film, which released in Pakistan in June and had a worldwide release this week, is another work of his which once again has you, as an audience, asking a question.
BOL is thought-provoking, compelling and forthright. It brings the subject to light, but never once does Mansoor force his view on the audience. Nor do his characters. Within the ambit of their circumstance, each actor stretches his or her arm, never once trying to go beyond. That's the brilliance of this film. That's the hallmark of Mansoor. He is like the music conductor who knows the symphony like the palm of his hand and guides every actor with the delicate swish of his experienced baton.
There's Manzar Sehbai who plays Hakim Saab the father who sires one daughter after another in search of that one elusive male child. Hakim Saab is your everyday dad brought up with the strict principles of religion. It's either black or white for him. He is a religious bigot who lights up his character with intense intelligence. He knows, or rather feels he knows, he always does the right thing. Gentle prodding from his wife Zaib Rehman means nothing to him. Women are meant to bear children not voice their opinions. His is the actual character that drives the entire plot. He is so innocent, yet vicious. To balance out that act is simply mind-blowing. Never once, as a viewer do you fear him, because, he goes about his daily living with such innocent calm.
But one thing Hakim needs to ask himself, which he never does. This is also the one thing the audience is forced to ask. Is it proper to do the right thing, or the loving thing? To my mind this is what the film is all about. No religion preaches hatred, but every religion does speak about love.
Shot in Lahore, Pakistan, BOL explores the helplessness of the girl child. One daughter puts it succinctly when she is being forced to marry. "We are humans, not medicine bottles that our father can keep us wherever he likes." The mother is helpless. But help comes in the form of the eldest daughter in the family, Zainab, played by Humaima Malick. She is the one who dares to BOL. She counters her father at every juncture; even going to the extent of getting her younger sister married to the boy she loves. Humaima, like Manzar Sehbai excels in her performance.
There's also Shafqat Cheema who essays the role of Chowdhary. A character seeped in wrong doing that Hakim has to go to in times of crisis. Chowdhary extracts what he needs from Hakim without any qualms. In his mind he is doing the right thing. It is for Hakim to realize what is wrong! Hakim on his part plays tick-tack-toe with the Koran.
Atif Aslam as Mustafa, the neighbour who falls in love with one of Hakim's younger daughter, too pitches in with a fine performance.
Being a composer and lyricist himself, Mansoor picks up the right music which livens up the proceedings. The film begins with Zainab on death row. Thankfully it does not have a filmy end.
Though the length of the film does play a major hindrance, once the credits roll, you don't really mind it. Shoaib Mansoor has once again made you think. Once again he has taken on a subject everyone should be talking about.