Saturday, September 3, 2011

Bol - Complicated

Bol is a good movie, and like all good movies, it gets watched more closely.  It's faults gets picked on, it is torn apart.  This happens even more if the movie is trying to make a point.

Bol piles all that is wrong with Pakistani society on the conservative attitude of people like Hakim Sahib (Manzar Sehbai).    Hakim wants a male child, and does not stop trying after years and years of begetting girls. It's his eldest, Zainub (Humaima Malik) that causes him a lot of woe, because she is outspoken, and refuses to take anything silently.  As the movie opens, the Hakim finds his wife has given birth to a hermaphrodite.  He is filled with disgust and wants to kill the child.  On the other hand, he is disgusted when a hijra lands up at his doorstep with an offer to buy the baby.  It is precisely this widely differing reaction of the Hakim that makes the movie complicated.  He will kill with his hands, but will not sell.

He stifles his wife and daughters with his dictatorial ways.  They are not allowed to ever step out of the house.  Their window to the world is via their next door neighbours, Mustafa (Atif) and his family, who are endlessly kind to the girls and their mother.  It is when they try to rebel, that their world falls apart, a series of tragedies strike them.  Hakim Sahib tries to stem the downward spiral but takes them further down till they hit rock bottom.

Zainub, the rebel ringleader harps on about how so many children has made them poorer, pointing out the neighbours who are educating their children and are well off because they have only two.  However, for all her blasting away at hypocrisy, she keeps quiet and actually aids her father when he is being blackmailed for killing his son.  Why?  Because she was afraid she and her family would die of hunger if the father was put away?  Hakim Sahib himself oscillates from moral high to the pits as he tries to keep his beliefs intact while his poverty makes him do things he never would.

The sop to the politicians at the end of the film was disgusting, the harping on 'fewer girls' was annoying.  Hakim Sahib's conservative attitude and hypocrisy are faults, but with time, such attitude does get watered down.  The acting was first rate all round, the ambience of the movie was perfect.  The cloistered haveli is a perfect setting for Hakim Sahibs family.  I liked the way one of the girls jump the wall on the roof to escape via the good neighbours house. The story of the hermaphrodite son Saif Ullah was very touching.  The episode where he is caught dressing in woman's clothes by his sisters and admits to having feelings for the neighbour's son were very viscreal.  His sisters' horrified reaction to this was also very natural.  They were sheltering him and grooming him to 'be a man'.  The Saqa Kanjar episode was hilarious and Hakim's imbroglio with the prostitutes was the best part of the film with its delicious ironies.

Maybe Shoaib Mansoor needs to make a satire on Pakistani society which does not take itself too seriously.  That would be very hard hitting indeed.


  1. Now this sounds to be quite a radical movie, with a liberal motive.
    But what is the message of the film?

  2. Emancipation of women, be nice to transgenders, dont be too fond of your sleep (esp for presidents of pakistan). Go live next time (for PTV news channels) Take your pic.

    But an interesting movie nonetheless.

  3. And does the message come across?

    No, I'm not asking if it will be heeded by the persons concerned. ;-)