Filmmaker Shoaib Mansoor who likes to call himself Showman is one person who gets lauded for the same reasons as the ones for which he earns brickbats. Four years ago when cinegoers across Asia and Europe applauded him for his path-breaking film Khuda Kay Liye, the religious authorities rejected his portrayal outright and created a hate community against him and his film. The very filmmaker is back with yet another film, Bol that not only questions conventions but also the moralistic or religious beliefs that's been governing the lives of millions.
The film starts with a young woman being sentenced to death. She doesn't justify herself throughout the court case but requests her last wish to be fulfilled; to tell the world why she committed the crime. The story goes into flashback; Manzar Sehbai who plays Hakim Saab is a religiously rigid man. Following an orthodox patriarchal society, he yearns for a male heir in the family but for all his 14 attempts all he gets from his wife are daughters. Only 7 daughters survive in all and one a born eunuch. Bogged down by his false pride and moralistic thoughts, he wants to put an end to the eunuch's life. The women of the house are not allowed to voice their opinion. Any feeble protests from them are received by brutal blows from Hakim. Courtesy his unending desire to have a male child the headcounts in the family keep rising and with many mouths to feed the economic conditions of the house become bad to worse. With his increasing atrocities on the family oscillating between religious to ideological, Zainub his eldest daughter one fine day puts an end to her father's life and carries the weight of his death on her shoulder.
Director Shoaib Malick presents a social remark which is complex, emotionally compelling and forthright. He makes no bones about the fact that he blatantly highlights the still prevalent gender issues and family planning conceptions which till today are backed by religious morals. Instead of being preachy, Bol ends up touching you and disturbing your notions. It is gutsy and in your face.
The first half of the film does appear sketchy and loosely knit. Moreover, it maintains a stagnated graph. However, it's the second half that makes for an invigorating watch. There are far too many moments in the film that make you clap and laugh satirically at the mindless thriving of Hakim on his religious morals. For example the squabbling of Hakim and Zainub during the India Pakistan cricket match sequence where Zainub ridicules Hakim's belief that it's only with prayers to Allah can Pakistan win over India. Even the entire brothel sequence between Hakim and Meena the courtesan played by Iman Ali makes for a delightful watch. Shaoib strongly depicts the flaws in the notions of Islamic Societies but not without showing a ray of light at the end of the long tunnel. In 2 hours 40 minutes long, Bol justifies women' emancipation.
There is no denying that Shoaib's biggest strength lies in his characterisation. Each and every character remains etched in the minds of viewers. If Humaima Malick deserves to be lauded then even Manzar Sehbai's portrayal of a wicked and sadist father warrants kudos. Shoaib Mansoor convincingly brings to light the different shades in a human. It surely is difficult for one to judge the characters such as that of Chawdhary or Meena.
Unlike Khuda Kay Liye, Bol is marred by incomprehensible staunch Urdu dialogues and bad edits. The story meanders needlessly into some areas wasting screen time. It isn't necessary that just because one ropes in Atif Aslam one has to make him sing songs. Even the ending appears clichéd and Bollywoodish.
Last but not the least, Bol leaves behind a question, if killing is a crime, why giving birth isn't? One of the rare gems from Pakistani stable. A must watch indeed.