I’ll be honest that I did go to see Bol with a bias, towards director Shoiab Mansoor. Even before watching the movie I knew somewhere deep inside, that I was going find it dark, disturbing and moving.
Bol begins on a rather unusual note, with the protagonist narrating her life’s story to the media, just before being hanged for homicide. As the viewer you’re wondering why would anyone do so? Zainub tells the story of her family which relocated from Delhi to Lahore in 1948. A family where her father, the Hakim wants a son at any cost, which results in 14 pregnancies for the mother. 7 girls survive and the 8th is born a hermaphrodite. The problems faced by the family due to the father’s patriarchal nature, the hermaphrodite’s introduction to society, a large family with one earning member, etc. forms the crux of the story.
What works for Bol are the strong story (Shoaib Mansoor), a fitting climax, hard-hitting dialogues, stellar performances by Manzar Sehbai and Humaima Malik and an effective background score by Baqir Abbas. Every sequence between the father and eldest daughter fills the narrative with tension. You can’t take your eyes off the screen when the two of them are together in the frame. On the flipside, the screenplay is not watertight and deviates from the plot, at places. The portions with Iman Ali and the songs don’t add to the story, and can be easily cut. The music is good but it could’ve done with being in the OST. Another problem with Bol is the pacing of the story…it unfolds at a languid pace, which is a combination of both, a loose screenplay and slow movements between scenes.
Much as I loathed the character while watching the film, the father’s role essayed by Manzar Sehbai, is the best performance in the film. His chauvinistic ideologies, his skewed religious beliefs, the gall to go to any extent to get money into the house…terrifically written character. You just can’t help hating him. Humaima Malik as Zainub, the eldest daughter is also extremely competent. Her role as the protector for her siblings and mother, as the tough decision maker, as the rebel is crafted as an opposite of the father. Shafqat Cheema as the pimp is as sleazy as one can possibly be…it’s a treat watching him. Apart from these three the film doesn’t give much scope to anyone else, save a few sequences for Ayesha, the other rebel sister (Mahira Khan). I won’t even mention the other characters, since they’re inconsequential to the story.
Overall, Bol is a daring film that raises vital questions, challenges tradition and shows us the spirit of the younger generation. Though the story is set in Pakistan, I couldn’t help but draw parallels with India…the situations, characters, problems are as much a reality in India. Also, I don’t think that the movie mirrors problems specifically related to Islam…they’re as much prevalent in Hindus, Christians or any other religion.
If you’re looking for frivolous cinema with fun and laughter, please don’t watch Bol. The group sitting behind me obviously didn’t have any sensitivity towards the other viewers, as they were busy laughing, passing inane comments and discussing a recent party. Watch Bol if you’re looking for mature cinema with real emotions. It’ll leave you speechless.