Movie Review: Bol (2011)
High drama is clearly Pakistani television veteran Shoaib Mansoor’s preferred mode. In his sophomore big screen outing, he carries on pretty much from where the widely lauded Khuda Kay Liye had ended. That was all of four years ago and matters have only got worse. So the writer-director is still seething at what the loony fringe appears to be doing to his nation. In Bol, he pours his indignation out in no uncertain terms. It is strident, melodramatic and unmistakably out for the jugular. But in the end, it drives home its point in a manner that is compelling enough for all the effort not to be dismissed as much ado about nothing.
Mansoor sets the tone and tenor at the very outset. A young Lahore woman, having defiantly refrained from defending herself in court, is sentenced to death. The President of Pakistan summarily rejects her mercy plea. The convict is, however, granted a last wish: she is allowed to tell her side of the story to the media before she is led to the gallows.
The camera crews and pen-pushers take up their positions and the stern jailor sets a firm 4 am deadline. The hangman won’t wait a minute more, he thunders. The girl breaks her silence and takes us back into her benighted life in a conservative household that is more prison than home. And thus begins Bol.
As far as style and substance go, this indictment of religious orthodoxy and patriarchal tyranny speaks the same language as Khuda Kay Liye, the film with which Mansoor burst upon the Pakistani cinema scene in 2007, triggering hopes of a revival of a moribund movie industry.
But the impact of Bol isn’t quite as dramatic. It seems, at least in parts, to unduly overreach itself, meandering desultorily through a maze of narrative contrivances before it gets down to delivering its predictable climactic you-have-nothing-to-lose-but-your-shackles exhortation to women scorned.
Be that as it may, Bol has much going for it. It is an undoubtedly gutsy film that touches upon sensitive social issues with exemplary courage.