The post is the updated copy of the review published in MAG – The Weekly, 22nd August 2015, found here.
A Father, A Son, An Auteur — Oh the Choices!
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
Jagged and impatient, Jami’s Moor is the work of a genius – or to be precise, one terribly close to genius-dom. One factor is undeniable, it is an auteur’s composition – and as such, comes with a sizable dosage of pitfalls. (Well, some might call them pitfalls).
Perfection, like beauty, though, is in the eye of the beholder. For some, especially applauders of stylistic storytelling and free-flow of plot and characters, Moor will be a triumph of Pakistani cinema.
In the entirety of Moor, Jami, who directs and produces (with Nadeem Mandviwalla), from his own story, whiplashes from one narrative set-up to another, changing to and from four distinct color grades, shifting long to short lenses, and deliberately shooting in narrow focus margins until they become a nuisance for his focus puller when pushing in on actors – this style, at once ubiquitous and varying from Operation 021, is still dastardly his own, right down to the smash-edits and non-linear plot juggles.
Then there are the masses, for whom this particular visual panache might be a tad too much.
Moor focuses our attention on Wahid (an excellent Hameed Sheikh), a lone, uncomplicated conflicted man with a heavy moral compass who once used to run the railways in Khost, Baluchistan. With the railways out of commission on his region, and local corruption reigning – including his own brother in mix – Wahid slowly, painfully, handles the death of his wife (Sumiya Mumtaz), is haunted by the death of his mother (who we never see), and comes to terms with bad life choices of his over-ambitious son who lives in Karachi.
The son Ehsan, played by Shaz Khan, is a fair-skinned, blue-eyed youth in a relationship with Amber (Soniya Hussain, also excellent, in a subdued performance), a call-center operator with a serious-in-life, doing-things-the-right-way attitude.
Somehow, their romance never ignites – in its stead is unswerving friendship. When we see Amber and Ehsan’s child at the end, the romantic union feels awkward.
Such awkwardness happens on-and-off in the film’s 150 minutes. Wahid and his wife’s conversation, oft shot in claustrophobic close-quarters with absurdly tight lenses (I’d say anywhere from 50 to 100 mm), are brief and takes some detective work to piece together. They, like most scenes, some of which repeat often, slice in and out with obstreperous malice. The serrated telling takes some getting used to, but it wraps up sufficiently by the climax.
If one is expecting a bang – or anything relatively big – they are in for a disappointment. Moor (which translates to mother, both literally and emblematically), is predominantly about relationships, presented in dark, brooding ambiance, brimming with ambivalence and weight.
Our central anchor, Wahid, is made believable by Hameed Sheikh’s simple, yet deeply entrenched, performance of a man trying to cope with emotionally oppressive circumstances. It is a character Sheikh excels at (his upcoming movie Abdullah has him, more-or-less excelling the same gravity).
Moor, however, is a collaboration; Sheikh owns Moor as much as Jami or Mandviwalla – or the wide snow-capped terrains of Baluchistan (which Farhan Hafeez cinematographs).
When Jami is letting the events play out, the scenes get brilliant backing – and, surprisingly, unexpected bursts of comedy relief – from its supporting characters. For example, in one scene, Ayaz Samoo, who plays Imtisal, Ehsan’s more-ambitious business partner, takes out a Quran app on his phone when he can’t find a Quran in the office, so that he can force another character – an important one at that – to swear on it. Although serious, these bursts of unanticipated humor, balances Moor’s widespread dismal tone.
One other noteworthy character is Baggoo Baba, played by Abdul Qadir. Baggoo used to work at the railways with Wahid, and is one of the crazy old coots the audience promptly falls in love with. In fact, when Wahid is busy with indecisions pre-and-post intermission breaks, it is Baggoo (and the excellent score by Strings) who keep the audience’s attention from drifting away from Moor’s aesthetic extemporaneousness (I doubt, though, if anything is extempore when editing a film together).
Then again, Moor isn’t Bollywood, or even Hollywood, or even Iranian. It is Jami-ian (if that makes any sense).
The published copy is this: