Many people dream of becoming an international music star, but only a few of them become one. No matter how hard you work, how talented you are, or how high your creativity level is, there’s also a massive amount of luck involved. That latter is something that the British-Pakistani musician Zed doesn’t have. After waiting for his big breakthrough, that’s about to happen, it seems that his God isn’t on his side. We see Zed’s dreams coming to life, being shattered in a million little pieces, and everything in between in the moving “Mogul Mowgli” by director Bassam Tariq.
Just like many musicians, Zed (Riz Ahmed) wants to get his music out there. He’s having the time of his life while setting the London clubs on fire with his rap music. People cheering, calling out his name, and wanting to take a selfie. While Zed has it all, after all these years, he’s still waiting for his big breakthrough, but that’s about to change. One night he gets the news that his idol wants to take him on tour as support, probably the beginning of an international career. Before heading off to Europe, Zed pays his Pakistani family living a London a visit. A visit he will vividly remember but sadly not for the right reasons.
After being criticized by his family and friends for living a more Western life instead of a traditional Pakistani one and having to deal with an unexpected illness, he’s being transported to the hospital. After receiving devastating news from his doctor, Zed has to choose between fulfilling his ultimate dream and ignoring his health or putting his dreams (probably forever) aside while thinking about his well-being. What will it be?
This movie gots its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival and after being part of the Melbourne International Film Festival’s virtual edition, “Mogul Mowgli” is now heading to the BFI London Film Festival. That latest festival isn’t only showing this film in cinemas all over the UK, but you can also catch the movie via the BFI Player. We recommend that you take one of those chances to see it, and here’s why.
A few of “Mogul Mowgli” his strengths are the universal topics. Whether or not we have the same faith as Zed, we all have dreams, we all have to deal with pain, losses setbacks, and the dilemma ‘goals versus health’ has probably occurred as well. Because of those themes, the movie will be one you can resonate with, even if you come from a different background. Those topics and the emotions that go with it could have had a more significant impact if the story was a bit more finetuned. Director Tariq wrote the story of the movie together with lead Ahmed, and while the majority of the screenplay is excellent, there are just some few dream scenes that could have been left out without making this movie less intriguing. On the contrary. Leaving out those scenes would have enhanced the poignant performances even more.
Speaking of performances, Ahmed (“Venom”, “Rogue One”) finally gets the chance to say goodbye to the supporting roles and step into the spotlight. He grabs that opportunity with both hands and shines bright in “Mogul Mowgli.” We feel what it’s like to enjoy life, to dream big and bold but also what it’s like to fall from grace and to have to deal with rough moments no one should experience, thanks to his spectacular performance. He gets wonderful support from the entire cast, but the most noteworthy is without a doubt the one he gets from Alyy Khan (“Tick Tock,” “The Valley”) as his on-screen father. Khan brings many emotions (love, despair, angry) to this movie, and the great chemistry between the two men creates many emotional scenes. That hospital bathroom scene is one of the most heart-breaking scenes in which the bond between father and son is tested.
After making documentaries and shorts such as “Wa’ad” and “11/8/16”, Tariq is now showing his first full-length feature to the world and what an impressive debut it is. Because of the tense score by Paul Corley, the stunning performances, and the universal topics, the movie is one you should check out.
This review was written as part of the BFI London Film Festival coverage.