Large political change offers hope, fear and opportunity for all concerned. In 1947, the independence of Pakistan was just one of those upheavals. In the dowry for the new country was their former master’s (Great Britain) superb railway system. Yet it wasn’t long indeed before those vital lines of transport were systematically destroyed by clever entrepreneurs, salivating at the enormous profits that could be made by starting up trucking and bus companies to—quite literally in some cases—fill the gap.
As time went on, another line of corruption was being built in Karachi: fake degrees and exam results for purchase helped many otherwise law-abiding citizens move up in life or as part of visa applications to leave the country. But what’s the real harm with trumped-up credentials? To paraphrase one official dedicated to law enforcement, “There is so much more serious corruption in Pakistan, these crimes are hardly worth pursuing.”
And so director/co-writer Jashmed Mahmood Raza (along with Ali Nazira, Riaz-ur-Rehman Saghar and Eman Syed) has woven the twin threads of these travesties of justice into a familial tale whose centre is Mother (Moor). But not just one: at various times during the film, Mother refers to a decrepit railway station (in Khost), the land and, most importantly, Wahid’s (a gritty performance from Hameed Sheikh) long-departed mom as well as his recently dead wife, Palwasha (Samiya Mumtaz—in numerous flashbacks—plays the ever-wise matriarch with just the right touch of compassion and fierce determination).
As the action begins, Wahid’s son, city boy Ehsaan’s (straining credibility—due to the unrepentant writing and more bluster than intelligence—is Shaz Khan, who, nonetheless, manages to maintain the affections of a long-suffering girl friend—Sonia Hussain is a model of stoicism—who keeps coming back for another dose of rejection by the ambitious forger) world is turned upside down when a client of his employer’s bogus résumé company has the audacity to blurt out the truth about the phony credentials just as his visa is being signed, sealed and delivered. Simultaneously, his grieving dad is under more and more pressure to cave into his bother’s demand to let the local transportation Mafia take over one of the last remaining train stations in the region.
Adding comic relief and wisdom of the elderly is Abdul Qadir as the delightfully named Baggoo Baba who is equally at home spitting in his betters’ (they think!) tea or successfully racing a Land Ranger with “just my two feet.”
At times verging on melodrama (and with Bollywood-like songs reinforcing the themes, e.g., That even shade is pierced through by the sun—the instrumental tracks, notably the flute, are a pleasure thanks to the artistry of Strings), the artistic trust make their points with honesty and candour:
“Bread is bread, no matter if you earn it ethically or unethically”; “Just grab whatever you can get your hands on” (if you don’t, somebody else will…); and the all-important plea from Palwasha: “Promise me to save our family…not sell the land.”
By journey’s end, shame is finally the catalyst for redeeming honour but not before one needless death and vastly changed expectations of heroes and villains alike. From that perspective, Moor’s a story that continues to unfold daily in every corner of the planet under the cover of “change is here: long live change!” JWR