For someone like me whose exposure to Pakistani films was limited to the sub-standard fare aired on PTV, complete with the stereotyped villainous Hindu lala, a film like Khuda Kay Liye (In the Name of God – not an apt translation) was a pleasant surprise. Many of us would have heard about the film because one of India’s finest actors, Naseeruddin Shah, played a brief but important role in the film. But beyond that it might not have interested many Indian movie freaks. But it should.

I too would not have watched the film, it had slipped off my mind, but a friend working for one of the numerous news channels wanted to do a story on this and sought my help in getting a copy of the movie, which I did. I later converted the film into a mobile friendly format and watched it during the 100-kilometre ride from Guwahati airport to Shillong. And even on the tiny 2″ screen it was worth it.

The film to me was a dialogue between the liberal and extremist versions of Islam and for people with a limited understanding of the religion (that’s a big number) it opens our eyes to many different facets. It portrays the dilemma of a Muslim in today’s world. Here is a synopsis of the film from the website:

The film is about the difficult situation in which Pakistanis in particular and the Muslims in general are caught up since 9/11. These is a war going on between the fundamentalists and the liberal Muslims. This situation is creating a drift not only between the western world and the Muslims but also within the Muslim community. The educated and modern Muslims are in a difficult situation because of their approach towards life and their western attire. They are criticised and harassed by the fundamentalists and on the other hand the western world sees them as potential suspects of terrorism just because of their Muslim names.

This paradox is resulting in great suffering for the forward looking Muslim. This is the name of the film ‘Khuda Kay Liye,’ which in English means In the Name of God.’

The interesting thing about the film is how it connects the happenings in three continents. Unlike the usual Indian and Pakistani films based on romantic sagas, dances and songs, this film is based on some very serious issues. Raising a lot of controversial questions engaging the Muslim minds these days. It helps the Muslim youth find a direction… the right direction, which we are all looking towards.

Compared to the Pakistani films that I had watched before this, Khuda Kay Liye, is definitely miles ahead in all aspects, there’s no comparison. The script is lucid and kept me engrossed throughout. The music is soothing. And performances are commendable. Though Naseer steals the thunder with his cameo.

The best part is that that Shoaib Mansoor, in his big screen debut as a director kept a very balanced approach. Though the point-of-view of the film is liberal, it does not outrightly rubbish the fundamentalists’ approach. Even the logic behind the extremist interpretation of Islam is brought to the fore and a bulk of the counter arguments happen in the courtroom via Maulana Wali played by Naseer. The director makes an effort at not going overboard either with the story or with emotions, and succeeds.

Obviously the film met with a lot of protests and it a brave and commendable effort. It deals with a lot of issues which modern day Muslims face in an ever shrinking world and many do not agree with Mansoor’s opinions as evident from the raging debates on online forums. But for an Indian the film makes for a must watch because today all that we seem to know about our neighbouring country revolves around one individual – General Pervez Musharraf.

I’m looking forward to the India release of the movie. Hope that happens soon, at least on DVD. In case it doesn’t, just search for Khuda Kay Liye on Stage6, someone has uploaded the complete film in five parts. (you’ll need to install DivX Web Player).

Here’s a special Cutting the Chai edit of the trailer:

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