“Cake that will actually play a role in not just the revival of Pakistani cinema, but in the evolution of Pakistani cinema”
We can all agree that Pakistani cinema is still in its infancy and while there’s a rising number of screens, there’s still a dearth of quality in local films. In the search for commercial success, most films have sought to imitate the model of Bollywood which gave us films that brought in money for their financiers but gave audiences films that were lacking in quality and in some cases socially regressive. In Cake, we finally have something that takes the road less traveled and delivers a film that moves Pakistani cinema forward. While not an indie film per say, it can be argued that Cake is an indie film in the context of Pakistan.
The question though: is Pakistan ready for a film as progressive as Cake?
When the first trailer for Cake came out, there were a lot of comparisons made to Kapoor and Sons and rightfully so. The overarching theme of both movies is similar; a family crisis brings a family together, opens a lot of wounds that were left unattended, but ultimately they all heal together. But in that regard, every movie follows a similar overarching theme as another movie. So to say Cake is an imitation of Kapoor and Sons would be a grotesque mistake.
As you could make from the trailer of the movie, Cake follows the story of three siblings who are united after their father’s health takes a turn for the worse
Zareen, played by Amina Sheikh, acts as the ‘man’ of the family while her brother Zain lives in the US with his family and sister Zara, played by Sanam Saeed, resides in England after having left Pakistan due to an accident. As Zareen and Zara reunite, old wounds open up where the sisters push each other away and then come back to each other as if the embrace of the other were the safe comforts of one’s home. With the family back together after years, some new unforeseen circumstances facing them (don’t want to give away too much), their father decides that family must go to their ancestral village to celebrate the parents’ anniversary.
The brilliance in the film relies very much so on the layers of stories added by each of the characters, hence the apt name of the film.
Strong female protagonists that the story revolves around
Most films coming from Pakistan have had male protagonists. In a bold move, director Asim Abassi, revolves his story around two strong independent female characters and their evolution as individuals in their 30s. What’s more, there are absolutely no item numbers that seek to draw in audiences we so often see in local films or Bollywood. Instead, the entire movie is
a giant fuck you
to preconceived notions of what society expects women to be like as we see them driving, changing tires, smoking cigarettes, acting as zameen daars and what not. More so, the character of Zain, their brother, is completely sidelined throughout the movie and honestly was the only let down of the movie.
The subject of interfaith couples
Zareen’s character has hardened over the years in response to looking after her aging parents and looking after their zameen all while foregoing her love of baking. In her mid-30s, she is single but has a secret relationship with Romeo, played very beautifully by Adnan Malik, who not only happens to be the son of their late servant, but also a Christian. The movie sees their relationship transform from one over emails to one where they publically acknowledge their feelings all the while ignoring the raised eyebrows of society.
Bringing divorce to the mainstream
Throughout the course of the movie, you see Sanam Saeed’s character Zara dealing with what appears clearly to be a divorce. While the topic doesn’t get discussed in the open, it’s there lingering and you’re aware. But the divorce isn’t seen as a hindrance or cause of much pain. Maybe that was intentional or maybe there wasn’t enough screen time to address the topic with too much detail.
Cake might just be one of the best films that have come out of Pakistan in recent years and it will receive several accolades
But at the same time, and rather, unfortunately, it may not be the sort of film that draws large audiences to the screen and brings in enough money for its producers to make more such films. Given the nature of topics explored, I fear the movie may not bear much relevance among the masses. Ultimately (again, rather, unfortunately), the success of the movie is determined by how well it fares in the box office. I hope it does succeed, because remember: you can have your cake and eat it too.
So, if you’re reading this and complain about there not being any good films coming from Pakistan, get off your ass and go watch Cake.
Cover image via B4U Motion Pictures