| CROSSING BORDERS: A poster of Shoaib Mansoors new film Bol
Speaking in praise of Bol
Eros International were confident enough to hold a preview screening of the new Pakistani film, Bol, last week at their swish headquarters in London, ahead of its general release on August 30 — and with good reason.
It is directed by Shoaib Mansoor, who announced his arrival with his last movie, Khuda Ke Liye.
Far from Pakistani filmmakers picking up tricks of the trade from their seniors in Bollywood, I do believe that after Bol it could be the other way round. This is not to say Bol is perfect — Mansoor has thrown in too many issues into one film, from sex discrimination to sexuality, homosexual rape and religious intolerance — but it does what cinema should. It grips the audience.
The drama begins at Central Jail, Lahore, where a young woman, Zainab, the lead character, is about to be hanged for murder. But she has received presidential permission to address the media before she is executed.
It is unlikely that a prisoner on death row would receive such a concession but Zainab (played wonderfully by Humaima Malick) convincingly recounts in flashback the events that led to her lashing out against her tyrannical father. He is a hakim, a man with a failing business and seven daughters, who had come to Lahore from Delhi after Partition. When his wife does bear him a son, the child turns out to be a boy with the genes of a girl. His disgusted father would have much rather had the baby put down at birth but as Saifee grows up he wants to put on lipstick and dress like his sisters. His end is tragic.
Hakim Sahib is portrayed very much as the villain though it is fairer to see him as a man who is a prisoner of his religion.
There is an unnecessary touch of slick Bollywood about the love affair between Ayesha, one of Hakim Sahibs other daughters, and Mustafa (Atif Aslam), the boy next door who is a medical student-cum-pop singer. But I give the film 8.5 out of 10.
Made by Geo Films, Bol is being distributed by Eros International, thereby proving the case for greater collaboration between Pakistan and India. Bol is, at times, harrowing but I have no doubt it marks out Mansoor as a director with a rare talent for telling a story.
| STILL A STAR: Prina Shah
The competition to get in to do medicine in England is tough. Still, one cannot help but feel sorry for 18-year-old Prina Shah, who was turned down by all the four universities to which she had applied — Oxford, University College London, Nottingham and Kings College London.
In her A levels, she got four A stars in mathematics, further mathematics, chemistry and biology.
Nor could she have improved on her marks in her GCSE exams which are taken at 16. Here the highest grade is again A star — and she got them in all her 12 subjects.
Prina has been the deputy head girl at the City of London School, which is where, some would say, the problem lies.
Universities have been under pressure to widen access and take socially disadvantaged pupils with potential from state or comprehensive schools. The City of London is a top fee paying school.
It is the Indian equivalent of rejecting a pupil with 90 per cent marks in favour of letting in someone with, say, 65 per cent under a quota system.
One man who did get into medical school — though in his case, it was the Welsh National School of Medicine (now part of the Cardiff University School of Medicine) — is Leszek Borysiewicz, who is now the vice-chancellor of Cambridge.
He is maintaining a hallowed tradition, established by his predecessor Dr Alison Richard, of an annual pilgrimage to India — indeed I accompanied her on two of her three trips.
Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz will be in New Delhi on September 12 and 13, in Bangalore on September 14 and 15 and in Mumbai on September 16 and 17.
Next time I hope he, like his predecessor, also includes Calcutta which has as strong a link with Cambridge as any city in India.
I didnt spot Borysiewicz when he was part of David Camerons delegation that went to India in July last year. Borysiewicz took over as vice-chancellor in October, 2010, and was back in India in February this year for meetings with research collaborators and with Cambridge alumnus Manmohan Singh.
The said alumnus is a little preoccupied these days but I trust he will find five minutes to have a cup of tea with the Cambridge delegation.
For Calcutta, another aspect of London worth copying is cycling. The streets have to be made safer, of course, with specially designated cycling lanes.
Last week, the Mayor of Johnson, Boris Johnson, who cycles to work, and model Kelly Brook, probably the prettiest girl on a bike, advertised September 4 as the day when the streets of central London will be cleared of traffic to encourage ordinary people to take up cycling.
The real revolution would be if Mamata and her ministers all cycled to work.
Some people choose to remain silent about their cancer. Others, such as Mary Archer, 56, wife of the author (Lord) Jeffrey Archer — he included Calcutta on his book tour in March this year — speak out in the hope it will help others.
The first sign something was wrong was when she noticed blood in her urine. Blood in the urine is a symptom of nothing more serious than an infection, she said in an interview.
But in her case it was far more than a routine infection. The tests came back. It was bladder cancer.
Mary, a research scientist who dabbled with dangerous chemicals in her younger days as a chemist, added: There are various grades of the cancer: low, medium and high. I was diagnosed with aggressive high-grade bladder cancer but it had been caught at an early stage.
Doctors removed her infected bladder and created a new one from her small intestine.
She had married Jeffrey, now 71, when she was 21. Despite all the problems caused by her husbands periodic wayward behaviour, the marriage had survived. During her treatment for cancer, he had stuck by her.
I think one of the downsides of the sort of obsession with romantic love and personal fulfilment is that the plain fact of the matter is that those feelings dont last forever and so they better be replaced and reinforced by things that do, said Mary. I would have thought its generally the case that most long marriages have become comfortable fits as much as anything else.
Is the media guilty of double standards? It takes the view that looting in London is bad; but looting in Libya, especially of Gaddafis lair, is good.
It seems the Libyan leader fantasised about Condoleezza Rice, the former US secretary of state, and kept an album full of her pictures.
Leezza, Leezza, Leezza... I love her very much, he declared in one interview. I admire her and Im proud of her because shes a black woman of African origin.