The Muse: Mah-e-Mir
Mah-e-Mir, a film directed by Anjum Shehzad and produced by Syed Noor in collaboration with Momina Duraid was released on May 6, 2017. I believe it has outdone all other Lollywood films in terms of language and cinematography.
The star studded cast includes Fahad Mustafa (Jamil), Sanam Saeed (Naina) Iman Ali (Mehtab Begum), Manzar Sehbai (Dr Kaleem) and Alyy Khan (Nawab Sahab).
The thematic concern of the film is to decipher between feeling and mood, voice and gesture, imagination and reality.
The opening scene and dialogue are truly mesmerising.
“I sat in solitude, but then the moon appeared and a raging madness descended upon me.”
The essence of the film is captured in a few words that are not mere dialogues but meaningful verses carrying a certain weight.
The cinematography depicted has a hypnotic effect on the audience – like in one of the scenes, as the moon appears so the fog lifts.
The protagonists: Fahad and Iman Ali, fully take on the respective roles given to them of Jamal and Mehtab Begum. So absorbed were they in their acting that one could not believe that it was actually role playing.
Jamal is a natural writer and a poet. Poetry flows in his blood, oozes out of his body and encapsulates his brain. He works for a newspaper and publishes his column weekly but with the meagre earnings he is barely able to meet his everyday expenses. Out of money almost all the time, he enjoys tea at the Eastern Coffee House located on Mall Road – it is here that the sub plot unravels.
Karim Elahi is a waiter here and Jamal’s good friend. It is Jamal’s humourous, amiable, carefree and kind attitude that attracts other people towards him. Karim Elahi has a soft corner for Jamal and most often pays for his tea from his own salary.
The point of observation here is the gap between the rich and poor not in terms of money alone but in terms of attitude. Those in power exploit those who do not have the power. The class hierarchy system – being the consequence of the colonial rule – is grounded so deeply in our mind-set that the appreciation and credit goes to the one sitting at the top whilst the layman who goes through the drill gets nothing other than a few rupees. This point is clearly illustrated in the words of Jamal’s boss (the editor) who says:
“Shayar tuo aap hain hum to bus alfaaz idhar udhar kartey hain.”
(You are the actual poet, we just play around the words)
The film delves into the works of Urdu classical poet, Mir Taqi Mir, who talks of the beloved. His beloved or mehboob is not limited to finite qualities; rather it is much beyond that. It is the eternal, omnipotent and omniscient hasti (entity), the Creator of the universe i.e. the Almighty.
Like every poet has a muse or inspiration, so does Jamal and his mentor Dr Kaleem. However, where their muses are their mortal sweethearts, Mir Taqi Mir goes beyond the apparent and obvious – his love is not visible to the human eye.
Jamal too is somewhat similar in his search for the beloved. Mehtab Begum is a respectable debutante of Lucknow. Only a true poet can recognise her beauty. Jamal sees only a glimpse of her from underneath her abayah (veil) – he sees only her feet.
He is desperate to talk to her. As she realises his madness for her, she too reciprocates it with beautiful poetry making a clear-cut advance towards him. However, the fire that erupts in their hearts eventually claims their sanity.
Mehtab Begum, who lives on the money and gifts of Nawab Sahab, eventually succumbs to his desires. Dr Kaleem too is consumed by the raging fire of unquenched desires for his muse Huma Nawab.
As the film concludes, the moral it spells out is that of passion versus money. Satisfaction and contentment comes only with pursuing your passion. Wealth and money i.e. material gains do not and cannot ensure happiness. Happiness and contentment are linked to your heart, soul and spirit. You will only reach the depth of your soul if you follow your heart.
Just like in the legend of Devdas, who gives up his life for his beloved, Umrao Jaan Ada who makes the mistake of falling in love, Anarkali and Shahzada Saleem, Rani Mukherjee in Laaga Chunari Mein Daag (2007), Romeo and Juliet and, Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leel (2013), the end of this romantic film is also clear as the moon lifts the fog.
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