Bol: Speaking silence

Published: June 21, 2011

Shoaib Mansoor’s Bol is brutally honest and there are only so many words in the English language for brilliance.

Shoaib Mansoor’s Bol is brutally honest. Based on the stories of Hakeem Sahib’s Sunni-Syed household of seven daughters, the movie adeptly focuses on gender issues at large, dwelling on tensions between fossilised cultural practices and new ones, speaking well to tensions underlying many South Asian households.

With reports on the status of women’s rights in Pakistan doing rounds, Mansoor’s social commentary is timely for villages, towns and cities across the country. Before the screening for human rights activists and politicians at a small non-commercial setting in Islamabad on June 11, Mansoor told his female audience that this was every Pakistani woman’s story – resonating with it at some level was inevitable. And sure enough, tangibly confirming Mansoor’s claim the audience was teary eyed a few minutes into the movie, with some weeping more than others.

Problems including rape and domestic violence, and attitudes towards transgendered people, contraception, prostitution, art, music, and girls’ education featured in Mansoor’s kaleidoscopic film perfectly harmoniously. With near flawless acting by Atif Aslam, Mahira Khan, Iman Ali, Humaima Abbasi and others, Bol’s nearly three hour long drama gripped with unforgiving intensity. Questioning the wisdom of condemning children to living death, Zainab, a leading character, unforgettably asks:

Agar zindagi leyna jurm hai, tou zindagi deyna jurm kyoun nahin? Agar khila nahin saktay, toh paida kyun kartay ho?”

(If taking a life is a crime, why is giving a life not a crime? If you cannot feed, why do you give birth?)

Perhaps Mansoor’s claim that every Pakistani woman can connect with Bol may not hold true. The inevitable crowd of naysayers will cry foul over its emotional intensity, content and characterisation. But Bol speaks with profound clarity to those who have to deal with cultural calculus that prioritises the lashkar’s population over the mother’s well-being.

Sitting in the theatre, I could not help thinking to the number of times I’ve met women in rural Sindh – too insignificant to even be named by their families – with jaam (many, or countless) children, suffering rape, domestic violence, psychological abuse, or obstetric fistula related social exclusion, unable to describe any of these human rights violations as violations, speaking only silence.

Walking out of the screening with Bol induced stunned speechlessness, for a few moments, I couldn’t do the one thing Bol wanted me to do: speak. And there was no need to. Bol already said everything, and there are only so many words in the English language for brilliance.


Morial Shah

A student of International Politics and Security at the Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University She tweets at @MoruShah.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Hira Zulfiqar Ali

    Bol already said everything, and there are only so many words in the English language for brilliance- WOWRecommend

  • Im Hussain

    This is truly an evil country.Recommend

  • Kamran Mustafa

    BOL Is Going To Be A Smash Hit…..Recommend


    @Im Hussain:
    well i do not agree with u at all, no country is perfect. if we r just sitting here and yelling that its evil country and not doing practically anything to make things better, we also become part of evil.Recommend

  • Absar

    Pathetic Argument:
    “Agar zindagi leyna jurm hai, tou zindagi deyna jurm kyoun nahin? Agar khila nahin saktay, toh paida kyun kartay ho?”
    (If taking a life is a crime, why is giving a life not a crime? If you cannot feed, why do you give birth?)

    Regardless of the INTENSITY of pointed issue i don't apprehend the DIALOGUE above which is so very highlighted for the cause. No, i am not touched.

    Shoaib mansoor should have visited the WIKIPEDIA before writing or allowing script/dialogue writer who ever he or she is for the Murphy’s law
    we are already suffering a lot and now dramatize a situation with a low wedge person’s family consist of daughters.
    From Wikipedia: Murphy’s law is an adage or epigram that is typically stated as: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”.
    Nobody points the finger at the FEUDAL lords not even Famous AMINA HAQ raised voice for kharr thing.
    When you are portraying a SOCIAL and MORAL problem on such platform then you have to be TRUE about it and should have the horizon of visual modality.
    Grow up!!!! lets face the truth instead of pointing fingures at and not providing solution.
    I tell you the entire elite and middle class will go and watch the movie will praise, get choked & touched and then will start living in the bubble.
    Shoman and company will earn and sadly!! NO DIFFERENCE will be made to the mass of people who are being portrayed in the movie Phew!!!

    Get your mind set right, instead of making money and limiting WOMEN issues to the drawing room chats, enjoying the issues as entertainment drama and even paying for it.

    PLEASE!!!!! solve problems instead of using them. Recommend

  • Ali kazmi

    its us who throw litter on roads, bribe the poor policeman out of nothing, and on n often breaks the red light on road. it is us who are evilRecommend

  • Hira Zulfiqar Ali

    When Amna Haq spoke about Khar clan? It was Tehmina Durrani in her book My Feudal Lord and the whole world read it and made it a best seller.Not only this a female member of Khar clan is now in gov. Do you know Hina Rabbani Khar?
    Restrain yourself when your are talking about difference , because you are not the one who will magnitude the difference .

    and kindly do not quote wikipedia , its an open source. Recommend

  • Saad Durrani

    @Hira Zulfiqar Ali:
    Tehmina Durrani’s “My Feudal Lord” is a sob-story which one writes to get over things. Tehmina brought it to herself by having a secret affair with Khar. Most surprisingly, she is rumored to be married with Shahbaz Shareef.Recommend

  • Absar

    @ Hira Zulfiqar Ali
    what i meant there was that Amina Haq should have voiced the same being the women of clan. And what difference has been made to the women of feudal’s by that best seller. I worte that stop making money form the issues instead better solve them. How many women has been saved by the virtue of that book?? if any than should be highlighted else the bestseller is useless.
    And i’ll give more regards to wikipedia than the writer(who ever he or she is)of BOL.
    Stop making money of ppl’s tears, be human and act human instead of selling miseries of humans to peasants.Recommend

  • I went to watch bol

    Bol is one of the most pathetic pieces of pointless drama in the history of film making.Will All due to respect to the writer, either you are too new to Pakistan or you have no understanding of cineam.After Bol I concluded that Tehrik e Niswan does better theater than Bol as a film.Shoaib Mansoor’s thought processes is confusing how can it be a plausible story. iam sorry one of the worst analysis of films I have seen read.! Yes it is a feminist film;my sympathies with you but, Feminism that doesn’t make sense Recommend

  • xara

    @Hira Zulfiqar Ali:
    i truely agree with you..
    i am very exited for this movieRecommend

  • Savera Ahmad

    I know that countless problems exist and yes maybe we trivialize them for our own sanity on a regular basis but All said and done movies, articles, dramas do make a difference. Artistic expression reaches people on a large scale. I will watch this movie proudly just because it’s a Pakistani movie about us after a very long time. Recommend

  • Maria

    @Im Hussain: Grow up an, the world is an evil place. Tell me a nation where social vices don’t exist or do you live in a fantasy?Recommend

  • raha

    yet to watch but going by KKL experence expect some twist & melodrama let us see if it is a balanced view of play with emotions to make good moneyRecommend

  • Rabia Basri

    I am anxiously waiting for its release… and guys this is just a movie a piece of entertainment so pls stop narrating its story to someone’s life…. chillRecommend

  • Muhammad Faysal

    Can’t wait to see it.Recommend

  • Maxi

    I have my two cents:

    Bol Movie: I dont understand Why cant Mr Shoaib Mansoor come up with some other positive subjects. KKL and now Bol stereotyping the country. This movie was like sprinkling salt over already wounded masses. I do agree that there are certain quarters in the society which are going through the issues highlighted in the movie but my question to Shoman: do you think is there any country in the world which has got perfect society? In other words, Where SO CALLED WOMEN RIGHTS are practised in its true spirit? Do you think opening up westernised cafe or following what western culture would only qualify us as a society which let women do whatever they want to do? Is this what you call women empowerment? Why do I need to recall most intellect person that in Islam women is granted equal rights as men do!
    This movie must be written in a confused state of mind. Lost of identity. Please wake up! Had you showed Maulvis daughters get education and venture out in something which abides by the teachings of our religion, believe me I would have personally saluted for that. but why would you do that!
    Ms Writer: You mentioned about the state of women in rural sindh! have you ever visited Punjab? have you ever seen harrasments at the workplaces in urban areas! I doubt.


  • http://- hira

    There are a numerous problems .. shoaib saab has just started ,, i think there are a plenty of oceans to discover that where does actually our country woman stand?? … bound by father,brothers , then by husband and finally by her children ,,, where is her space … her world ,, her echoes are always listened but tuned “SILENCED” ,,, is this US??

    we are always given a label of FAMILY VALUES and CULTURE ,,,,
    Do we ever recommended ISLAM for our rights ??
    we are so coward and often SELFISH ,,,,
    I m With Shoaib saab , at least he has given a drop of water … a ray of life and a breath to intake ….
    i m going to watch BOL!!!!!!Recommend

  • Lorena

    You know what the sad par is. That you think you are right.Recommend

  • Lorena

    Really Maria, social voice doesn’t exist. I think you are the one living in a fantasy.
    You might not get what you want all the time but sure hell can say it out loud. Can you?
    oh Maybe since it doesn’t exist right?Recommend

  • M Iqbal

    About the title of the film, in the end it is the women of Pakistan who will have to speak up and make a difference. Also, from the trailer I could tell that Bol is distinctly a Pakistani film. I don’t know how he does it but Shoaib Mansoor manages to capture our identity and put it on the screen. I wish others could do the same instead of going the Bollywood way. Bollywood like films can never reflect our culture or portray our women who are just so simple, so not loud, and so different from their counterparts in India or elsewhere in the world.Recommend

  • Sheheryar Sukhera

    i’ve watched the movie last night,and what i thought that Shoaib Mansoor has beautifully showed us the original face of Pakistani people and tried to tell us a story or should i say a problem that we read about in everyday news papers.I’ve heard many people in cinema saying that Shoaib Mansoor is an anti-islam man.I really don’t think so.I’ve seen Khuda Kay Liye and now Bol.Both of them gives references to some of Hadiths.That’s a bit controversial but i think it was the movie’s requirement.Anyways,so i was telling that how beautifully the story’s been told.I’ve seen people crying during movie.Not just women,even some men were crying during some scenes & i guess whatever Shoaib Mansoor tried to deliver … He’s got succeeded in that.Now if i start telling you the pluses and minuses of the movie,it’ll ruin your experience.So all i’m gonna say is go and watch it.It’s specially for Fathers and Daughters.Go with your families & make up your mind for a roller coaster of emotions.Recommend

  • Maxi

    Before asking others to have guts to listen others POV. Pleas act on it yourself first.Recommend

  • Shahbaz Kureshi

    Saw it today. All Shoaib Mansoor can do is throw overdone emotional intensity and implausible characters and unreal situations on screens. NOT fun to watch.Recommend

  • Gulmeenay

    Did it make you uncomfortable @Shahbaz Kureshi: Hits right home doesn’t it? Recommend


    The most pathetic movie i have ever watched. How many of 180 million people watch Mujra, how many of them rape children. It is a movie on 5% people which Shoab Mansoor has generelised over 180 million people. How can u do that? This is a bad movie, in a bad time…One of my collegue read the review and asked me If i too beat my wife or had raped someone in my teenage as he thought all the people in Pakistan do that? this is the image the movie has portrayed …. WELL DONE Shabby….u looser..Recommend

  • Moise

    Agar khila nahin saktay, toh paida kyun kartay ho

    Malthusian dogma make way into Pakistani movies.Recommend

  • 001

    Oh look at all of you , Sitting in your air conditioned rooms , With your stomachs full and comfortable lives expecting the movie to be Something you have no concern with at all , Because obviously rape isnt a problem at all in this country is it? even after the recent Situations that have come up right?
    I watched the movie and Loved it , Especially the way it tackles misconceptions about Islam in these days . Please learn something other than criticism , please. Recommend

  • Arsalan

    I dont care what anyone says! BOL is the best thing that has happened to Pakistan after Shahid Afridi during these difficult times!!!Recommend

  • Saman

    @Shahbaz Kureshi:
    ‘Unreal situations’> Makes me wonder which part of the world you live in. The problems discussed in the film are very much real and they exist all around us.
    I completely agree with the writer here. I loved Bol, it made me cry and also made me laugh. People in the cinema applauded more than once! I think Shoaib Mansoor has made a beautiful film.Recommend

  • Muhammad

    after watching Bol,

    i really didn’t like the way Shoaib Mnasoor promote the Movie. he really didn’t use as it should be, the elder sister ”Humaima Malik” for his promos/etc. and if you will watch the movie this is unfair with her.
    actually she was the main character of the movie. not the second sister ”Mahira Khan”.
    any way great movie.Recommend

  • TheLowBlow

    Pride for our countrymen atleast ATTEMPTING to be vocal about issues that definitely affect us all is unheard of by the horde of socially retarted pc screen suckers that stalk these forums. Everybody’s a critic and a really mean one at that. Not that any of them get paid for it by any established paper or magazine cuz’lets be honest…none of them know what hell they’re talking about. Such is the case with even most PUBLISHED critics in the industry.

    It’s a movie. People worked hard on it. The writing doesn’t suck COMPLETE monkey nuts. It IS trying to wake up a whole bunch of people to matters that aren’t discussed often enough and it IS doing a better job bringing these subjects to light than you and your c**t online friends ever will with all your moaning on your little websites and forums full of people who think they’re bringing a real revolution till someone asks them to get out of a computer chair and actually do something. This isn’t World of Warcraft. You hold no power in the real world. Well produced dramatic films do. Get over it.

    Just a movie guys. It’s just a movie. But yea this chick IS going on a bit too much about it being super awesome. So she personally knows someone from the prod. team. Whatever dude don’t shoot the messenger.Recommend

  • S.Jamali

    I have seen the movie and would advise many to do likewise. For it is not only a movie, but a tongue, for many who fear to speak. Recommend

  • Mahindar Kumar

    ours is a country where the entire civil society stands up against the conviction of one Pakistani women in America (Aafia) and yet only a handful of women rights activists protested for Mukhtara Mai,so when one woman is abused by Americans every one speaks up but when countess Pakistani women are abused by Pakistanis in the name of honour, cuture and religion no one has the balls to come out and protest!!!

    A society that does not treat its women well is destined for destructionRecommend

  • Haider R

    @I went to watch bol:
    I agree with you that this is the kind of sentimental ‘feminine tosh’ that passes in the name of ‘bold and progressive’ cinema. To think that the sorry state of women is highlighted, without taking into cognisance the parallel sorry state of men too is the kind of blindspot that feminists love to exploit. What? Are those poor men in isolation of those poor women in their company? Talk about the ‘feminine entitlement’ to being ‘kept well’.
    Also, what about condemning the social violence that women commit to other women? Why is that not a crime? Why do feminists paint all men (including the responsible family man / caring husband / loving father / concerned responsible citizen) as the ‘other’. The ‘enemy’. Isn’t that mysandry? Isn’t that the very hatred that the misogynists are called out for? And eventually, doesn’t both misogyny and mysandry both lead to misanthropy … the hatred of mankind (humanity)?
    The above points are central to critiquing movies such as BOL. Here is a movie that has passably good production values … the kind of movies that can bring Pakistani cinema recognition on the world’s stage. The kind of movies that can parallel Bollywood’s stranglehold on the South Asian creative and entertainment potential … perhaps even some day given the strength of home grown talent, even surpass Bollywood. (Consider how the British cinema and television, makes up in quality, what it lacks in quality vis-a-vis Hollywood.). Yet, it fails and disappoints, precisely because it chose an ‘honest’ social issue and treated it ‘dishonestly’.
    Would the director, actually have the ‘honest’ courage to make a movie that depicts the serial criminalization of the Pakistani political, feudal and army ranks, instead of making a Pakistani version of Bollywood’s ‘Border’, and paint the enemy black? That is what I am calling ‘dishonest’.
    An honest treatment would require that people are educated and come out of the theater with an intellectual and conscientious buzz in their brain … which nags them,
    that there is something not quite right at home.
    That maybe, there is an immediate need for an apology to someone wronged.
    That maybe, there is someone to be given support to get on with their dreams in life.
    That maybe, there is a need to question some of the laws on books.
    That maybe, there are other ways of considering the social arrangements.
    That maybe, Pakistan can be a much better country and society.
    That maybe, it really does actually start with him / her in the first place.
    BOL, fails to stir that imagination. It is a sob story … and a misdirected attempt at that. Recommend

  • Usman Awan

    BOL another hit by Shoaib Mansoor. I must appreciate the guy for short-listing the controversial topics to make tons of money.

    As a critic, I would say the movie story-line was very weak and confusing. Some dialogues were just un-related but were there to intensify. He not only failed to address multiple issues but also failed to conclude any. I would have appreciated more if he had presented at least guidelines to solve such problems in society.

    I agree with few comments above that currently we need HOPE and media should work towards bringing the same instead of high-lighting already known facts/problems that society face and minting money out of it unless one tries to throw solutions to it.

    I conclude it being just a commercial movie.

    Shoaib Mansoor BOL- Best Of Luck.Recommend

  • Javeria Mahmood

    This is just a time and money waste movie…… such a bad quality of sound and picture… poor script….. this looks more like a tv drama than a movie…… huh! I’ve wasted my three hoursRecommend