Khuda Ke Liye

(‘Khuda Ke Liye’ was released today in India becoming the first Pakistani movie to be released in Indian theaters. This review is being reposted)

Khuda Ke Liye is a Pakistani movie which has smashed all box office records there. A movie that has become a craze all over Pakistan, so much so, that on one hand there was a fatwa against it by some radical maulvis and on the other hand an endorsement from Pervez Musharraf. The director of the movie has gone on vacation with his family, as soon as the movie was released fearing his life. The two sides are involved in a heated debate ranging from why it is the best movie ever in Pakistan to why it is not worth watching at all. Newsweek did a feature on it. It is being touted as ‘The Movie’ that can revive the film industry there.

It tackles a very tough subject and it is mostly handled well. The film is collaboration between the Pakistani, Indian and US film industries. It has perhaps been edited in India and has Naseeruddin Shah doing a short cameo in one of the most important roles. It was slated for an India release but for some reasons it seems to have been put on shelf.

The movie revolves around two musician brothers – Mansoor and Sarmad – one of whom transitions into religious extremism and the other fells victim to racial profiling. It depicts an upper middle class/rich family in Lahore with a mix of traditional and liberal values. The movie plot starts somewhere in pre 9/11 timeframe and ends in late 2002. The brothers have their own music group and are shown as beginning to make a mark on the music scene in Pakistan. The younger brother (Sarmad) gets involved in an extremist company whereas the elder brother (Mansoor) moves to Chicago to attend a music school.

Two more angles enter the movie where Mansoor gets into a romantic relationship in Chicago and eventually marries a white American and Sarmad deceitfully marries his British born and raised cousin. In the latter case, the UK based uncle of the boys, worried by the prospect of his daughter having an affair with a white British, traps her into a visit to Pakistan and sends her into an Afghan village where she is forcefully married.

The movie moves into post 9/11 territory when Mansoor is picked up by law enforcement agencies in the middle of the night from his apartment and detained ostensibly in an extra constitutional prison and humiliated in all ways. Sarmad on the other hand gets involved in the battle between Taliban, US forces and Northern Alliance.

The story is interesting as it handles two major issues – religious extremism and racial profiling – and twines them well. There are other issues also that the movie tries to focus on; condition of women during Taliban days in Afghanistan, theological issues of acceptance of music and cultural contextualization of Islam and the way various groups are putting forward their own version of the religion. There are though things in the details where one may feel are over-simplified. But overall Shoaib Mansoor (the writer and the director) has been able to put the things in perspective pretty well.

The characterization of most of the characters is good. The two glitches are that of the UK based uncle and American investigator whose actions do not always appear very realistic. The acting by almost all the actors is very controlled. Shaan, who played the role of the elder brother Mansoor, plays his role with full gravity, particularly when he is in detention. Rasheed Naz, who played the radical Maulana Tahiri, gives a great performance. The way he handles some dialogues like ‘ye ngo pengio crowd hai‘ or ‘ye billo ke ghar jaane ka kya matlab hai‘.

Shoaib Mansoor does a creditable job in direction. The depiction of the protagonist family, the village in Afghanistan, the transition of Sarmad where he is sandwiched in the thought processes of Mansoor and the radical Maulana and the nuances and the layers in the Pakistani society has been done very well. There are some glitches like why Mary/Maryam did not send the letter to UK earlier which she sends later in the movie? Or why the family was not finding out about their younger son while he was away in Afghanistan? Or why the elder brother did not intimate his family about his sudden marriage in US? Or how the judges or the lawyers in a Muslim country are not aware about the Islamic rights of the girl in a marriage?

There are no song-only-parts as it typically happens in the movies from the subcontinent. The songs go on in the background wherever appropriate and that keeps the things on track.

The movie was missing a balancing part on religious scholarship until Maulana Wali comes into the picture later in the movie. Up to this point the discussion between what is allowed in religion and what is not was happening between a radical Maulana and novices. Naseeruddin Shah, playing Maulana Wali, as expected gives a superb performance – arguably the best one in the movie. It is a short cameo but is one of the most important. He is a well known Maulana in Lahore who is invited by the court to give his opinion on religious matters. The director does a good job in bringing in serenity in the environment of Maulana’s house. When Mariam sits in his drawing hall a gramophone is playing a record which is perhaps Sehgal’s voice.

The best dialogues in the movie have been written for Maulana Wali and Naseeruddin Shah delivers them as good they could be. On Mariam taunting him that it does not matter whether he does his namaz before or after as it is just an exercise, he is amused and politely replies ‘meri ibaadat ko exercise kahne wali ya to bahut pahunchi hui hai ya bahut dukhi hai‘ (The one who describes my worship as exercise is either spiritually very elevated or is very sad). In the court he continues ‘deen me dadhi hai, dadhi me deen nahi‘ (In religion there is beard, not religion is in beard) or ‘haraam ki kamai jeb me rakhkar, halal ghosht ki dukaan dhoondhte hain‘ (People look for Halal meat shops with inappropriate earnings in their pocket.). On matters of dress he says ‘Kaheen aisa to nahi ki ham Abu Jahal bane rahe hain. Kyonki dadhi to Abu Jahal ke bhi thi or holiya bhi wohi tha‘ (Is it that we are making Abu Jahals, because even he had a beard and even his appearance was similar). And it continues.

Maulana Wali tries to tackle the issue of music in Islam and I think that here the dialogues missed on the issue. He mentions about Hazrat Dawud and how he had knowledge of ragas and had the most mellifluous voice. The critics on the other side do not question the vocal part as such as they will approve the naats, qasidas or nasheeds. They have issues basically with the musical instruments and this is where the things could have been touched upon more. Also the traditional criticism of music is more nuanced than the one depicted by the radical Maulana as a blanket ban or by the director as absolute approval. But then it perhaps does a better job in going deeper than Junoon star Salman Ahmad’s documentary ‘The Rockstar and the Mullahs‘.

Overall it’s a good movie. It ends positively in various ways and has been handled by the director quite well. The last scene has Sarmad (who is back into tradition) and Shershah (representing the radical Maulana) competing for the Azaan. The competition for the mike for who speaks for Islam has been shown to begun!

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Mirza Faisal

Mirza Faisal is an IT professional and a management student.

100 thoughts on “Khuda Ke Liye”


  2. Anonymous, Hindus in Afghanistan were required to wear an armband, for their own protection of course. if u live in a non muslim majority state, would u agree to it (for your own protection of course)?

    Taliban had nothing to do with bamian, or sheltering osama. infact anything bad in the afghanistan at that time was the afghans, they are like that.

  3. Hi Nandini,
    I am not picking any fights here but only getting things in the right perspective. Girish was not being honest about the quality of KKL. What drove him to compare this great movie to a low-level college work only proves my point. He got upset because there were some insulting comments against India. If there were then so be it. There were lot more humiliating and insulting comments in Indian movies about Pakistan. We have been watching those movies for years but it did not stop us from praising the movie for what good it was: direction, songs, actors and so forth. You guys should have the tolerance for opposite point of view and be realistic. Even in our drama serials like “Ugaar Waadi”, not a single insulting statement was made against India. In the movie Gandhi, you presented your point of view of partition. In the movie Jinnah, we presented our point of view. If we have expressed our views in KKL, don’t come back and say KKL was crappy. It is not. It has done pretty good business for a movie of this genre in the world.

  4. Religious Extremism vs Racial Profiling

    For every Muslim that suffers in the name of Religious Extremism, they are equal numbers are who tortured in the name of Racial Profiling. Unfortunately there are 2 different sets of people, ones who inflict the pain, and the others who suffer.

    This is the WORST Possible way of equating/even-ing things out.

    I am Not sure if this is the case with other religions out there

  5. Sohaib,

    You may disagree with my review of the movie. I have no problems with that. But I do have problems with its characterization as dishonest. If you read the review, it has been specific about this movie, not about the country as a whole. Please stop making this an India/Pakistan issue. I believe that Pakistan has talent and that is exactly what I said in my original review. But I did not see that in this movie, that is all. If you see the talent there, good for you and good for the movie. If you wish to take any criticism of the movie personally, you are free to do so. I have nothing to say to you if that is the case.

  6. GunnRaj:
    pakistan current top song… lyrics excellent..

    Khuda Ke Liye (Ammar Hasan)
    Artist: Films
    Lyrics Contributed By: Maria Iqbal

    khuda k naam se,khelo naa
    khuda k liyey,khuda k liyey
    khuda mera bhi hai,jeelo naa
    khuda k liyey,khuda k liyey
    khuda tu azeem hai,raheem bhi kareem bhi
    main kaisey maan loon,k bascha paar hai
    khuda ko saan hai,samjho naa
    khuda k liyey,khuda k liyey
    khuda tu haseen hai
    jameel bhi mateen bhi
    yeh dil nahin manta,k bas kahaar hai
    khuda rehmaan hai,maano naa
    khuda k liyey,khuda k liyey
    khuda k naam se,khelo naa
    khuda k liyey,khuda k liyey
    khuda mera bhi hai,jeelo naa
    khuda k liyey,khuda k liyey

  7. Its a gr8 movie and I agree with some of the comments in this forum but this is wat I think:

    1) first of all, this movie dissects Islam religion, bringing out the good stuff and showing to people and at the same time removing the misconceptions. That is what this movie is about, its not about 911, its not about India-pakistan.

    2) The Taj Mahal scene was necessary for wat director wanted to show about misconceptions about Islam, the whole point was tht he scared the girl away bcoz of his arrogance and lie (coz the girl lied tht she dint know abt pakistan coz she had listened to nusrat sahib). The guy was angry tht she doesnt know abt pakistan (his native place) so he bragged unnecessarily with lies and religous arrogance, later on tht same girl love him coz of music, which the film focuses on, is bad according to Islam. so tht scene was important.

    3) naseer’s scene is brilliant as it brings out so many good points.

    4) the questioning scene of the guy in USA had some questionable motives, especially the scene where he says Muslims thinks bad abt others coz they are being targeted around the world, INCLUDING “Indians killing them in Kashmir” tht was a big lie not needed in a movie so focused on Islam as a religion. The director should know abt Kashmiri Pandits and also thousand of muslims who are dying daily because of terrorists, but anyway tht was an unnecessary scene, actually, my rating went down frm awesome to gr8 after tht scene.

    5) The guys were not punished because the case was dismissed by both parties and also wht director wanted to show was tht Islam will remain Islam as a good religion even whn some people interpret it differently and it just takes few people to change thr perception and tht is still possible.

    6) I think the ending letter was the key when the guy writes in his letter tht just because few ppl have hurt him he doesnt hate all ppl in US, so others shud not hate all muslims just coz some of thm do bad to them.

    The most important point this movie makes it tht you should stop looking out for threats to your religion from outside, it is people from inside you have to take care of coz they are causing big damage to a beautiful religion. remember the scene whr he killed tht guy in war and thn he shouts “ye kaisa ji-haath” cos the guy he killed he realised was also muslim.

    I would say tht this is a very bold film and very good and he is lucky to escape a fatwa.

  8. Hey Nandini,

    I know tht, I just typed it tht way for security reasons, all the traffic from US is monitored for such keywords.

  9. this movie tell about wahabi Muslim who is thinking very wrong way of Islam.this is the true Islam.deep love of prophet Mohammad( salla la hu alay he wasallam).and Islam come from the heart not for a show that on your body or face.think write way of keep going right way of care full with wahabi and other feerka as our prophet say to us.insha allah god know everything

  10. On the Movie:
    It was an interesting movie. And it could do well for the people of pakistan (particularly the “extremist” brand) should they choose to learn from it.

    From the Movie:
    As an Indian it seems very sad that what PoP fought from the british they lost to the extremists, read themselves. With this in mind it seems that the Two Nation Philosophy has fallen flat. For I dont think it has achieved what Jinnah had in mind when he decided to draw the boundary. I respect Jinnahji as much as I respect Gandhi or Nehru. (Idea being that they fought for my independence).

    I hope for the day when people who have common ancestry, have in past shared same homeland, those who have fought for the independence of the same country should unite for good, like in the times of Asoka or his grandfather.

  11. Awesome movie dude… i watched it again today and i have to say… its unparalleled… especially considering the times that muslims/Islam is going through.
    I love the ending – The Director/writer puts up his point in such a manner…it bowls me over. Well, what i am talking about is the scene where Sarmad(who represents the Islam that is reformed and talks logic and peace) and shershah(the radical version of it) both recite the azaan… as we know azaan is the call to prayer or the call to God…to Islam… and here you have two of them… and the million-dollar question to muslims is – to which call will you respond ??!!!

  12. what mr. rashed rizwan said is absoultely correct…
    “khuda ke liye” movie encourages music and singing which is prohibited in “islam”
    and also these movie is dedicated to “sufism”.. if u have any doubt regarding music in islam… u can log into and find the answer.

  13. Khuda Ke Liye is not a movie to differentiate between religions and countries but, the essence of the movie lies in the fact that how any religion could be used and later the image of a particular religion be tarnished because of a handful of heartless extremists like Maulana in the movie. Indeed, in the name of God, certain extremists are killing millions of innocent people and influencing the young generation whose minds could be used to better develop their country and overall peace of the world.

    I must admit that I did not watch this movie like an Indian or any national, I watched it as a citizen of the world irrespective of my faith or country but, by paying due respect to all the ancient cultures, civilizations, their people and the great philosophers, thinkers and artists belonging to the religion in question to which we owe so much. I fear this great religion drowning in the sea of terror and inhumane activities due to few extremists who are playing hard to dishonor the true sayings and lessons of the God Almighty for their own selfish motives.

    It is a plight to see all the terrorist activities going on around the world “in the name of God”.

  14. Khuda Ke Liye is great movie. One of my friend who is/was very innocent got attarcted towards this fundamentalist Islam is give it a 2nd thought after viewing this movie. Great Move! We Need a few more movies like this.

  15. Khuda Ke Liye did a very important thing. It changed positively the view of many Non Muslims towards Islam.

    People who would not ordinarily have done much reading to correct their view were able to do so through this movie.

    The importance of this movie lay not so much in how talented the actors were, or how slickly it was edited as it did in the message that the movie conveyed.

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