Movie Name: Cake
Release Date: March 30, 2018
Director: Asim Abbasi
Review by: Momin Al Munshi
This has to be my most challenging review as to date, and that doesn’t even have anything to do with the movie itself. It all stemmed from the piece I wrote a few days back asking a question that ‘Do Pakistani Cinemas Need Films Like Cake‘ which was generally about the current state of Pakistani Cinema, its future, and a dire need for commercial films. People assumed that the article was anti-Cake just having read the title, although I hadn’t even seen the film when I wrote the piece, and the article was about the bigger picture and quite honestly, you would understand my skepticism had you seen all Pakistani films that came out in the last few months!
Anyhow, I finally got a chance to see ‘Cake’ yesterday, and boy there were a million thoughts I had while seeing the film. Before I get to the film and review it, there are two things I want to communicate to the readers of Galaxy Lollywood. First, that Galaxy Lollywood is a blog, which is why it is conversational, casual and I can start off by addressing you the readers before moving to the main content. Secondly, since I have not studied cinema I would say again for the thousandth time, I am a reviewer and not a film critic. I review films as any normal member of the audience would, but since I have been doing it for more than seven years now so I kind of know what I am saying. So with that out of the way, lets dive right into the world of ‘Cake’.
Cake is the story of a dysfunctional family where we have Zareen (Aamina Sheikh) solely taking on the responsibility of caring for her sick whimsical parents (Mohammad Ahmed and Beo Raana Zafar) while siblings Zara (Sanam Saed) and Zain (Faris Khalid) have moved abroad. A serious trip to the hospital brings back the entire family together in Karachi, but things are far from hunky dory as accusations are hurled, secrets from the past brought out into the open, which is followed by a whole lot of drama.
Before I get on to anything, let me say that Cake is a huge win for Pakistani Cinema and definitely a benchmark, not exactly a game changer as such but a milestone film indeed. But to say that Cake belongs to one particular department would be an injustice, for its the seamless intersection of good direction, acting, writing, music which combines to give one of the most technically sound, visually appealing and beautifully acted films to have come out of Pakistan in recent times. Barring a few issues with editing and slight pacing issues, this is one film which will set the standard for what a great film should look like.
Debutant director Asim Abbasi, who has also written the film, proves with his just the very first film that he is a force to be reckoned with and a master storyteller. It is interesting to note how he picked up a subject which seemed so trivial at first, but the way he developed the story with different layers to the characters and the plot, the little nuances, it all ended up being one captivating experience. And if you thought the film was a rehash of Kapoor and Sons, well you couldn’t have been any more wrong.
However, I did feel that the spikes and the troughs in the film were a bit distracting. There would be one scene full of action and would have you completely invested, which would then be followed by a few minutes of nothingness and this entire cycle continued till the packed climax. Maybe with this Asim was trying to mimic life which tends to follow a similar pattern, but on screen, this came across as lethargic and had the viewer a bit disinterested. However, the smart writing paired with the brilliant cinematography and spot on Art Direction gave the film a very distinct feel and more than made up for the problems.
Coming to the acting side, well firstly can we give the Casting Director (if there was one) an award of some kind, for all actors barring Faris Khalid, seemed tailor-made for their respective roles. Faris did well in whatever little margin he had but he did not really look the bara bhai he was cast for, but other than him, each and every actor was a perfect choice and the ensemble cast gelled in so effortlessly that it would not be wrong to say that ‘Cake’ is by far the best ensemble cast ever assembled for a Pakistani film in recent times. It was this chemistry between the actors which took the entire film to another level.
Talking about individual performances, I have to start with Aamina Sheikh who proves yet again that she is one of the finest actresses from the recent lot and can solely carry the burden of a film on her shoulders. She is sheer perfection and a delight to see on the silver screen. Each and every scene, each emotion, so brilliantly portrayed, wow, just wow!
Sanam Saeed is no less and she nails the role of the foreign-returned sibling who is battling a plethora of emotions having come back to the place which doesn’t have the fondest memories for her. She does exceedingly well, except for maybe a scene or two where she seems slightly out of character, but on the whole an award-worthy performance indeed.
Adnan Malik’s character may not have many dialogues, and may not be an active part of the action, but he does the job wonderfully and quite aptly captures the essence of his character which he brilliantly executes with his underplayed role in the film. As for the parents, Mohammad Ahmed dominates the second half, while Beo Raana Zafar owns the first half (although technically there is no interval). They are both eccentric, borderline theatrical at times, but completely relatable and give beautiful performances.
The music of the film was pleasing to the ear and had a character of its own. Also, it was warming to see a background score getting its due importance in a Pakistani film. The songs, which I later learned were renditions of famous Sindhi folk songs, mixed rather well with the feel of the film and added to its distinct appeal. On the whole, the music done by ‘The Sketches’ may not be your conventional film music filled with ‘naach gana’ and romance, but is definitely a huge plus for the film.
Oh, and reflecting upon my article which I wrote a few days back- ‘Do Pakistani Cinemas Need Films Like Cake’, having seen the film now I can better answer my rhetorical question. While I still hold my opinion that currently, we need more commercial films, I will also say that stories like ‘Cake’ should be told and if every director promises to handle such subjects with a similar poise, yes we definitely could use films like Cake!
Verdict: This well-made family drama will make you laugh, cry, and feel emotions you never knew existed. Go see it now!