Director: Asim Abbasi
Starcast: Aamina Sheikh, Adnan Malik and Sanam Saeed
Films today are more than just entertainment. Audiences expect as much from a film as they do from people. And when either of them fail to meet expectations, it leaves you with a feeling of disappointment. On the other hand, if you watch a movie that strikes a chord, you come out of the cinema hall feeling a strange sense of euphoria. That’s the power of cinema, what we call, Cine-magic. And Asim Abbasi’s Cake easily falls in the latter category.
I give you five reasons to watch the film:
It’s easier to steer a horse in the direction it is moving but it takes courage and control to change its course. A Grammarian and an ex-Investment Banker, changing courses perhaps comes naturally to debutant director Asim Abbasi who dares to bring a different kind of dessert to the table. Asim’s characters are well etched and he extracts the best out of his artistes. Aamina Sheikh’s frustration, Sanam Saeed’s controlled rage and Adnan Malik’s commitment to the family are all clearly established in the first few scenes which set the tone of the characters. The director doesn’t waste time in giving context and leaves a lot for the audience to calculate. For instance, time and again, Sanam mentions about meeting some child which remains a mystery till the climax; in another instance, a family member dies unexpectedly. However, the situation is depicted realistically sans any needless dramatization.
Between the three main actors, Amina Sheikh takes the ‘cake’. Her anger and breakdown in certain scenes are brilliant. From her uneasiness in a western dress at a New Year’s Eve party to the moment when she asks Adnan Malik ‘Bathroom Aaya? Inko Bathroom Aaya?’, the actress doesn’t strike a single false note. And then there is Sanam Saeed who is a complete natural. When both these acting powerhouses are in one frame, it’s hard to look away. The face off in the climax which shows Sanam and Aamina having a heated argument, is riveting as the two actresses shed all reservations. They pull hair, beat and throw things at each other aggressively. In a tragi-comic moment, Aamina, being the more sober one, tries to run away and Sanam pulls her from the back, only for her hair extensions to come out! Yet the duo continue with their fight. This 10 minute scene, performed in a single take, alone gives a few lessons on how not to ‘act’ when acting. Another performance that stands out is that of Adnan Malik, the surprise package. Playing the role of Romeo with utmost honesty, he will surprise many of you because it is very different from his real self.
In a male dominated industry where actresses play second fiddle to the actor, Cake hands over its reins to the very capable hands of Aamina Sheikh and Sanam Saeed. They are shown as two independent siblings who are calling their own shots. Aamina handles issues at home, her parents and also steps out in the field to negotiate business with farmers whereas Sanam is settled abroad. They smoke, they show middle fingers to each other and they are unapologetic about it. Their mother is another cool woman, least bothered about the discipline (or lack of it!) in the house, preferring instead to listen to old cassettes at loud volumes. The portrayal of strong women steering their lives on their own terms makes an important feministic statement.
For the love of Sindh
Of late, many Pakistani directors have been obsessed with ‘Oh my country is so beautiful campaign’ and unnecessarily add frames of stunning natural streams and the northern areas. But Asim presents Sindhi culture in the most endearing way. The songs in the background, the vintage furniture and the typical words like ‘Loosy Aahay Chaa’ (often used when cursing in Sindhi) makes the overall Sindhi backdrop authentic. A country’s beauty, after all, is not only restricted to the rivers and the forests, it’s equally there in the language and its music!
Asim’s Cake has no time for melodrama and he keeps things real. The daughters are in clear pain as they leave their interests to take responsibility of their parents; they are not shown shedding tears or whining while doing so. The scene where the girls envelope the father and dance to music with the son trying to fit in, is powerful, stressing the fact that parents do take things to heart when you are not available to them.
What doesn’t work
The name of the film is Cake which is never eaten as a main course but as a dessert at the end of a meal. This film might have a similar fate. People may love it but it won’t be counted as the mainstream run-of-the-mill commercial film being churned out in Pakistani cinemas today. I will not get into the debate if this film caters to masses or if it’s made for a niche audience, but all I would like to highlight is that the beauty of this film lies in its treatment and in the performances. Having said that, some films should just be watched because they have the power to fill up your hearts and this one may just become a reason to realign priorities we have set for our lives. At some points, you may find this Cake a little tough to chew because we are all guilty of not spending enough time with our loved ones, but you will love the taste of it.
Verdict: Go, indulge in a bite of Cake which is nearly baked to perfection and with all heart.
This film can be watched at NOVO Cinemas (Dubai Festival City Mall- 11:15pm/ Dragon Mart 2- 6:10pm and 11:30pm/ Ibn Battuta Mall- 6:30pm and 11:55pm)
– Sadiq Saleem is a Dubai based entertainment writer. He can be contacted on his page fb/sidsaidso.