Please note: This work contains flashing images which may affect viewers who are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy.
Bassam Tariq’s visceral directorial debut, co-written with Riz Ahmed, finds a British-Pakistani rapper’s life spiralling out of control when, on the cusp of success, he succumbs to a debilitating illness. Exploring the tension between artistic expression, family ties, cultural identity,_ Mogul Mowgli _also looks at the shared experience versus kinship with a steady, unflinching gaze.
Although his cutting lyrics speak provocatively about identity politics, it is not until Zed (Ahmed) returns home after two years on tour that he is called by his real name: Zaheer. It is the vulnerability of illness and his decreasing mobility that brings that fragmentation into focus. As he struggles to come to terms with his condition – memories and hallucinations merge to the beat of Qawwali music and are haunted by fervent apparitions of a masked figure – conjuring the unspoken spectre of Partition, which looms large in his father’s unspoken words. Also bruising Zed’s ego is his nemesis – RPG, a young rapper whose face tattoos and crass lyrics bewilder him.
Like the central character, Mogul Mowgli confronts you head-on with its ideas and influences, which range from spoken word poetry to the writing of Saadat Hasan Manto, through the beauty of language. Exploring the tussle between personal expression versus cultural representation, Tariq’s film is both a testament to the impact of heritage and a sharply observed reflection on how cultural muscle memory influences the unique tapestry of every life.