One especially ripe subject for serious filmmakers to explore are the relationships between parents and their adult children. At the core of this dynamic is often a rift driven by cultural differences and the consequences of when they don’t see eye-to-eye, and Bassam Tariq’s “Mogul Mowgli” excels when it inhabits that space.
The film follows British-Pakistani rapper Zed (Riz Ahmed) who returns home before he is about to go on a European Tour he believes can take him to the next level of his career. He’s found some success as a rapper, gaining the respect of his crude but popular contemporary RPG (Nabhaan Rizwan), and is respected in his hometown, but he prioritizes his career over his relationships with his family and girlfriend, Bina (Aiysha Hart), who very quickly becomes his ex-girlfriend.
His world comes crashing apart when, after a brief fight with a fan, his legs start to go numb, then his whole body. It’s from an autoimmune disease that runs in his family, but only appears as a minor annoyance in his father’s legs.
This jeopardizes his tour, and forces him to give his spot to RPG, which he absolutely hates, as he dislikes him for his crude style. His father, Bashir (Alyy Khan), ends up being his primary caregiver after he and his mother get into a huge fight. This forces Zed to work things out with his father, who has refused to give his work his blessing, as Bashir wanted him to open a store with him.
Despite the wishes of his friends and family, Zed tries to push forward in his work, going so far as to try to go on tour until it’s clear there’s no way he’s going to make it. He signs up for an experimental treatment that will sterilize him, which leads to a heartbreaking scene in which he reaches out to Bina for comfort and to see if she’ll want access to his sperm, only to be soundly rejected (he has to freeze it before the procedure). Zed’s time paralyzed makes him realize just how hollow his interpersonal relationships are, and while he actively tries to connect with his dad, he doesn’t completely change as a person, which I think is realistic and believable.
Throughout the film, he is stalked in visions by Gulab Mian (Jeff Mirza), which has cultural implications that Western viewers might not understand. He always seems to be judging Zed for his life choices and his abandonment of his culture, and his presence is always like a plague-cloud hovering over Zed until the film’s climax.
This film is shot well, and it poses interesting questions. It’s a slower tale and might not be for everyone, but if you’re able to get into its gradual pace, I think you’ll appreciate what it has to say.
“Mogul Mowgli” gets an 8.5/10