Mogul Mowgli - Mogul Mowgli(Blu Ray) [BFI - 2021]Mogul Mowgli is an edgy 'n' frank drama, full of passion, and arty touches. It's a troubling-yet-never sentimental look at circuital ill-ness, identity, and belief. The 2020 film follows Zed- a up ‘n’ coming British Asian rapper- who's on the cusp of making it big, when he suddenly gets knocked down by an illness. Here from the BFI is a new Blu Ray release of the film, taking in a high definition print, commentary track & a few other extras.
Mogul Mowgil is the first feature-length film from American based Pakistan director, producer & screenwriter Bassam Tariq- who before this was known for documentaries. Going from 2012’s These Birds Walk, which captured the plight of homeless children in Karachi, onto 2017’s 11/8/16 that followed the 2016 US election. Mogul Mowgil certainly nods at Tariq's documentary past; with gritty fly on the wall stage footage and from the corner of the room family interaction- though equally there are arty & cinematic moments too. All making for a powerful & at times heady ride.
The film focuses on Zed- played by Riz Ahmed, a British Pakistani actor, rapper, and activist. When we first met him he’s just played a packed show in New York City, and been offered a huge nationwide tour. Fairly soon we find his relationship with his Asian American girlfriend is falling apart, due to the pressure of his building popularity. He decides to head back home to see his family in London, having not seen them in several years. As the film unfolds we get a blend of believable family drama & disagreement, rap show flash-backs, and arty-to-trippy imagery taking in among other things, a young boy travelling on a dusty train & a entity with a flower curtained face. At a point Zed starts getting pain in one leg, then the next thing he’s waking up in hospital been told he has a critical illness- that sees his body attacking its self. He’s told there is a treatment for the illness, but it will make him sterile. And around him, his family pushes & pulls. The film runs at the one hour twenty six-minute mark- remaining punchy, emotional- yet never sentimental, and always compelling. Some may find the less conventional & darting structure of the film somewhat off-putting, but I found it part of its energy & pull. Certainly not for those looking for a straight & predictable circuital illness focused drama, but if you're after a film that tries something different with the format Mogul Mowgli is for you.
Riz Ahmed is very believable as the empowered-yet-cocky Zed, and he plays the role warts & all- making for a well rounded, but not always likeable lead character. The supporting cast is all largely good too- with worthy mentions been Alyy Khan as Zed’s judgemental, at times overbearing-if-caring father Bashir. And Nabhaan Rizwan as younger rival RPG, who adds some toches on subtle humour to proceedings.
Moving onto the extras on this Blu Ray- we get a commentary track from director/ co-writer Bassam Tariq and lead actor/ writer Riz Ahmed. This is a fairly loose & chatty affair with the pair discussing the origins of certain scenes, how the film came about & how initially they were unsure what they wanted. Moving onto talk bout other actors, the film's themes, and it’s switches in genre. It’s an ok track, though a little too sporadic/ loose for its own good. Next, we get a twenty-minute BFI interview contacted by zoom, with Tariq & Ahmed. We have around twenty-three minutes of deleted scenes. Two music videos, Daytimer- a fifteen-minute short by Ahmed about a boy skipping school to go to a rave, and an illustrated inlay booklet taking a few new essays, a short story and film notes.
Mogul Mowgli is certainly a punchy & edgy drama, and I must say it’s blending/ mixing of different film genres/ tropes is most refreshing- keep you on your toes throughout. I’ll certainly be interested to see more work from both Ahmed and Tariq, and it would be great to see them working together in the future again.