The Queer Palme d’Or winner at Cannes last year – and the first Pakistani film in the festival – is a tender, visually rich family drama.
Haider Rana (Ali Junejo) is the younger son in an economically impoverished, squabbling, but close-knit family living in Lahore. He is married to Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq), who represents the only aspect of his life that pleases his conservative father (Salmaan Peerzada). However, it causes consternation among the male members of Haider’s family – including alpha older sibling Kaleem (Sohail Sameer) – that Mumtaz and not Haider is the breadwinner of their family. But then Haider announces he has a job. He claims he’s the stage manager at a local nightclub, when in fact he is the backing dancer for trans female performer Biba (Alina Khan). It’s a odd occupation, considering Haider’s dancing skills are limited. But as his boss teaches him new moves, Haider begins to loosen up in all areas of his life.
Saim Sadiq’s warm and generous film isn’t out to change the world, or even deeply held views. But in its generosity and humanity, it asks whether difference is something that could be positively embraced rather than rejected. Newcomer Junejo and Farooq impress as the affectionate, if somewhat passionless couple. And Khan is excellent as Biba, detailing the complexity of the dancer’s life out of the spotlight. Few recent films have been so deserving of their title, but Khan’s feature debut is a joy from beginning to end.