Review: Zindagi Tamasha is a movie full of bitter reminders

By Aliya Zuberi

KARACHI: It was a bittersweet moment listening to Sarmad Khoosat address his audience about the release of his much awaited movie Zindagi Tamasha. After years of delays, the film finally got a release date, just not the way Khoosat had hoped. Marred by controversy for tickling religious sentiments in the wrong way, Zindagi Tamasha became symbolic of Khoosat’s life post facto the release of the trailer. Here is our review for Zindagi Tamasha and all the reasons why you shouldn’t miss it!

Zindagi Tamasha follows the life of Rahat Khawaja (Arif Hassan). If anything, he is a wonderful man. Good natured, he works as an estate agent during the day and them comes home to take care of his sick and paralyzed wife (Samiya Mumtaz). With a smile on his face and a bounce in his step, you cannot help but feel the warmth that he carries with him. As a hobby, Khawaja is a naat khuwan and is revered by the people in his small town and specially his daughter, Sadaf (Eman Suleman).

By default, being a popular naat khuwan gains Khawaja the title of being a pious man. However, audiences cannot help but wonder about how he was awarded that title. He never claims to be as such and neither puts on a façade. Rather, he doesn’t hide the fact that he thoroughly enjoys watching movies and even admits to having always enjoyed dancing. But in a small neighbourhood like his, dancing is only reserved for transgenders, who are treated like scum.

Rahat Khawaja’s life takes a three sixty when what is meant to be a private moment, a dance to an item number in the company of his closest friends, becomes an internet sensation. Uploaded online without his consent, Khawaja’s video becomes the subject of parodies and memes. And that marks the start of the end. While Khawaja and his wife are oblivious to the spectacle he has become, his daughter withdraws. Embarrassed, she blames her father for dancing rather than focusing on the fact that the video was made without his consent and was not meant to be watched by the masses.

What starts with innocent selfies turns into abuses being hurled into his window by the very people who adored him. Missed wedding invites and subject to baseless gossip, Rahat Khawaja begins to lose the light in his eyes as his steps become heavier. Ironically, he seeks comfort in the very thing that destroyed him.

Zindagi Tamasha is a testament to the fickle nature of human beings. It doesn’t take long to turn saints into sinners. All of a sudden people seem to forget the good things about Rahat Khawaja and now can only focus on the video. One dance earns so much ire from the townsmen, that people who were once considered friends begin to spread exaggerated stories about him. It is also testament to the qualms of social media. How many times have seemingly innocent videos blown up? How many nasty comments are made sitting behind a screen. How many memes have been shared? How many times have we thought about the person at whose expense we are finding momentary glee?

The movie is also an eerie reminder of the real vices around us. Bravely enough, Sarmad Khoosat not only showed the dark underbelly of small town with their secret circles, he also shed light on how religion has become a tool. The local cleric doesn’t counsel Khawaja over this perceived mistake but keeps calling it a sin. For the cleric, getting more views with slogans against America and gaining sympathy by using the genocide in Palestine is more important than Khawaja’s plight. And in that moment, everything begins to unravel. We see a fire in our protagonist. He raises his voice and calls out corruption and abuse at the hands of the cleric. But the fire is soon put out with one threat. A threat of one false accusation. A threat that has claimed the lives of so many innocent lives.

Which is also symbolic of what ensued in Sarmad Khoosat’s life over the past three years. Via the movie, Khoosat was accused of presenting clerics in a bad light, something which was considered almost akin to blasphemy. He was subjected to a whole lot of internet hate which ranged from demanding the movie be banned to Sarmad Khoosat be killed.

Zindagi Tamasha isn’t a movie full of glitz and glamour and is instead, a social commentary. It is bleak and poignant. As the audience, we are watching events fold from the outside. We don’t know what the characters are thinking but we are pretty sure we know. Their grief is tangible and is amplified by the movie’s soundtrack courtesy Saakin Music. If you’re someone who looks forward to happy endings, Zindagi Tamasha is not the movie for you. Afterall, how many people get the happy endings they deserve?

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