Woot! A scene by scene for the first time in AGES! Because we have a movie that is the magical combo of interesting to everyone/hard to watch for yourself so you will appreciate a scene by scene.
First, credits! Remarkably long opening credits, a sign of how hard it was to get this dang thing released. Lots of companies involved in producing and distributing and all of that.
And then smokey firelight and the image of a Gandasa head. This confused me because it looked way too short to be a useful weapon, but I didn’t know it’s supposed to be kept separate from the staff. Anyway, Gandasa head hanging on a wall, then shouts and blackclad attackers outside a fort. In a bedroom, a man awakes (just as Fawad’s name shows up in the credits, tricking us into thinking it might be Fawad) and grabs for the staff near his bed as the wife sleeping on his chest wakes up and says “Maula!”. The man pulls the Gandasa head off the wall and screws it onto his staff, while the woman wakes their son, maybe about 8 years old, and they start quickly moving through the halls of the fort.
This is one of those sequences where the choreography of it and the sort of geography of it tells us the story. The man walks in front slicing enemies with his weapon and his wife and son quickly follow him. We don’t need words to know that they are just trying to escape, this isn’t an attempt to fight the enemies, this is a rapid retreat heading towards an exit, the only thing this family wants is to get OUT. Which is what makes it so sad when they are trapped and killed as the father and mother embrace and try to shelter their son. There is no need for it, no need to kill the whole family that just wanted to get away.
And then we see the pile of bodies, and an old man carrying a staff come to look at the bodies, and see the eyes of the bloodied child open. His parents fell on top of him, protecting him even in death. Maula survives!
Then we get a slow part. This whole movie is AWESOME VIOLENCE mixed with slow bits. The thing is, this director is the kind of director where violence is also his best way of showing relationships, characters, all of that. So I tend to check out a little during the slow parts.
The old man takes Maula to a temple/mosque and tries to figure out what to do. The Iman or priest or whoever suggests that Maula’s trauma and muteness is a gift. He won’t secretly reveal his identity to his enemies, he can start fresh. And the best way to start fresh is simply to give him to the single mother praying at the temple and tell her to treat him as his own son. So we see poor confused Maula rushed away by this woman. Cut to him having nightmares as he sees his parents die (very Zanjeer). His foster brother complains about being woken up every night, but his foster mother rushes to comfort him. The brother conflict continues the next day at school as his brother draws a mustache on him, but lil’ Mahira shows him to rub it off his face. The brothers run off chasing each other, Maula is distracted by seeing a man beaten in the public square, his brother finds him and tells him not to worry about that injustice, he should go to wrestling classes like him. They go to the wrestling studio and the brother is big mouthed and gets thrown on the ground. At which point Maula screams out for the first time and leaps and beats the attacker in defense of his brother.
It’s a boring bit, but it also upended my expectations in a lot of ways. Starting with the temple/mosque/whatever scene. It’s very old-school rural. All the characters use Muslim religious language (dua for prayer, etc.), but their way of practicing is very earth based and casual and every day. The temple/mosque looks like it’s probably a location that has been sacred through multiple generations and multiple religious movements. Similar, the Wise Religious Man isn’t quoting from any text or anything like that, he’s just the wise religious man who has the role in society of giving advice as a neutral observer. This feels realistic to me. The idea of religions as being strict and universal is fairly new, and you only have to scratch the surface a little bit to find the part that’s earth based and simple. Of course, we also see little Maula in a school which seems to be a Madrasa structure. So there are the good bits of Islam, education and (apparently) women’s rights and casual marriage and so on, but no one really bothers about not drinking or not having pictures on the walls or any of that stuff.
We go from the childhood peace to seeing a lovely woman dancing in front of a tree for her boyfriend. It’s a bit of a bait and switch, because going straight here from childhood makes us think that this is our hero or his brother all grown up. But no! Totally unrelated. It’s a charming scene, the woman teases her fiance about how he has to wait until after their wedding, and he teases back about how come the wedding night she will be more eager than he, they are very sweet and normal and happy. And then they have a little flirty chase through the trees that ends when she sees a bunch of men in black standing on the path. The leader of whome, very creepily, is in the middle of urinating on a tree.
Her fiance tells her to run, she runs back to the village, but the bandits follow her, all the men of the village stand around failing to protect her, then the Fiance shows up bloody and tries to fight, the bandit easily subdues him, his old father falls down begging for his life, the bandit seemingly agrees, then takes the father’s own axe and cuts off his head.
Great sequence! Very hard to watch and infuriating, which is the point. Starting with the chief bandit urinating in his intro. This isn’t a pretty fairy tale version of bandits, this is reality with bodily functions and messiness. And when she runs for help and no one helps her, it’s not a pretty fairy tale thing either, it’s disgusting and meant to be disgusting. All these farmers have weapons at hand (their farming tools), and here is this woman who has run to them for safety, and they are too afraid to do anything, they just stand there. Her fiance is the only man brave enough to act, and when he fails his father BEGS FOR HIS LIFE. Couldn’t be bothered to even beg for the woman, and now that his son has fallen, he’s not even fighting. I don’t want to say it serves them right when the bandits so easily subdue them, but it is a lesson in “at some point, you have t change tactics”. The bandits and farmers are clearly fighting by different rules. The bandits do basically anything they want, because the farmers are still counting on some sort of human reasonableness to protect them which doesn’t exist.
Again, classic theme! In the simple version of this, you have farmers who lack the innate personality to fight, and you have fighters who lack the innate personality to stay. So you have stories in every culture (in America, the western) of the villagers versus the travelers. The man who shows up when danger threatens and then moves on because he was not built for normal life. And the villagers who are unable to deal with danger because they are not built for it.
But there’s a more complex way of looking at the dynamic, which is what this film argues for. It’s not villagers versus fighters, it’s that you have to CHOOSE to fight. You have to reach a point within yourself when you say “enough” and would rather stand up for what is right, be brave AT ALL, than keep bowing down in hopes of mercy that will not come. The greatest versions of this story (Seven Samurai, Sholay, High Noon, etc.) say that the villagers are wrong. They are hiring someone to take the risks and fight their battle, when they could have easily defended themselves long ago if they’d just had the openmindedness to see another way. It’s not that they chose to be victims, but they chose to CONTINUE to be victims. Or, even worse, to victimize others in order to save themselves. This scene shows the fiance fighting to the death to protect the woman he loves, while his family and neighbors stand and do nothing. It is a judgement on all the men there who would rather sacrifice this woman to the bandits than risk their own safety.
And then, FIGHT! We get to go back to our hero for a nice happy scene. Huge fighting ground in the middle of a carnival, the man who ran the wrestling ring is now MC’ing the fight, and the foster brother (all grown up) is collecting bets. But the first thing we see is a man badmouthing the fighter Maula, who is then slapped upside the head by grown up Mahira who declares Maula will always win his fights, and before she dies she will carry Maula’s child (no mention of being his wife or anything like that, very earthy here. And also of course no womanly shame for stating her desires, she is proud of it and everyone else is proud of her, the foster brother gives her a little nod in appreciation). Maula/Fawad comes out onto the field, wild hair and beard, and uses a staff to easily defeat multiple opponents. CHEERS! HAPPINESS! WE CAN ALMOST FORGET THAT ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF THE VILLAGE A WOMAN WAS JUST KIDNAPPED WHILE NO ONE DID ANYTHING!!!
I’ll read once I watch it, but I wanted to commend you for doing this just off of memory after watching it one time!
I don’t promise it’s perfect! But I’m trying.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Pingback: The Legend of Maula Jatt Scene By Scene Summary! Part 1, Prologue, Childhood, and FIGHT! – Zeerangi Entertainment
AHHH I love this! I am waiting to read this until all your scene by scene posts are out.
I missed the opening parts, came in just before the school scene when he was having flashbacks, though I could piece together what had happened. Took me a while to realize that the friend was actually his foster brother. The way the cute dancing scene unfolds into horror shocked me into realizing exactly what kind of world the movie is set in, as I’m sure was the intention. I too felt a false sense of security when she runs into the village crowd, thinking surely she must be safe now, but nope! This whole thing was Sholay-esque, but of course this is a general theme of all Westerns, which this very much is. Yes, it’s infuriating to see the villagers do nothing and this happens multiple times. Even more so when you know that most of the young boys and men learn wrestling in the village akhara! What use is all that training? Anyway, Fawad’s introduction is cool as it shows us his most important character traits without him saying a word, that he is a drunkard and has a burning rage within him. Mahira is awesome and I was chuckling inside thinking of their Humsafar characters and how different this dynamic is going to be. Also, I didn’t feel bored in the so-called slow parts, it was all entertaining.
Yes! Join me hating the dang villagers!
So glad to have this level of detail. I managed to go see it tonight – hooray! But that involved arguing with husband and rushing out of the house because I didn’t realize until late that we had a rare free afternoon with no soccer and no social commitments. It was just me and the kids and we arrived 15-20 minutes late, at the scene where the bad guy kills the fiancee. I had sent the kids to get drinks and wasn’t sad they missed the axe murder, though there was plenty more murder to come.
I would like to see the set up, I see I was missing a bit of emotional grounding for both the brother and romantic relationship. Loved Mahira and Fawad’s entrances though. Those eyes!! Made me so happy to see them on the big screen.
Fawad is so big and effortlessly powerful in this role, it was flipping me out a bit (in a good way) thinking about the two of them in Humsafar compared to here. They’ve both grown and matured and come into their powers as actors, but while with Mahira you could see her steeliness at that early stage and she’s gotten maybe a little more free and playful, Fawad…he was such a baby actor in Humsafar, he had the gaze but he was petulant and insecure. The difference between that baby Fawad and this full grown man is incredible.
Yes! Fawad is amazing in this role, and it is SUCH a charisma reliant part. Very short dialogues, a lot of burning gazes.