By FATIMA PATEL
I like many British Asians grew up watching Bollywood and Hollywood movies. While Hollywood wowed me with realism and amazing special effects, Bollywood gave me the candy floss and escapism needed to be transported away from a hectic life to a dreamy and nonsensical place. However, strangely, apart from binge watching Pakistani dramas I never found a place for Pakistani films until Asim Abbasi’s debut film Cake.
Cake is refreshing, as it moves away from the format of escapism and melodrama. The film is content driven, very relatable and comes at a very exciting time for the Pakistani film industry.
The film paints a contemporary portrait of a Sindhi family living in Karachi grappling with their shared past and their disparate present.
Cake tells the story of the life of middle child, Zareen (Aamina Sheikh) who is holding the fort at home by caring for her ageing parents (Beo Rana Zafar and Mohammad Ahmed), and running their business until her abroad-living siblings, youngest Zara (Sanam Saeed), and eldest Zain (Faris Khalid), return due to a family emergency.
The re-union is not so sweet between the Jamali siblings as hidden secrets begin to emerge, unravelling the many layers of this dysfunctional yet identifiable family.
Sheikh is seen as the captain of the ship, trying to hold the family together and Abbasi beautifully without being intrusive depicts Sheikh as the main representative of Cake. There’s a scene in the film where Sheikh’s character is baking the family cake, and the power she has to either keep it (it being the cake, which I also took as a metaphor of the family) together or to destroy it.
Sheikh excels in her performance as the carefree smoker, who change tyres, manages the family business as well as her ageing parents. It’s so refreshing to see the multi-faceted layers of her character evolve through the narrative of the film.
Zara, played by Sanam is equally impactful and it’s great that Abbasi has been able to ensure both actresses get the opportunity to showcase their talent in equal measure, something which is rare in a two-female lead film or even a two-male lead for that matter. Both have done exceptionally well in execution, to the level that even when you leave the cinema Sanam stays with you as Zara and Aamina as Zareen and you can’t help but appreciate both equally.
Cake doesn’t have a traditional ‘hero’ and this is even more evident from how Adnan Malik’s character, Romeo has been portrayed. It’s a brave step for any South Asian male to allow the women to lead a film and one must give Adnan full credit for this. Adnan’s character Romeo is subservient and the silent type. That’s not to say that Adnan is side-lined. On the contrary his role is equally as important and impactful, you really must see the film, to know what I am talking about.
I have to say though that my personal favourite was the love story depicted between the parents ‘Amma’ and ‘Abba’. I loved Beo Raana Zafar’s character Amma, who is bossy and foul mouthed, but in the most endearing way. Her comic moments are superb as is her chemistry with Mohammad Ahmed. I am sure the word ‘padora’ is going to become a popular part of many people’s vocabulary soon.
Overall Cake has all the right ingredients of emotion, comedy, excellent acting, direction, but above all a relatable narrative. This ‘Cake’ is well baked. We give this film 4.5/5 stars