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Beyond the hype: Taxali Gate’s take on consent and equality

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Taxali ☆☆☆

Starring: Ayesha Omar, Mehar Bano, Iffat Omar, Alyy Khan, Nayyar Ejaz, Yasir Hussain, Umer Aalam and Babar Ali

Direction: Abu Aleeha


here’s been quite a buzz surrounding the recently released Taxali Gate, written and directed by Abu Aleeha. Despite the gloomy days for Pakistani cinema, where securing average showtimes is still a major challenge for many films, Taxali Gate has managed to hold its ground at the box office for four weeks straight, boasting maximum showtimes. So, without giving away any spoilers, let’s dive into what exactly this film has to offer audiences and why it’s generating so much excitement.

First off, let’s talk about the overall cinematic experience Taxali Gate delivers. Whether it’s good or bad for us cinema lovers, well, that’s up for debate. What’s undeniable is its gripping storyline, powerful cast, impressive cinematography, and yes, some flaws too but let’s start with the positives.

In a struggling Pakistani film industry where producers often grapple with budget constraints, Taxali Gate stands out as a testament to what can be achieved with a handsome budget in the hands of a director who understands the art of filmmaking. Compared to Abu Aleeha’s low budget films like Dadaal, Kukri, Udham Patakh and others, this looks better by far – not grand, but still better – proving that budget plays a huge part in creating a good film.

The opening shot of the majestic Badshahi Mosque, coupled with a narration setting the tone for the plot, is a sharp - albeit beautiful - reminder that this is the kind of cinematic experience our screens crave. It proves that even with darker themes, cinematic shots can elevate storytelling. Directors, take note – there’s a lesson here. Though admittedly, the camera perhaps didn’t explore the beauty of Lahore’s Heera Mandi as much as it could have, it still managed to captivate, offering a glimpse into the vibrant heart of the city.

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Now, let’s delve into the story itself, which centers around Zainab, portrayed brilliantly by Mehar Bano. She’s a girl who finds herself at the mercy of a society that shuns her after she’s raped and denied justice due to her family background. Zainab’s father, Abdul Hameed, played by Nayyer Ejaz, earns a living by organizing dance shows at neighborhood weddings – hardly a respectable occupation by societal standards. Then there’s Shafiq, Hameed’s younger brother and Zainab’s uncle, brought to life by Yasir Hussain. He’s known as a notorious pimp in Taxali, spending his days hustling clients for escorts, with his lover, Muskan, portrayed by Ayesha Omar, who despite her profession, remains a true friend to Zainab.

Muskan’s character truly shines as the epitome of strength, fearlessness, and unwavering support for Zainab throughout her journey. Ayesha Omar’s portrayal adds a unique dimension to the role, showcasing her versatility as an actor. Meanwhile, Yasir Hussain’s embodiment of Shafiq is spot-on, from his confident strut to the way he effortlessly dons the persona of a seasoned pimp. It’s reminiscent of his compelling portrayal of serial killer Javed Iqbal in Abu Aleeha’s Kukri, a role that showcased his exceptional acting prowess, even if the film struggled at the box office. Despite limited appearances, Mehar Bano flawlessly embodies her character, leaving a lasting impression and proving her ability to do justice to any role she takes on.

Umer Aalam’s portrayal of Chaudhry Kamran offers a fresh perspective on his persona, leaving us intrigued and eagerly anticipating his future roles. It’s no surprise that Abu Aleeha has tapped him for the lead in his next film. And let’s not forget Babar Ali’s phenomenal performance as Chaudhry Shehryar, Kamran’s father, injecting the screen with an infectious energy every time he appears.

Iffat Omar and Alyy Khan, as the dynamic duo of lawyers, bring their undeniable chemistry to the table, but sadly, their screen time doesn’t quite do justice to their characters. Despite the gravity of the crime at the story’s core, the lawyers seem to take a backseat, missing out on an opportunity to be the pivotal representatives of the judicial system. Perhaps a heated argument onscreen between the two could have injected some much-needed intensity into their roles.

The film explores bold and often unexplored realities, sparking conversations about consent, equality, and the justice system. Through its portrayal of courtroom dynamics, Taxali Gate sheds light on the contrasting treatment of male and female lawyers, exposing societal biases. Similarly, the depiction of police culture highlights the pervasive influence of class and standards.

At its core, the story confronts issues of feminism and the #MeToo movement, fearlessly addressing the importance of female consent in relationships. A poignant moment arises when Shafique recites a poem on Muskan’s rooftop, underscoring the autonomy and dignity of women.

Taxali Gate emerges as a much-needed lesson for our society, prompting reflection on ingrained attitudes and advocating for change.

The film falls short in truly capturing the essence of Heera Mandi’s culture. The scene where a client refuses to pay for an escort is one of the few glimpses we get into Muskan’s life within the brothel. Additionally, the absence of music and dance is notable throughout the film. While a poignant moment at the dargah where Zainab, accompanied by a beautiful background song, Eva B’s ‘Mera Haq Kidhar Hay’ adds depth to the narrative, the absence of classical numbers, especially considering the film’s setting in Taxali, feels like a missed opportunity. Come on, we’re talking Taxali here – where’s the classical music to set the mood?

The action scenes, while commendable, lack the intensity that could truly elevate some of the film’s most powerful moments. For instance, the scene where Babar Ali’s character beats his son, Chaudhary Kamran, could have been more impactful with close-up shots to convey the emotional depth of the scene. Both actors deliver strong performances, but the execution could have been enhanced.

While courtroom scenes have the potential to breathe life into the narrative, they fail to reach their full potential in showcasing the intricacies of the kachehri. We were expecting fireworks, but all we got was a damp sparkler.

Despite its flaws, Taxali Gate concludes on a memorable note, particularly with the poignant ending scene between Yasir Hussain and Nayyer Ejaz, as they share a story with a rickshaw driver. It’s a testament to Abu Aleeha’s directorial prowess that the film continues to draw audiences and secure cinema slots. With the announcement of a sequel titled Shahi Muhalla, it’s evident that Taxali Gate has left its mark as one of Abu Aleeha’s finest works to date.

In a struggling Pakistani film industry where producers often grapple with budget constraints, Taxali Gate stands as a testament to what can be achieved with a handsome budget in the hands of a director who understands the art of filmmaking.

Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection

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