Mogul Mowgli is a beautifully crafted tale of identity, culture and ambition. Director Bassam Tariq, who co-wrote the film with star Riz Ahmed, uses sound and powerful hallucinations to place us in the struggling mind of Zed as he navigates through recovery and generational trauma.
Shortly before a vital moment in his career British-Pakistani rapper Zed, played by Ahmed, is diagnosed with an almost entirely immobilising auto-immune disease, requiring him to drop out of his tour. Now confined to the hospital he is forced to face his repressed cultural heritage and come to terms with the possibility of his career being over. He is plagued by vivid delusions, seeing both his own past and his fathers. A strange veiled figure, symbolising his Pakistani heritage, lingers around as a constant reminder of what he is running from.
The performances by Zed reveal a lost man stuck between starkly different identities, neither one feeling fully him. His lyrics are commanding and each line is layered with meaning.
Although the focus is on Zed, the story is also one of father and son. His dad Bashir, played by Alyy Khan, represents the part of himself that Zed feels detached from and has spent years trying to escape. The characters clash constantly, paralleling the inner conflict they both face. Their relationship is explored in a number of ways but the most impactful is the toilet scenes. They are shot with an intimacy unlike anything else and they showcase the growth between the men.
Mogul Mowgli is proof that Riz Ahmed is one of the greatest talents Britain has to offer, both in the acting and musical worlds. His performance is Zed is electrifying and honest, he doesn’t shy away from the raw emotion that clearly stems from the deeply personal nature of the script.
The supporting performances are similarly great but without Ahmed, it would not be the same. His passion, both his own and of the characters, seeps into every aspect of the screen, drawing us in and making us like this somewhat unlikeable character.
Tariq directs the film with an equally honest touch, rooting the film in reality despite its artistic storytelling. There is an imperfection in a way that only makes it more watchable. It is independent cinema at its finest.
Featured image credit: image.net