LFF 2020 ‘Mogul Mowgli’ Review: Cultural Schism Within and Without

Following a big break in his rap career, Zed (Riz Ahmed), returns home to his Pakistani Muslim family in London. He’s been away for a long time and finds the experience overwhelming. As he struggles to cope with the stress it becomes clear that he has even more serious concerns than awkward family dinners.

Riz Ahmed’s distinctive presence is always a highlight in every film he has appeared in. In this lead performance he achieves a fragility and stubbornness that is utterly compelling and completely heart-breaking. He is able to shrink and expand his presence in frame as needed, sometimes commanding a stage in front of a roaring crowd, other times frailly dwindling in the corner of shot.

The musical process is portrayed as part of the artists life. Rhyming is compulsive; relief that comes to him at moments of insecurity and fear. The film features several dream sequences through which Zed is able to escape but also process his experience. These dreams are tied to his ability to compose his music and represent a point within himself where the various aspects of his identity collide and try to coalesce into something coherent.

The concept of cultural schism made manifest as a medical condition in which the body is unable to recognise itself and attempt to . The carthasis that’s achieved between Zed and his family as he riles against his own body is involving and very moving. The schism is a wound he will not overcome but learn to live with.

Mogul Mowgli is a very powerful insight into how the creative process can help make severe trauma manageable. Although it’s a little uneven and certain aspects of the cultural clash are dropped before the third act, it is still an excellent performed drama about sickness and family. One that showcases the immense talent of Riz Ahmed as a poignant leading man.

Four Stars

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