Laughing it up with Bin Laden
In his debut dark comedy 'Tere Bin Laden' Abhishek Sharma embraces the 'wag the dog' idea of what can go wrong when spin goes out of control.
Osama Bin Laden is one of the most widely used names in the contemporary world. Before 9/11 he was only familiar to me as a 'hero' in some parts of the Islamic world, but I was uninterested in knowing more about this thin faced, bearded man. But after the attack on the Twin towers I became one of many people who were prompted to study Bin Laden’s biographies. I read interviews and books by both local and foreign journalists.
Bin Laden is a classic example of a 'hero' becoming a 'zero' in no time. Every time his video messages would appear on news channels his demeanor and words would be painstakingly analyzed. But as video and audio messages poured in members of the mainstream news media began to question their authenticity. Those of you who have seen ‘Wag the Dog’ (1997) will understand how state agencies create fake video tapes to achieve their own vested interest when required.
Who would have thought that debutant director Abhishek Sharma would come up with an idea of faking Bin Laden so convincingly? Tere Bin Laden is about Ali Hasan, a struggling TV journalist at a disreputable channel called Danka TV based in Karachi. Ali dreams of going to US and reporting for prestigious news agencies but in the aftermath of 9/11 and due to America’s strict visa policy his visa application keeps rejecting.
Then one day while covering a bizarre rooster crowing contest in interior Sindh he comes across a Bin Laden look alike. In dire need of money, Ali comes up with the sinister idea of making a fake Bin Laden video message. The world gets the new menacing video tape of Bin Laden which results in an acceleration in the bombings in Afghanistan. Upon realizing his mistake Ali tries to undo the damage by creating another video message in which Bin Laden offers peace to President Bush.
The synopsis might sound simple but the movie has countless side-splittingly funny moments. You can’t predict the next scene which is the sign of an engaging plot. Ali Zafar gave a confident and enjoyable performance. But the show stealer in my view was ‘Noora’ – the better, the adorable and the new Bin Laden – played by Pradhuman Singh. It is impossible not to like him or crack up at his dialogue. If not for his performance, the movie would have fallen flat. The Karachi shown in the movie looks authentic to a great extent except a Punjabi speaking ‘Noora’ based in interior Sindh leaves begs explanation.
Tere Bin Laden is a black comedy, the genres best known movie is Dr. Strangelove. One doesn’t find sense in such movies as those are made for pure entertainment. It is a pity that Tere Bin Laden has been banned in Pakistan. The movie doesn’t hurt anyone’s sensitivities per se and it could have been released with a changed title. It would have been great to see Ali Zafar’s first Indian movie in theaters. This movie features a Pakistani artist in the full length leading role. It was also the first Indian movie whose entire story and characters are based in Pakistan.
On the other hand, I feel the screening of this movie could have invited the unwanted attention of militants and terrorists. The indoctrinated suicide bombers wouldn’t take time to watch the movie first and then decide whether to bomb a movie theater or not. They’ll take it as a movie burlesquing their leader. Pakistan’s banning the movie feels harsh but in the end we could consider it a commendable step in the interest of common people because in today’s Pakistan when it comes to maniac bombers, the more caution exhibited, the better.