A story that begins with hanging of a young woman with half a dozen other women shrieking in the background could end up unnerving anyone and in that aspect, 'Bol' pretty much establishes itself into the 'serious cinema' zone. The feeling remains exactly the same for most part of the first half of this Shoaib Mansoor directed affair as well. However once the story picks up pace and steps into an altogether different zone in the second half, 'Bol' turns out to be an explosive affair that not just raises a few important questions but also brings a lump in your throat.
Once Humaima Malick starts narrating her story that led to a murder, you hear her out patiently. Of course it isn't quite entertaining by any means as the man of the house (Manzar Sehbai) is constantly beating around his wife and over half a dozen grown up daughters. There is added discomfort with an entire episode around another child, a hermaphrodite, who is ridiculed and abused by the father. So while Humaima gets married, only to find herself back at her father's place, the other daughter (Mahira Khan) falls in love with a neighbor (Atif Aslam) and faces further resistance from her father.
There are more miseries that follow. Father loses that little income that he was enjoying, the hermaphrodite son gets sexually abused and then later killed, the daughters as well as the mother get further beaten up, debates heat up around the written word in Kuran and the messaging that came along while the overall mood of the film stays on to be sombre and depressing. Frankly, you start feeling as if this is one of those dark tele-films from the 80s that is in motion here as the film continues to suffocate you no ends.
However the film takes a turn for a better, and how, once the father gets trapped in a crime. Series of events that unfold from this point on are not just engaging but also have three-four shocking twists at different junctures that keep you hooked on to the screen. Manzar's interaction with a gang-lord (Shafqat Cheema) in notorious by-lanes of Heera Mandi, the dirty proposal that follows, his helplessness at expecting this offer, the confrontation that continues at home and then an inevitable end to the tale - Really, these are the most striking moments of the film.
What works most though is an outburst from Humaima during her last moments when she addressed the entire media. As she pleads an argument around 'giving birth without putting in any thought' to be considered a crime as well, you do tend to agree with the point she is trying to make her. As an actress too she towers over one and all with a restrained act that doesn't get into any filmy dialogue-baazi but still makes a mark.
Manzar is theatrical right through his act and while in the first half he is extremely stereotypical and hence more comic than serious, there are moments in the second half where he manages some genuine empathy. However Shafqat is simply brilliant and deserves an admission into Bollywood pronto. Though there are quite a few other young women in the story here, the ones who manages to leave a decent impression are Mahira and Iman Ali (who plays the courtesan). Atil Aslam is surprisingly very average in a role which is just an extended cameo. Expectedly though he creates magic when he sings for the film.
Eventually 'Bol' may not boast of a fairy tale ending but eventually paves the way for a rosy beginning at the least. With some good performances to boast of, 'Bol' starts slowly but explodes towards the finale to raise a pertinent question which isn't restricted to any particular part of this world. Overall a good job done by director Mansoor as he manages to show some light at the end of the tunnel!