Movies Review: Josh

Title: Josh

Year: 2013

Runtime: 1h 44m

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Cast: Aamina Sheikh, Khalid Malik, Mohib Mirza

Director: Iram Parveen Bilal

Continuing my Urdu challenge had me find the 2013 film Josh online. As the whole point of me watching is to improve my level of Urdu you can understand my frustration when the whole movie was subtitled in English. I knew full well I’d be unable to resist reading the subtitles. However it turns out it was for the best since without the help I’d have no idea what would have been going on. The language in this one was a lot more difficult to understand than the previous entries in my Urdu challenge.

Josh concerns a schoolteacher, Fatima, who goes in search of her missing nanny, Nusrat, in the village where the woman lives. It is eventually discovered that she has died after having been apparently run over by a car, but Fatima suspects foul play and has her fingers pointed at the village leader Khan. Meanwhile she attempts to reopen a food bank for children that used to be run by Nusrat, a function that directly takes away power from the ever-watching Khan. Slowly but surely she rallies the villagers in a crusade against the corrupt Khan and motivates them into standing up for themselves.

Now Josh is a competent film. It’s not world changing but it does its job. Personally I feel the story does not have enough meat to it; it lacks a certain punch to make it fully connect with me. I know it’s a true story and it’s definitely one worth telling but maybe it would have been better as a TV special or something. I don’t know. There just isn’t enough oomph to it for me to call it a good film. It’s decent, nothing more.

The acting is pretty good all round. There are no faults I find in any of the performances. The acting, unlike most modern Pakistani movies, doesn’t feel ‘movie-like’ but realistic and nuanced. There’s not a lot of exposition and more is implied than said or shown. For example there’s a scene where Nusrat is being violated and it’s unclear whether she’s being tortured, raped or merely harassed. On its own it’s a very disturbing scene, and part of its brilliance is the ambiguity of what these thugs are doing to her. The impact of the scene is lessened though near the end of the film where it is told to the audience through a news reporter that she was indeed raped. More on the ending later.

Director Iram Parveen Bilal did well to showcase the unsure tension-filled atmosphere of the village once the protagonist gets there. The cinematography is also very nice for the most part. Things are a tad formulaic during the sense in Fatima’s home town with her privileged media friends.

Josh is a story about power, individualism and fighting the statues quo. At times it sides dangerously close into becoming a preachy girl-power fest but manages to keep on the rails. You get the idea when watching that Iram is making a commentary on the flaws of modern day Pakistan but, like the film itself, it’s a competent message but not quite strong enough to be a heavy hitter. I did like the opening line though, something about the modern Muslim’s prayers and deeds being present, but his heart absent.

By far the best thing about this movie was the character Gulsher. One of Khan’s elite enforcers, he is shown to have a complicated relationship with Nusrtat. It’s implied he used to be her student and she possibly even fed him with the food bank. He’s torn between his respect for her and his loyalty to Khan. Once she dies he is deeply affected and remains distant and stressed throughout the remainder of the film. He even helps a kidnapped Fatima escape, in a sense. It’s not clear whether he had any part in the beating and rape of Fatima.

Once element that does not work for me is the ending. Throughout the film Fatima attempts to use her friends in the media to point their cameras at Khan and his mafia-like control over the village, in order to push lawful sanctions and topple his regime. But just as the film builds steam with the political side it kind of just cuts to a couple of quick news reports telling us that Khan is going to be put away for a long time. And what’s with Khan’s son being shot accidentally by the rebel villagers who attempt to rescue Fatima after she gets kidnapped by Khans thugs? Unless that happened in real life I don’t see what this adds to the movie, aside from serving as a distraction for the villains so Fatima can escape.

My Rating: 6/10

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