Film Review: ‘Wajib’ — a father and son bond on a road trip

A still from the film 'Wajib.' (Supplied)
Updated 11 February 2019
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Film Review: ‘Wajib’ — a father and son bond on a road trip

  • The latest drama from Palestinian writer-director Annemarie Jacir “Wajib,” is set over the course of a single day and shows the relationship between father and son
  • Played by real-life father and son Mohammed and Saleh Bakri, the two characters — Abu and Shadi — drive around Nazareth delivering wedding invitations

CHENNAI: As many films have illustrated, male-female relationships are difficult. But those between fathers and sons can be equally problematic. Two closely linked men can be extremely touchy about their independence. We have seen this, too, in films, and the latest drama from Palestinian writer-director Annemarie Jacir (“Salt of This Sea,” “When I Saw You”), “Wajib,” is a fascinating study, set over the course of a single day, of how a father and his son develop a camaraderie.

Played by real-life father and son Mohammed and Saleh Bakri, the two characters — Abu and Shadi — drive around Nazareth on a winter’s day delivering invitations to the wedding of Abu’s daughter, Amal (Maria Zreik). (Palestinian custom requires that the father and son personally visit each relative and friend to deliver the cards.) As they travel in a ramshackle Volvo, the two men have time to bicker and provoke each other. There is also subtle manipulation from both.

What Jacir does with a flourish is to fill her plot with layers, and as the car trundles along, revelations pop out. We are let into one secret of how retired schoolteacher Abu had to make compromises to keep his position in an Israeli-run school. As a teenager, Shadi embraced more radical politics and saw his father as a sell-out.

Cut to the present, and we learn that Shadi’s girlfriend back in Italy, where he currently works as an architect, has a father who is known to be a Palestinian activist and intellectual — “a PLO leader,” according to the conservative Abu, who sees such people as dangerous terrorists, while Shadi is proud of this association.

But the anger and hurt between the father and son go beyond political -isms.

Jacir’s 96-minute movie is not just all work and no play. The tension is often lightened with a touch of the comic. The writing is tight and precise; a little too antiseptic perhaps, but the multitude of characters from a variety of backgrounds — both Muslim and Christian — and their neatly observed mannerisms give the narrative great energy. The style is judicious and simple, and the often-sparse frames, in which Abu and Shadi are alone reflect a relationship that is fighting to emerge from years of silence and pain. Paced like a road movie, “Wajib” really comes alive at the climax. Not to be missed.

“Wajib” is showing at Cinema Akil in Dubai from Feb. 22 – 28.


With Saudi roots and an Indian heart, Al-Kazi is an act the stage will never forget

Updated 21 February 2019
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With Saudi roots and an Indian heart, Al-Kazi is an act the stage will never forget

  • Though an icon in India, few people know about Al-Kazi’s Saudi roots

JEDDAH: India has always been a hub of art and culture. Over the last century, movies emerged as the most expressive cultural medium, and the Indian film industry — commonly known as Bollywood — has since become a powerhouse of world cinema.

One can never do its history justice without mentioning Ebrahim Al-Kazi.

A renowned director and drama teacher, he worked as the director of the prestigious New Delhi-based National School of Drama (NSD) from 1962 to 1977, teaching many well-known future actors and fellow directors, including Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah and Rohini Hattangadi. He also founded the Art Heritage Gallery in New Delhi.

Though an Indian icon, however, few people know about Al-Kazi’s Saudi roots. His father, Hamad bin Ali Al-Kazi, was a trader from Unaiza in the Kingdom’s Qassim region, who subsequently settled in Pune, India, where Ebrahim was born in 1925. 

Early on in his career, Al-Kazi worked with the Bombay Progressive Artists Group, which included M.F. Husain, F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza, Akbar Padamsee and Tyeb Mehta, who would all later contribute to the design of his sets.

He worked in India, the US and Europe before becoming the director of the NSD, and later of the Asian Theater Institute, and is credited with staging more than 50 plays in his lifetime. He also contributes to the preservation of Indian cultural history through his Al-Kazi Foundation for the Arts.

In February 2015, Al-Kazi was honored at the second Saudi Film Festival in Dammam. He was later quoted in Arab media sources on his Saudi upbringing: “Our father was a firm believer in our cultural roots that went back to Saudi Arabia, and we spoke only Arabic at home. We had a teacher of Arabic and Islamic studies who came from Saudi Arabia, and lived as part of our family.

“Arab families (in India) did not mix very much with others, but my father had close ties with people other than Arabs,” he added.

Al-Kazi has also won many prestigious Indian awards. He was the first recipient of Roopwedh Pratishthan’s Tanvir Award in 2004 for his contribution to Indian theater, and in 1966 received the Padma Shri award. He won the Padma Bhushan award in 1991, and was given India’s second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan, in 2010.