CAKE – This Bittersweet Journey Of Love And Loss Is One Of The Finest You’ll See
By Ayesha Babar
What happens when a family of five, all individually headstrong people, is reunited under one roof after a family emergency? Welcome to Cake, the Pakistani film that has got everyone talking.
The Cake family features the parents (Mohammad Ahmed and Beo Ranaa Zafar) and their three offsrpings – Zain (Faris Khalid), who is settled in New York with his wife and kid and the sisters, who form the centre of the narrative – the middle child Zareen (Aaminah Sheikh) and the youngest Zara (Sanam Saeed). Add Romeo (Adnan Malik), the son of a long serving staff, who is there to help out the ailing father, and Shehryar (Mikaal Zulfiqar) to the mix, and you have all the right ingredients for this cake!
Pakistani cinema has seen its share of ups and downs and is now enjoying the infancy years of a bit of a second life. In many ways, it is amazing to see that even at this early stage, there are films from all kinds of genres that are being made and well received. So whether it is an all out commercial drama like Punjab Nahin Jaungi or a comedy like Parchi, or a sombre, gritty masterpiece like Sarmad Khoosat’s Manto, audiences have been able to watch a wide range of stories.
Cake, is another step in the right direction. It will definitely emerge as a film that Pakistani cinema needs at this crucial point in time and one that will make the debutant director Asim Abbasi one of the most exciting storytellers to watch out for.
There are many themes at play in Cake but the most important lesson that one takes away is that family, no matter how frustratingly maddening it can be at times, is the only people that will eventually define who you are. And much like the film’s tagline, ‘Life prepares you for everything but you family’ says, it can be a while before we understand those who share the deepest bonds of blood with us.
The film is a bittersweet family drama that shows a family’s journey of love and loss and of rediscovering themselves. The film introduces us to Zareen, the proverbial ‘man’ of the family – as she takes care of her ageing parents. When the father comes face to face with a heatlh scare, Zara who was sent away to London nearly a decade ago under mysterious circumstances and Zain return to be with the family.
What unfold next are scenes that could be from any family around us and possibly even our own. As secrets are uncovered, and the past is brought up, the relationships that these otherwise distant individuals seem to share become more evolved. As they say, sometimes you cannot move forward without revisiting the past.
I also particularly enjoyed some of the other themes that the film touches upon, in particular the inter faith relationship between a Muslim Zareen and a Catholic Romeo.
Cake happens to be a masterfully casted film. For me personally, the two sisters played by Aaminah Sheikh and Sanam Saeed and Adnan Malik’s Romeo lifted the film with their on point portrayals. Aaminah Sheikh and Sanam Saeed have both previously featured in some of the most interesting film work that has come out of Pakistan in recent years and have once again proved themselves with their textured performances in Cake. I really enjoyed Adnan Malik’s restrained and underplayed Romeo, who delivers some of my favourite dialogues from the film including this one:
‘’Agar hum kisi ke khawabon ko ehmiayat naheen detay uska yeh matlab naheen ke unke khwad ehm naheen”
(Us not giving due importance to someone’s aspirations does not make those aspirations any less important).
Cake follows the new world school of filmmaking in that there are hardly any black and white characters in the film, as almost everyone has shades of grey, much like real life and that is what makes the story all the more realistic and relatable.
Cake is also one of the most technically sound films we have seen come out from Pakistan. Asim makes a very impressive directorial debut (for which he has already won the Best Director honours at the UK Asian Film Festival in London earlier this month). He thankfully skips the melodrama and instead plays around with nuances extracting fine performances from his adept actors. A special mention must also be made of Mo Azmi‘s skilled cinematography that brings each frame to life, from the bustling city of Karachi to the village landscapes of Sindh.
Music wise, there might not be any lip sync songs in this slice of life film but the background score and the music, given by The Sketches, who have used Sindhi traditional songs to great effect, aids the story telling.
For those who have tried to draw comparisons with Kapoor and Sons after watching the trailer – well, yes it is a family drama that explores the dynamics that family members share between themselves and yes, it is exceptionally well executed but that is where the similarity ends.
All in all, Cake is a film that made me cry and laugh and tugged at my heartstrings – a definite winner. So this weekend, make some time for this multi layered treat – you definitely don’t want to miss a slice of this cake!