Riz Ahmed is Zed, a British Pakistani rapper on the cusp of the big time. Yet when he is challenged by his girlfriend as to how genuinely connected he is to the roots that he raps about, Zed has to revaluate his life. Returning home after a long absence on the road, it turns out that fate has some hard truths waiting for him.
…politically astute both on stage and off, Ahmed’s script and performance lacks nothing for passion or conviction.
Director Bassam Tariq’s debut feature ‘Mogul Mowgli’ is blessed in a number of ways. First off, it is carried by the increasingly brightening star that is Riz Ahmed. Politically astute both on stage and off, Ahmed’s script and performance lacks nothing for passion or conviction. In a story where a musician has to confront their past as a means to their salvation and progression and you realise this is a well-trodden staple. From Sean Penn’s affecting turn as Cheyenne in ‘This Must Be The Place‘, Bradley Cooper’s burnt-out Jack in ‘A Star Is Born‘ and even the more appropriately on-point Eminem in ‘8 Mile‘, Riz Ahmed’s Zed also has something to prove. However, the key to their development and release is how each of their movies handles the conflict they must face. For Zed in ‘Mogul Mowgli’, it’s all about identity.
From being mistaken for his sell-out, arch-nemesis rapper RPG (played to dangerously good effect by Nabhaan Rizwan) to his father who wants to be sympathetic but is trapped by his past of having fled India, everything seems to be conspiring to curtail Zed’s dreams. With an oft-dangled make-or-break tour that could launch him into the stratosphere, ‘Mogul Mowgli’s’ storyline traps Zed with a combination of concern, ingratitude and recrimination, all of which become more surreal as the film nears its finale.
Sadly though, lacking both the finance and the clear through-line that would carry it across into the mainstream distribution, ‘Mogul Mowgli’ becomes an admirable low-budget effort as it pulls apart its main character’s ambitions. Had it given the oxygen of a higher production value and an increased sense of scale, the void that Tariq’s invites you to look into could say so much more about the loss that Zed’s afraid of.
‘8 Mile‘ out of ten.