A British Pakistani rapper is on the cusp of his first world tour, but is struck down by an illness that threatens to derail his big break.
Riz Ahmed is one of Britain’s most talented working actors, yet for whatever reason and despite various roles in high profile films and TV series, he hasn’t quite got the recognition I feel he deserves. With ‘Mogul Mowgli’, a film he writes and stars as the lead in, that may hopefully change although awareness is likely to be lower with a release on Curzon Home Cinema, instead of theatrically as initially intended. The film is about Zed, a British-Pakistani rapper who now lives in New York and is preparing for a world tour when he’s struck down with a rare autoimmune disease. This takes him back home to his family in London and the film is largely about Zed reckoning with his past, his upbringing (particularly his relationship with his father) and how that has shaped him into the man he is today.
The film borrows elements from Ahmed’s real life upbringing (including some video footage of him as a child) and this adds an authenticity to the story ‘Mogul Mowgli’ is telling, with Zed’s story influenced by Ahmed. I thought the complicated relationship Zed has with his father is beautifully played, bringing out the challenges for British-Asians growing up in a secular society yet with a strong religious influence at home. As Zed’s illness brings him down, it’s beautiful to see the two men find common ground over Zed’s music and begin to bond with one another. As the beating heart of the film, Ahmed is terrific and he really lays himself out there emotionally, and it’s heartbreaking to see him dealing with the complications arising from his illness.
‘Mogul Mowgli’ is bold, robust filmmaking with a brilliant leading performance from Riz Ahmed, and it’s very much worth checking out on Curzon Home Cinema or the BFI Player now.
Directed By: Bassam Tariq
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Aiysha Hart, Alyy Khan, Sudha Bhuchar, Nabhaan Rizwan, Anjana Vasan, Hussain Manawer, Kiran Sonia Sawar and Jeff Mirza