Cake: Weaving Multi-shaded Layers of Sibling’s Bond

The main motif of the critically acclaimed Pakistani movie Cake is to chronicle women protagonist in their mid-30s.

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Cake poster

The writer and director, Asim Abbasi’s family drama Cake has much similarity to a cake that is made up of various ingredients baked in Oven finally and then served with a cherry topping. Similarly, a family too is made up of underlying layers of love, hate, care and responsibility. Director Abbasi is a new-age filmmaker who deliberately tries to defy the so-called ‘norms’ that have rarely been breached by filmmakers in the past.

A sibling love between Zareen and Zara played by Aamina Sheikh and Sanam Saeed and the misunderstandings arising out of their past experiences during reunion after Zara hears about her parents’ failing health conditions forms the crux of the story. Yes! for starters, this movie isn’t some random family melodrama which thrives on emotional scenes like typical Bollywood movies of the past. There is a scene where when Zareen had to change tires of a car midway and she decides to fix the wheels on her own without the help of a man or from her sister Zara; later in the scene, we see Zara does her part in getting the wheels done. The movie is filled with plenty of such moments that bloom at a natural pace.

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The movie is different from the usual run-of-the-mill family drama that one is used to seeing on big screens. The movie has a slight similarity in the genre to the 2016 Bollywood movie ‘Kapoor and Sons’, which too dealt with a dysfunctional family and its issues at length. The movie opens with Zareen juggling between her love for a man named Romeo and being a responsible daughter to her ailing parents, who wants to leave the city and spend the rest of their life in the village. Tensions arise when Zara comes to be with her ailing parents after an unsuccessful marriage. Zareen, on the other hand, leaves her career behind to take care of her ill parents. She doesn’t even care about her admission into a top university in Paris to pursue her passion or her love for Romeo. Despite the initial slowness of the screenplay, the movie explodes towards the end with some major twists in the plot that contains big revelation. The whole sequence stretching around 10 minutes was shot in a single take to increase the intensity of continuous events.

Most movies of this genre would have sounded great on paper but when it comes to delivering, very few films stand out; this movie is one such example where the film delivers big time with some great performances. Aamina Sheikh and Sanam Saeed both tick the right boxes with some great acting throughout; be it an emotional scene or humour. Zareen, being the elder sibling, takes the role of a man by being a bridge between the family, taking care of parents without the support of Zara and Zain as they both are married and settled abroad. One can feel the pain in her eyes with which she handles these situations without letting her vulnerability take over.

Seeds of Revolution

The film has some strong female characters, which are a rare commodity in a patriarchal society, where women are usually used as a prop in a male universe. In contrast, the movie spins around these powerful women who make major decisions and run the family like a boss without seeking any sort of assistance from another male. The characters are well etched out with some solid writing. The movie touches upon some major sensitive areas such as women smoking, Zareen’s love interest played by Adnan Malik is a Christian who sports a crucifix, women deciding not to get pregnant out of choice. The eldest sibling Zain, who lives in the US with his wife, is almost non-existent throughout barring a few scenes towards the end. When asked about the idea behind, Asim Abbasi says ‘the idea was to move away from the image of an alpha male—the aggressive male hero who woos and chases until the woman says yes—and explore and normalize other forms of masculinity’.

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On the technical front, the cinematography is one of the best points which help to build the film. Be it the city or the rustic village, both moods are captured in the most compelling manner. Locations include both Karachi and interior areas of Sindh region adding value to the story. The background score plays second fiddle to the story in conveying the mood largely despite the slowness of the screenplay. Editing is done by Indian Aarti Bajaj who is known for her works in Bollywood films such as Jab We Met, Rockstar, Mukkabaaz and Sacred Games (TV Series). In a way, the film did receive a lot of praise in India, barring the current political tensions between the two nations.

The film won several awards around the globe including the Best Director and Best Film in London Asian Film Festival and 8th Annual South Asian Film Festival of Montreal and was also nominated at various film festivals, garnering much praise from the jury and audience worldwide. The movie was even part of the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars in 2018 from Pakistan.

P.S.: The movie is available on Netflix streaming platform.