Words by Verity Hayday
On the brink of a career breakthrough, New York based Rapper Zed hits a bump in the road when his body shuts down weeks before a long-awaited world tour, spiralling him into an abundance of inner battles. Riz Ahmed captures the personal lockdown of the work alcoholic MC, battling both a health and identity crisis, sending him back to his home in the UK and coming to terms with what he has left behind. As co-producer and writer, Riz Ahmed brings an intense and always engaging presence, and with Director Bassam Tariq, they tell a deeply personal story about culture, family , community and what it means to represent.
Mogul Mowgli explores the real identity of the British – Pakistani community; one that is constantly misrepresented in the media. The constant false narrative of certain races is a topic that Riz Ahmed has been bringing to everyone’s attention throughout his career on our screens and even through his music; since his 2006 project Post 9/11 Blues to the 2016 mixtape Englistan, he has shown powerful examination of the problems these community’s face in the UK. The collaboration of two Pakistani- British born creatives (Ahmed and director Bassam Tariq) birthed a film that feels so personal and real it feels almost dream-like. This isn’t the first time these two have collaborated, Tariq directed the Music video for Mogambo from Ahmed’s 2020 album A Long Goodbye walk.
Leaving behind a disconnected girlfriend, Zed returns to his home in Wembley before he begins his tour, although his life is going forward, the return to London sends him backwards in time. It is apparent how disconnected the character has become from his life in the UK and his culture, which we see are too very separate identities throughout the film. The notion of identity is captured when we watch the character experience an identity crisis, going back to his home makes it apparent how disconnected he has become with his family and their way of life, with his career being such a big commitment he has lost himself within it. The UK is such a multicultural place that these cultures are getting lost in the structure of the Britain’s idea of society. “Where are you from? The question is simple but the answer is kind of long” a line from a performance from the first scene that really ties together the characters inner battle within himself and the world around him.
Annika Summerson captures the fever dream state of the Zed; the cinematography in this film is so idiosyncratic yet vacant it makes the characters problems feel like your own, following him through the hospital and not knowing what scene is a hallucination and what’s real makes a film with so much feeling and emotion feel uneasily chilling. With the new youth slowly taking over and changing the rap-scene, for who knows if for good or bad, Zed’s career is in in constant risk of robbery by a younger a US rapper played by Nabhaan Rizwaan, who describes as a ‘‘face tattoo victim’’. This rivalry throughout the film is a representation of the blend of old school rap and today’s music.
Mogul Mowgli is out in Cinemas from the 30th October or to stream from the 6th November on BFI Player.